UD Rescue Squad student volunteers and alumni speak fondly of the camaraderie and joy of helping others.
The same can’t be said for the organization’s aging squad house.
Since 1994, 214 Lawnview Ave. has been the base of operations for the squad.
Formerly student housing, the tan-colored, two-story house with white trim has two small upstairs bedrooms for overnight duty crews and a single, cramped bathroom on the second floor that is reached by a narrow, winding staircase.
Kim Sherman ’13 recalled crew members falling down the “very loud, creaky, steep steps” while dashing downstairs at night to respond to an emergency call.
The first floor features a tiny kitchen that Sherman described as “chaos” if more than one person tries to cook a meal at the same time. There’s also a small living room with an old, overstuffed sofa where students study and watch Netflix while waiting for emergency calls. The dining room becomes a game of musical chairs at shift change, and the laundry room doubles as file storage space.
UD Rescue frequently holds its crew meetings in the adjacent, heated ambulance garage, built in 2008, because of the lack of space in the squad house.
Squad members have a “love-hate relationship with the house,” said junior Neil Glenn, a premed major from Dayton.
“Everyone loves being here, mostly for the people,” Glenn said. “It definitely serves its function, but other than that, I think it’s hard to say much else about it.”
But help is on the way.
“The house has always been small, and it has always been old, and it is just time to replace it,” said Maj. Randy Groesbeck ’98, director of administration and security for the Department of Public Safety and the organization’s adviser. “It is far too small for what the Rescue Squad is currently doing.”
Work has begun on a new squad house, which will cost an estimated $400,000, including construction and furnishing.
University trustee John M. Forte ’64 has pledged to match all donations up to $200,000.
Forte, president of Miami-based Forte Properties, said he was so impressed by a Rescue Squad presentation to the board of trustees that he visited the squad house in May 2015. There, he discovered their working conditions were, as he said, “deplorable.”
“These poor students had to live in these conditions while they’re out trying to save lives and do their studies at the same time,” Forte said. “I thought that they needed some help, so I tried to put something together to get them a new facility.”
Unibilt Industries of Vandalia, Ohio, will build the new house and has committed $25,000 to the project. Unibilt Chief Financial Officer Gregory S. Barney is a Flyer — Class of 1987 — and the parent of a current civil engineering student.
In addition, several anonymous donors have contributed to the campaign, but more funds are needed.
The new, 2,241-square-foot squad house will offer three bedrooms and three full bathrooms, including one on the first floor that can be used as a decontamination area. In addition, the two-story house will feature a large gathering space, office and study areas, and a covered walkway to connect it to the ambulance garage.
“Aside from the comfort, it’s a proper headquarters for a service such as this,” Groesbeck said.
In midwinter, workers began preparing the old house for demolition, and the squad has been relocated to Lawnview Apartments for spring semester. Plans call for construction to begin in May. It will be operational by August for the start of the fall 2016 semester.
“I am very excited for next year just because I see all the things that we already do in a space that I feel is very limiting for a lot of things that we could be doing,” said squad chief Jonathan Melendez, a senior premed major from San Juan, Puerto Rico. “I think this is really going to increase our boundaries next year.”
To support the Rescue Squad house, visit alumnicommunity.udayton.edu/rescue-squad or contact Todd Imwalle ’84, senior director of development, at 937-229-5460.No Comments
Since 1992, the UD Rescue Squad has saved lives — and launched students’ medical careers
When senior marketing major Sean Ferguson was struck by lightning last April while walking across a campus parking lot, an ambulance crew of trained student volunteers raced to his aid.
They most likely saved his life.
The UD Rescue Squad was on the scene within minutes, took over from the bystanders who were administering CPR, and coordinated with the Dayton Fire Department to transport Ferguson to Miami Valley Hospital.
“There are individuals who are alive today who wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the presence of that rescue squad on our campus,” said Maj. Randy Groesbeck ’98, director of administration and security for the Department of Public Safety and the student organization’s adviser. “Their calls range from minor illnesses to life-threatening events, and they’ve resuscitated a number of individuals who otherwise probably would not have made it.”
