Catholic Studies Centre at SLU draws together faith, reason

Jerry Naunheim Jr.

The new Catholic Studies Centre at St. Louis University is the Jesuit institution's latest step in fulfilling a mission of seeking God in all things.

The center opened this summer in the former Marion Rumsey-Cartier Hall, which for years served as the residence of SLU's president. The three-story building now houses several academic offices: the Catholic Studies Program, introduced in 2014 as a minor; the College of Philosophy and Letters, the Jesuit scholastics' program; and the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

The center also hosts the Edmund Campion Society, a group of SLU students who meet weekly for dinner, a guest speaker on a topic related to the Catholic faith, and Mass. There is meeting space for groups, including the Knights of Columbus and Sorores Christi, SLU's women's sodality.

And more is to come, including office space for a Creighton Model FertilityCare practitioner — one of several Church-approved methods of fertility care — to teach the method to students. Plans are also in the works to create a eucharistic adoration chapel and two library spaces.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and SLU president Fred Pestello joined a small group late last month for a blessing and dedication of the center on West Pine Mall.

The center has become "something like an icon that reflects in a concentrated way what we're trying to do throughout the university," said Father Chris Collins, SJ, who became the assistant to the president for mission and identity in 2015. "The interdisciplinary nature of Catholic studies is that you see all the different disciplines in light of the faith and the intellectual tradition — it all hangs together. It's good for faculty and students to have that kind of exposure."

The building, which last served as former president Father Lawrence Biondi's residence for 25 years, underwent a rehab during the summer to make way for the new offices, said Father David Meconi, SJ, who directs the Catholic Studies Program.

The center will foster a link between faith and reason, and serves as a way to "bring a lot of Catholic voices together and have some great symbiosis," he said.

Roughly 58 percent of this year's freshman class identifies as Catholic, said Father Collins, which is why its important for the university to continue efforts to bolster its Catholic identity.

Archbishop Carlson reiterated that sentiment at the blessing and dedication. "With the diversity of the student body today, we need a place where they can learn the truth about the Catholic Church," he said. "And with the Catholic studies program, they know they're going to get that, and I'm very excited about that." 

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