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SMC looks to celebrate 175 un-belle-ievable years

| Friday, January 18, 2019

In 1844, four Holy Cross sisters, at the request of Fr. Basil Moreau, braved a 40-day voyage from Le Mans, France to Bertrand, Michigan, where they established the first Saint Mary’s school and novitiate. 175 years later, the school has moved a little south and grown extensively in size, but still upholds those four sisters’ core values.

This year, the year of 2019, marks the 175th anniversary of Saint Mary’s College. To commemorate this anniversary milestone, the College has planned several events to honor Saint Mary’s’ rich history of community service, education, justice, faith and spirituality. This celebration will last a full calendar year, with a closing celebration on Dec. 8.

The anniversary celebration will kick off Jan. 20, the official day of the Blessed Feast of Fr. Basil Moreau — the founder of the sisters, brothers and priests of the Holy Cross.

Vice president of mission Judy Fean said having the celebration kick off on Jan. 20 is truly a great way to honor the legacy of Fr. Moreau, the sisters, brothers and priests.

“We are celebrating their openness to educating hearts and minds,” she said. “This day couldn’t have come at a better time at the beginning of a new semester and beginning of a new year.”

Michelle Egan, associate director at the Center for Spirituality, said the celebration also comes on the cusp of celebrating another great leader: Martin Luther King Jr.

“The anniversary kicks off during MLK week,” she said. “Martin Luther King Jr. was a person who made a difference and responded to the needs of building a just world.”

Jan. 20 will begin with Saint Mary’s Serves, Egan said, an event that will allow the Saint Mary’s community to serve different agencies in the South Bend community through helping out with eight different service projects.

“We’ll have eight projects that will assist agencies in our local community, agencies that the College and the sisters have been helping with for a long time,” she said. “That’s from 12:45-3:00 [p.m.] and we purposely made it 1 hour and 75 minutes long. Students will have the opportunity to cut fleece blankets or put together hygiene kits and gratitude baggies.”

Shay Jolly, director of retention and first year experience, said the celebratory Mass will follow the service event, and take place on campus at the Church of Loretto.

“The sisters and the college community — students, alumni, faculty, staff — will all come together to celebrate the liturgy for the day and really kick us off in the spiritual light of the 175th,” she said.

Fean said the Mass is also the opening liturgy of the year and as a symbolic way of coming together, the Loretto Choir, the Women’s Choir and the Liturgical Choir will all join voices.

At 5 p.m., the community is invited to the annual Fr. Moreau dinner, where traditional French cuisine will be served in honor of the Holy Cross foundation in France. Jolly said the dinner will also feature a surprise special guest.

Shari Rodriguez, vice president of college relations, said many other events in honor of the anniversary will occur throughout the year. She said the College intends to celebrate the legacy of the School of Sacred Theology and the alums of that institution. As well, Rodriguez said the Women’s Choir has also been invited to perform in New York City at Carnegie Hall on March 17, so Belles are encouraged to register for the trip online where they will get to see the performance and connect with College alumnae who live in the city.

In June, the Saint Mary’s Alumnae Association, one of the oldest Catholic women’s associations, will celebrate its 140th anniversary.

Students and student-led organizations on campus are also invited to submit their own ideas for events. Students may reach out to the co-chairs of the celebration, Fean and Rodriguez, with their ideas.  

Fean, who was a part of the College’s 150th anniversary celebration, said this anniversary allows students to celebrate their moment and their current experience as a Belle, while still encouraging reverence for the past and hope for the future.

“We’re celebrating the moment while you’re here,” she said. “This celebration helps us to remember the past, see how far we’ve come, honor where we’ve been. It’s looking back to celebrate the present — to step with trust and faith into the future.”

Everyone has a different reason for their pride when reflecting on 175 years of Saint Mary’s.

Fean said 175 years of education alone is a feat — and one that should be celebrated.

“This education, this academic excellence, could have only continued for 175 years because of the immense courage of the Holy Cross sisters,” Rodriguez said. 

“Those early sisters, and sisters from later on, stayed against all odds because they were committed to God and their mission of education,” she said.

But the legacy of the College would not be as fruitful without the stories and legacies each Belle leaves after she leaves, Jolly said.

“It’s 175 years of women and alumnae who have wrote their Saint Mary’s story, you [students] are developing your story now, but I know each of us alumnae, and also staff who have worked with us, has a Saint Mary’s story that continues as they move on into their next stage on life,” she said.

All in all, Egan said the 175th anniversary allows the community to both reflect on the past and look towards the future.

“It’s an opportunity to look back on the things that have happened and rekindle our interest in the history of the College, but also to look towards the future and where we can go from here,” she said.  

This 175th anniversary will not only celebrate the institution but all those who have left and are looking to leave a legacy at Saint Mary’s, Jolly said.

“One-hundred-seventy-five years is a huge feat for any institution, especially for a small liberal arts college in Nowhere, Indiana,” she said. “There’s something to be said for the fact that we’ve been here for 175 years and we’re still going strong into the future. The opportunity to celebrate that and celebrate it as a community is really important.”

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About Gina Twardosz

Gina Twardosz is a senior English Writing and Communication Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. She's the co-editor of the Investigative Unit, a Saint Mary's social media liaison, and she occasionally writes for SMC News and Scene. Gina is a tried and true Midwesterner and yes, she does say "ope" often.

Contact Gina