Since it was founded in 1992, the squad has attracted more than 500 student volunteers, responded to thousands of emergency calls, and opened the door to careers as health care and public safety professionals.
Public safety student security cadets who saw a need for a rapid Emergency Medical Services response crew on campus started the organization. They used a donated University van stocked with medical supplies as their ambulance and a side room in the public safety building as their headquarters.
By 1993, the group had seven trained emergency medical technicians who responded to calls in a 1978 Chevy ambulance. That same year, the first EMT class sponsored by public safety started with nine undergraduate students.
Founding squad member Merritt Colton ’93 recalled his crew as a “ragtag” group of students who were just trying to figure things out.
“Originally, we started at Gosiger Hall,” Colton said. “The ambulance was parked outside, and we had to run an extension cord to the back and put a space heater in to keep stuff from freezing.”
After graduation, Colton became a paramedic. Today, he is a Dayton Fire Department captain whose fire district includes the UD campus. He regularly sees the Rescue Squad on its runs, which lighten the number of minor injury calls for his EMS crews.
“Now we look at them — they’re a top-notch, well-equipped organization,” Colton said. “They really are an asset to the University and even to the city of Dayton.”
During the past three decades, the squad has been honored with national awards from the National Collegiate Emergency Medical Services Foundation. UD Rescue Squad was named Collegiate EMS Organization of the Year in 1999 and 2003. The squad also won Collegiate EMS Week Celebration of the Year in 2010, 2012 and 2013.
UD Rescue Squad has been recognized five times by the foundation’s Striving for Excellence program, including the current three-year certification through 2018.
The squad is one of 56 campus-based EMS organizations in North America to provide ambulance service, said Scott C. Savett, vice president of the foundation, which represents about 250 campus-based EMS groups in the U.S. and Canada. Only about 20 percent have an ambulance; the others respond by using golf carts, sport utility vehicles, cars or bicycles, or on foot.
“I can say without hesitation that UD Rescue is one of the finest organizations under the NCEMSF umbrella,” said Savett, who has visited the squad several times since assuming his role in 1997. The passion and dedication that has earned such accolades is evident in the student squad today.
A student-run volunteer EMS organization with a state-certified basic life support ambulance located on campus, the rescue squad provides free pre-hospital care and transportation for all medical and trauma emergencies on campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the academic year.
The squad’s current ambulance, dubbed Squad 1, was purchased in 2012 by the University. The box-like white vehicle is emblazoned with the UD chapel logo and a bold, red stripe down the side that spikes sharply toward the rear like a heartbeat monitor.
Groesbeck said the squad averages more than 400 ambulance runs each year during the eight months it is in service.
During the fall 2015 semester alone, the rescue squad responded to 315 emergency calls and transported 224 students, faculty, staff or visitors to area hospitals, said senior Patrick Dugan, a premedicine major from Noblesville, Indiana, who serves as the squad’s assistant chief of operations. Those runs included six possible heart attacks.
Emergency calls to public safety are dispatched to the UD Rescue Squad, which is alerted by a loud tone that sounds throughout the squad house. Calls to 911 from cell phones are sent to Montgomery County dispatch, which can turn a call over to public safety if the emergency is appropriate for squad response.
Each year about 50 student volunteers participate on the squad, but only after they undergo rigorous classroom and practical training during the fall semester of their sophomore year to become nationally certified EMTs.
Students in the EMT-Basic class initially learn CPR and use of automated external defibrillators for the health care provider and are trained to drive the ambulance. New members then begin working weekly shifts with the squad to gain experience. They continue taking four-hour EMT classes two to three nights a week, including labs and lectures.
“It is really great to be able to learn in the class and then transition into seeing it hands-on as we go on calls with them,” said sophomore Julia Ripepi, a pre-physical therapy major from Cleveland who completed the class in November.
A new group of EMTs is added each year, with 20 new students taking the class.
UD Rescue Squad always has three certified EMTs on duty to make up a crew.
Squad members are required to volunteer for at least 24 hours of duty each month. Typically, students work several two- to four-hour shifts weekly, arranged around their class schedules. Each month, they also work overnight shifts that span 11 hours on weeknights and 18 hours on weekends.
During those overnight shifts, students eat, study and sleep in their cramped, aging squad house at 214 Lawnview Ave. (Read more on the rebuilding of the UD Rescue Squad house.)
Many students average between 500 and 1,000 volunteer hours during their three years on the squad, but about one-third graduate with “well in excess of 2,000 hours each,” Groesbeck said.
That remarkable devotion to service inspired senior Jonathan Melendez to join the squad. A premed major from San Juan,
Puerto Rico, Melendez exudes passion for the organization. He is UD Rescue Squad’s chief, the top officer.
“That really touched me, because for me that’s one of the reasons I picked UD, because I felt very at home here — I felt like people really helped each other out,” Melendez said.
“I felt like this group of students, we kind of represented that, just giving away a lot of our time volunteering to help our community in a very unique way.”
Melendez said the experience has affirmed his decision to become a premed major and pursue a career in the medical profession. “I think there are a lot of ways you can impact the world, but for me, that’s kind of my place,” he said.
Earning a place in medical school involves service and clinical care hours, in addition to a strong grade-point average, said Kathleen Scheltens, director of UD’s premedical programs. Volunteering for UD Rescue Squad is common for premed majors because they gain patient care skills and experience that prepares them for careers as doctors, nurses, physical therapists and other medical professionals.
Melendez, for example, has interviewed and been accepted at Ohio State University, Boston University and the University of Central Florida. He said his experiences as an EMT and leader have been an integral part of his interviews.
Kim Sherman ’13 credits the squad for her discovery of her career path as a physician assistant in emergency medicine. She learned about the profession from an upperclassman while working an overnight shift.
Some physician assistant programs require as many as 2,000 hours of patient care. Said Sherman, “[T]hanks to my EMT-B training and volunteering with the squad, I was able to apply to any school.” She completed her master’s degree in physician assistant studies from Ohio Dominican University in December.
“My experiences with Rescue Squad were absolutely phenomenal,” said Mary Salimbene Merriman ’09, an epidemiologist at the Union County Health Department in Marysville, Ohio. She said UD Rescue boosted her confidence and helped solidify her career goal of working in the medical profession.
Tyler Britton ’11 supervises a hematology/oncology clinic at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston that sees hundreds of patients daily.
“What I experienced behind the double doors of the squad ambulance with two other classmates is not a far cry from the much larger team I work with now,” Britton said. “The principles of teamwork, best care and altruistic dedication are consistent, and to experience that with the UD Rescue Squad is something I am very grateful for, and it excels my work daily.”
While there have been many memorable and satisfying experiences for the squad, it’s clear that last April’s run to rush Sean Ferguson to Miami Valley Hospital will stand out in its history.
A three-member duty crew had just transported another patient and was in the hospital ambulance bay when they heard about the accident, recalled junior Chris Reyes, who was on duty at the time. The UD dispatcher radioed the crew to ask if they were able to respond to Ferguson. Reyes quickly threw the cot in the back of the ambulance, which raced to the scene with lights and sirens.
Meanwhile, senior Nathan Steinbrunner and five other off-duty crew members were meeting at the squad house garage. They heard the radio call, piled into a car and sped to the parking lot near Kettering Laboratories to help deliver aid.
“Incidents like this are very rare and very uncommon for us to ever get,” said Steinbrunner, a chemical engineering major from Versailles, Ohio. “But in all the instances, even though we don’t see situations like this frequently at all, we are still able to deliver the appropriate patient care.”
The squad members placed Ferguson on a backboard, obtained his vital signs and then transferred him to the Dayton Fire Department ambulance for transport, with Crew Chief Mariah Jutte ’15 riding with them back to the hospital.
After intense treatment and therapy, Ferguson returned to campus in the fall and received his degree in December at UD’s 166th commencement exercises.
Along with senior Matt Lickenbrock and Steven Pope, the bystanders who administered CPR, the Rescue Squad was honored in December at the 10th annual Miami Valley Crime Stoppers Awards banquet.
Reyes, a biology major from Elida, Ohio, said the day the squad responded to that parking lot with speed and professionalism was his proudest day as a Rescue Squad member.
“I would honestly trust all of my UDRS peers with my life,” Reyes said.
Dave Larsen is a former staff writer at the Dayton Daily News, where he covered higher education, film, popular music and technology over his 25-year career.
Rushing to help others can lead to interesting career paths. Here are some chosen by Rescue Squad alumni:
Aeromedical evacuation officer
Molecular genetic technician
Gynecologic oncology fellow
Zoo security officer
Director of athletic communications
Funeral director & embalmer
Deputy fire chief
This year is my first as a University of Dayton alumna, and after experiencing five St. Patrick’s Day celebrations surrounded by a sea of green Flyers lining Lowes Street, I felt a certain ache about being away from “home” this year. But I would soon be surrounded by more Flyers than I ever would have found on campus.
Shelby Quinlivan ’06, a co-worker and possibly the biggest Flyer fanatic I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, agreed to join me on the trip to St. Louis to see the men’s basketball team make its third-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. We hit the highway for the six-hour drive.
As our journey progressed west, we saw the fleets of Archie’s Army on I-70. It seemed that every car on the highway was adorned with #FlyerFaithful bumper stickers and decals — and even a car painted “LOWD and proud.”
It was like playing the license plate game, but looking for anything and everything UD.
A sea of red awaited our arrival in St. Louis. Dancing around the alumni pre-game celebration on Friday morning at Ballpark Village, a dining and entertainment district downtown, I met people who had arrived from both coasts and all parts in between.
Lori Hausfeld said she travels from her home in Florida to UD Arena for all the men’s basketball home games. The tournament was no exception. “It’s like a big reunion,” she said, glancing around the room filled with alumni. “It’s like a family.”
With the sounds of Willie Morris and the Flyer Pep Band filling the air, another grad told me he could only stay for a day because he had to return to California for his 8-year-old’s soccer game. The energy in the room was #loUD and #proUD as Flyers chanted a rounding “O-O-O-O-N.”
The journey, unfortunately, would end for the Flyers that day. After a strong first half with just a 2-point deficit at halftime against Syracuse, the Flyers couldn’t repeat their wizardry of 2014 and 2015 to advance to the next round. But the game was not absent of magic. Toward the game’s end, the Scottrade Center erupted in applause. I turned to the man next to me to ask what was going on; he told me the seniors were being applauded off the court. Without prompting, the Flyer Faithful were on their feet. The final score was not on our side — 70-51 — but there was no absence of pride for how far this team had come.
After the game, we made our way back to Ballpark Village to grab a bite and reunite with fellow Flyers. We saw one wearing a Flyer sweater vest and Xavier cap. “I went to undergrad at UD got my masters from Xavier,” he said. Another Flyer/Musketeer said he went to UD but had since moved to Cincinnati and was looking for any and every way to show his Ohio pride while in St. Louis.
When Shelby and I headed home Saturday morning, we once again played our license plate game, knowing now that the people in those cars were the same ones we’d cheered and chanted with in St. Louis. I-70 had become our Lowes Street.
As the University’s social media strategist, Michaela Eames ’15 tells the UD story often in 140 characters or less. For the last two years — one as a student and one as a full-time staffer — she’s shared the excitement of UD’s NCAA Tournament runs with thousands of Flyer Faithful who’ve liked, retweeted and shared her words.
Daniel P. Murdock Sr. (EDU) and Terri Corwin Murdock (PSY), live in Avon Lake, Ohio. They have four children — two in college, Dan Jr. and Jessica, a junior at UD, and two in high school, Emma and Elizabeth. Daniel has been in education for 1) 27 years, including an 2) adjunct position at UD and an assistant to the superintendent as 3) director of pupil services and special education at Avon Lake City School district, a state and nationally ranked school district. A 4) lifetime student, he has amassed five degrees during 13 years.
1) During Daniel’s 27-year career, many things have changed. “Textbooks are now digitized and students bring in their own electronic devices to be used throughout their school day. The pendulum has swung from the teacher-led classroom to a more student-driven, interactive learning environment.”
2) During his time at UD, Daniel perfected his billiard skills while supervisor of the Kennedy Union games room. He went on to become a national collegiate champion and was the founder of the UD Billiards Club and adjunct teacher for a billiards class — writing the first instructional textbook used in the course.
3) As director of pupil services and special education, Daniel said he is “continually challenged with maintaining the excellence of our special programming. Being an effective educational leader requires hard work to lead and inspire people. District administrators need to have the self-assurance to sometimes stand alone, the courage to make difficult decisions, and the compassion to attend to the needs of others.”
4) Growing up, Daniel worked closely with his younger brother, who is cognitively disabled. That inspired Murdock to become a lifetime student with degrees in teacher education, special education and educational administration, plus doctorates in educational leadership and special education administration. “My advice to current UD students is to focus on a field of study that not only is appealing to you but one that will lead to a career that contributes to society and benefits others. Never settle and always continue learning — in and outside of the classroom.”No Comments
For Christmas, I gave my new friend appendicitis.
That’s what she feared when we finally spilled out of the car after a 12-hour trek up north. We entered my in-laws’ home pale and exhausted, my friend clutching her side and wondering if she’d brought her health insurance card.
It turned out to be just muscle cramps and dehydration, which was good, since I had planned to
give her a Dayton Flyers T-shirt instead.
My friend is Melody Asaresh Moghadam from Iran, an undergraduate music student. At 22 years old, Melody spent her first Christmas ever surrounded by my loving and exuberant extended family. We filled Melody full of sugar cookies and eggnog, and she nourished us with traditional songs strummed on her four-stringed setar.
I started working at UD the same year Dan Curran became president, so I have witnessed the transformation of our campus into a global learning village. Being a member of UD’s communications staff, I write often about how important it is for our domestic students to learn from their international counterparts.
But what goes unacknowledged is how their presence enriches us all. My husband and I have served as an International Friendship Family to Melody from Tehran and Kevin Ishimwe from Rwanda. This magazine has hired Zoey Xia from China and Arthur Su from Taiwan to take amazing photos of campus. I have learned how to say welcome in many languages and forgotten how to say goodbye in many more. Always, the University’s goal in facilitating these interactions is to help students manage the transition and become full participants in campus life. Always, the true outcome is something that sounds like a medical condition: the swelling of our hearts, the expanding of our minds, the enlarging of our circle of friends.
When people hear Melody’s story — how she flew into Dayton with four carry-ons and not a friend or relative within thousands of miles — they say she is brave. She replies she is not; she just did what she needed to do — to perfect her playing, to improve her English, to choose a religion.
I continue to share holiday texts with Kevin, who is now studying nursing in Michigan. I receive baby photos from Arthur, who has returned to Taiwan with his wife and daughter. And I share full-belly laughs with Melody: about the appendix attack, and the way my husband cannot pronounce the “geh” in her last name, and how she showed up for what she thought was a music audition and left cast as the
comedic equivalent to Bob Saget.
When we have finished laughing, and are red-faced and exhausted, we marvel at how different we are from how each other’s government imagines us — two women in Dayton Flyers T-shirts, students of the world.No Comments
I did not have a prominent place in coach Tom Blackburn’s thinking as practice began for the 1961-62 season. For the team picture, Tom placed the players destined to be benchwarmers in the back row.
I’m near the middle of the back row.
Four players had locks on starting positions, the Hatton brothers (Gordie and Tommy) at guard, forward Garry Roggenburk and center
Bill Chmielewski. In early-season games, Blackburn tried a big lineup with 6-10 Bill Westerkamp as the fifth starter. Westerkamp played center, and Chim moved to a forward spot. So one of them had to guard a forward, and neither was used to guarding a man who was facing the basket. But we won our first six games.
Our first loss was to a good Wisconsin team. Two more wins were followed by an unexpected 10-point loss to Canisius and then a devastating 20-point loss to 8th-ranked Duquesne. After the Duquesne game, UD students hung Tom in effigy. He was quoted as saying, “We are just not a very good team.”
During this stretch, Tom tried Stan Greenberg and Ron Anello as starters while I continued to warm the bench. After a close win over Louisville at home, we were trounced by 1961 (and soon to be 1962) NCAA champion Cincinnati.
Tommy Hatton, who was our team’s co-captain with Garry, told me later that after the Cincinnati loss Tom asked him, “Well, what do we do now?” And Tommy replied, “Try Schoen.” He did.
Tom told me I would start against Eastern Kentucky and guard their top scorer. Don Donoher, Tom’s top scout, worked with me on how to defend my man. Rather than follow the usual rule at the time that a defensive man should always stay between his man and the basket, I was to stay between my man and the ball. The man I was guarding was a good shot but did not move quickly without the ball. Don’s work with me was right on target. My man scored just six points while I scored 14 and had 10 rebounds. We won, 97-66.
I started and played well in two close wins against tough DePaul and Drake teams, but then we had a one-point loss at Xavier.
The season’s low point for me was the next game, when Detroit came to Dayton with its first-team All-American, 6-6 Dave DeBusschere. I prepared to fight him hard for position inside. On Detroit’s first possession DeBusschere came down court, pulled up and swished a 25-foot jump shot. The next time, the same, then a fake and a drive in for a lay-up. Then more long jump shots, hardly ever missing. Tom took me out and tried two or three of my
teammates on him and then me again later. DeBusschere scored 44 points, the most by a visiting player in the history of the UD Fieldhouse. We lost by 22.
After the game, our furious coach put us through practice, including very punishing running drills.
About that time Tom told me, “Don’t worry about scoring. These other guys can score. You just concentrate on stopping the man you’re guarding.” I became pretty good at overplaying players so they had a hard time getting the ball. Based on Don Donoher’s scouting reports, I would prepare for where the player I was to guard was likely to go on the court to get the ball so I could beat him to the spot. On offense, I mainly tried to get the ball to our center.
The team really began to click then, winning our last seven season games, the last six by an average margin of 16 points.
At 20-6, we were one of 12 teams in the NIT.
Wins over Wichita, Houston and Loyola of Chicago by an average of 14 points took us to the finals against St. John’s. The game was on national television, the first game of a college basketball doubleheader. The second game was the 1962 NCAA Tournament finals in which Cincinnati beat Ohio State
for the second-straight year.
The day before the final game, I wrote my brother Jim trying to tell him of the contrast between basketball in the barn where he and I had practiced together in my high school years and in Madison Square Garden.
St. John’s had beaten Duquesne by 10 points in their semifinal game to bring their record to 23-5. They had three NIT championships in 13 appearances. The Garden was almost like their home court.
But we won the game, 73-67.
With a little under a minute left, St. John’s coach Joe Lapchick walked over and shook Tom’s hand, congratulating him on his first NIT win after five second-place finishes.
Chim was MVP, and Gordie was on the all-NIT team.
Tom grinned from ear to ear when he accepted the championship trophy, saying, “It’s been a long time coming, and I’m going to hang onto it and enjoy it as long as I can.”
In the media, Tom was very complimentary of all his players including me. He said that I had played great defense during the tournament. In Sports Illustrated’s April 2, 1962, issue, he is quoted as saying we were “The best team I’ve ever had” — a complete reversal of his early January assessment, “We are just not a very good team.”
The above is an abridgment of a chapter from Schoen’s memoir, Growing Up, available from Amazon as a paperback or an e-book.No Comments
Call it a challenge to all fellow UD alumni.
After a visit to campus for the first time since graduating in 1969, the women of 1614 Alberta St. crafted a plan to ensure other alumni reconnect, reunite and give back.
Scattered around the country after graduation, the former roommates once sent a round-robin letter, each adding a letter to the envelope before sending it on. “Sometimes it took a full year to get to everyone. But I was proud of us for keeping it up for several years,” said Karen Dreidame Weber.
After that, it was Christmas cards and occasional reunions with a few of the roommates. But in July 2014, everyone was able to make it to the Cincinnati area for the first-ever full reunion of 1614 Alberta. “We just picked up right where we left off. It was like no time had passed,” Weber said.
The group — including Carol Mattingly Hallett, Ellen Dickinson Byrnes, Kim Costin Carmichael, Kathy Fortman Hutter, Patty Cunerty Rees and Weber — arranged to take a tour of campus. The one place they weren’t able to see on the tour, however, was 1614 Alberta. In its place is ArtStreet, an arts-based learning-living facility that opened in fall 2004. “It was sad to see that our house was no longer there, but we were really impressed to see the rest of campus,” Rees said. “It’s amazing to see the changes, the growth that has occurred.” James Brothers from the Division of Advancement acted as their tour guide.
In honor of their experience at UD, the roommates created the 1614 Fund. They have pledged an annual gift, allocating the yearly amount to an area of their choosing. “We were really impressed with the new physician assistant practice program while on our tour, so our first gift will be toward that,” Weber said.
They have issued a challenge to other alumni who are former roommates, teammates or groups of friends to do the same.
“This has been a great thing to bring us together again and to feel like we continue to be a part of the University,” Rees said. “We’d love to see it be contagious for other alumni to celebrate their time here and continue to enrich the lives of future UD graduates. We are grateful for the time we had at UD, as we know so many others are.”No Comments
The sniper killed Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Romero as he raised the chalice during Mass on March 24, 1980. Pope Francis declared Romero a martyr for the faith; the archbishop, known to many Latin Americans as San Romero de las Américas, was beatified in May.
Romero never set out to be a hero or saint. But when he became archbishop of San Salvador in 1977, social upheaval was escalating into civil war. His transformation was swift.
“When I became archbishop, priests were being killed, accused, tortured,” he was quoted by Moises Sandoval in the September 1980 Maryknoll magazine. “I felt I had to defend the Church. Then again, I felt that the people the Church has to serve were asking me to defend them. … I felt I had to be the voice of all those people without a voice.”
In his last Sunday homily, Romero spoke directly to soldiers and police: “I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: Stop the repression.”
Assassins silenced him the next day. Or so they thought.
Thirty-five years later, Blessed Romero continues to inspire Salvadorans. Cleveland native Leslie Schuld ’84 counts herself among them. She has made El Salvador her home for 22 years, living out a Marianist ideal of partnering with the poor. In San Salvador, she directs the Center for Exchange and Solidarity (CIS), building international support for grass-roots movements for social and economic justice and participatory democracy.
In January 1992, peace accords ended a 12-year war in El Salvador. As Salvadorans mourned their 75,000 dead, they began rebuilding their country and resuscitating their democracy, preparing for elections in 1994.
The CIS joined that effort in 1993, and Schuld moved to El Salvador to participate. CIS programs grew to include a Spanish-English language school; vocational and economic development for disadvantaged communities, including crafts cooperatives; promoting clean water; providing scholarships; and
coordinating international delegations as well as electoral observer missions.
In 2008, Schuld met the Romero Community — 180 families seeking relocation. Some were displaced by the war, others by earthquakes, landslides and a hurricane. They resolved to find a permanent home. They chose their martyred archbishop as their spiritual patron. They were committed to nonviolence.
Officially landless, they squatted on unused government property. After evictions and arrests, they realized that to provide their children with secure homes, they needed help in acquiring the land legally.
Even with the CIS’s advocacy, they endured years of bureaucratic delay, as well as threats and violence from others wanting the land. Many families became too frightened and exhausted to continue.
Today the Romero Community comprises 75 families, whose perseverance is now bearing fruit. In May 2015, Salvadoran President Salvador Sánchez Cerén transferred title for 15 acres to the community. Nine days later they celebrated again; this time the occasion was the beatification of their beloved Romero.
Construction is under way. The CIS is raising funds for 70 humble but dignified homes to replace rusted bedsprings and sheets of tin draped with plastic. In August, I visited the community and toured their model home. Since then, a well has been dug, and community members are constructing the next 20 homes. The rest will follow as resources are secured.
Archbishop Romero said: “I do not believe in death but in the resurrection. If they kill me, I shall rise again in the Salvadoran people.” He’s fulfilling that promise, in part, in the Romero Community.
For more on the Center for Exchange and Solidarity, see www.cis-elsalvador.org. Romero’s commitment to social justice also lives on at the University of Dayton, which since 2000 has given the Archbishop Óscar Romero Human Rights Award for the promotion of “the dignity of all persons and the alleviation of the suffering of the human community.”No Comments
Text from a presentation by Una M. Cadegan, associate professor in the Department of History, given Jan. 26, 2016, during the Symposium on the State of Race at UD.
Good afternoon. My name is Una Cadegan. I have taught at UD, mostly in the history department, since 1987, and I am also an alumna of the university.
I am honored to be asked to speak today as part of the opening of this symposium. I will make two brief points as a historian, a cultural historian of US Catholicism, and then make a final observation more as a Christian, a Catholic Christian formed by long association with Marianist education.
First point: the history of the Catholic Church in America with regard to race is partly admirable and partly shameful. We could go a long way back, and talk, for example, about Catholic slaveholders in colonial Maryland. But even if we concentrate on the more recent past, we can see both things to admire and things to be ashamed of. In the photographs of the marches of the modern civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, we often highlight the priests and religious sisters and brothers who marched in their Roman collars and their habits, advocating for racial justice. We Catholics are proud of them, as we should be. We hold them up as examples of the best of our tradition, which is what they are.
But we also know that many of the people opposing civil rights for African Americans, especially in the cities of the north, were also Catholic. White urban ethnics—and I am very aware that I am talking in some cases about the parents and grandparents and great-grandparents of people in this very room—opposed integration in their neighborhoods, then sold their homes and moved to the suburbs, then participated in political movements and political decisions that made sure that the policies that had made their own assimilation and social mobility possible were unavailable to the new citizens of the city centers of the urban north. And many, many of these voters and their political leaders were also Catholic. This is a failure that is still affecting our society and our church today, and we have not yet really begun to grapple with it.
So that’s the first point—we have not yet truly begun to face the whole truth of the extent to which Catholicism was complicit with racism in the very recent past—a past so recent it shapes the present in direct, tangible, measurable ways.
My second point is related, but briefer. When these issues are raised among white Catholics (not only among Catholics, but that’s my focus here today), one response that often comes up is: well, Catholics were also discriminated against, and look at us now. We’re fine. If we did OK, then whatever is the problem with African Americans must be their fault, not the fault of the discrimination.
If you are tempted toward that argument (and I understand the temptation), or if you know someone who has made it (and I think we all do), let me just say very clearly—it does not work. The differences between anti-Catholicism and anti-black racism in the US, at every point where we can make the comparison, are more crucial for the present moment than the similarities. This is not a historically defensible way out of our need to face the truth about Catholicism and racism in the US, in the deep past, the recent past, and in the present.
Which brings me to my third point. Christians do not need to fear the truth. We all know the present moment is difficult, contentious, and often ugly—but I can’t avoid the feeling that is it also graced. Something is moving that is different from anything I can remember. We might, as those formed by Marianist educational purposes, call it a sign of the times. We might, as Christians, call it the Spirit. But make no mistake about it, we are being summoned to respond. Here, in this place, dedicated to knowledge and service, but for so long so, so separate from our neighbors across the river in the city whose name we took on nearly a century ago. As I’ve heard and read in several places recently—if you ever wondered what you would have done during the Civil Rights movement, now is your chance to find out. As a historian, it is my job to see clearly just how deeply racism is intertwined with the history of this country. But as a Christian, I have to believe what our president said last week in his State of the Union address, quoting Dr. King: “Unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” Let’s try it and find out.
Some resources for further reading:
Bishop Edward K. Braxton (Diocese of Belleville, IL), “The Racial Divide in the United States: A Reflection for the World Day of Peace, 2015” (available at www.usccb.org).
Shawn T. Copeland, LaReine-Marie Mosely, and Albert Raboteau, Uncommon Faithfulness: The Black Catholic Experience (Orbis Books, 2009).
Bryan N. Massingale, Racial Justice and the Catholic Church (Orbis Books, 2010)
John McGreevy, Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter with Race in the Twentieth Century Urban North (University of Chicago, 1996).
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Research Report Commemorating the 25th Anniversary of “Brothers and Sisters to Us,” US Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on Racism (2004; available at www.usccb.org).No Comments