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Father David Suwalsky, SJ, gave the homily Feb. 2 at First Friday Mass at The Catholic Studies Centre at St. Louis University. The centre recently dedicated the chapel, where the First Friday Masses are celebrated.
Father David Suwalsky, SJ, gave the homily Feb. 2 at First Friday Mass at The Catholic Studies Centre at St. Louis University. The centre recently dedicated the chapel, where the First Friday Masses are celebrated.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

SLU Catholic Studies Centre serves as nexus for faith, academics

New chapel in Boileau Hall becomes a centerpiece in fostering Catholic identity

Austin Smith and Byron Abrigg have a passion for economics and entrepreneurship. The friends, who majored in those subjects at St. Louis University, spent time at the Catholic Studies Centre exploring the link between entrepreneurship and Catholic social teaching.

Now SLU alums and out in the workforce, the two carved time out of a recent afternoon to attend a First Friday Mass in the new chapel at SLU's Boileau Hall. Afterward, they stayed for a talk by Bonnie Wilson, an economics professor who focused on the intersection of economics and theology.

Entrepreneurship opportunities are one way to help build communities in poverty, Smith said. "One of the strongest things you can do for social justice is to support people from diverse backgrounds who have businesses so they can grow their wealth and economic standing," he said, "which in turn helps them flourish as humans."

It's what the two have dubbed "The Pursuit."

The Catholic Studies Centre, which opened in the fall of 2016, has become an on-campus hub offering a place to explore how Catholic spirituality and academics connect. The centre also couples with the efforts of campus ministry and Office of Mission and Identity.

The new chapel at Boileau Hall, which is connected to the studies centre, was dedicated earlier this month. The former art gallery space is the newest of many places across campus in which students, faculty and alumni receive the sacraments — including in the dorms, said Father Chris Collins, SJ, assistant to the president for mission and identity.

"This is unique in that this beautiful dedicated space (is) next door to an academic program and open on the west end of the campus to the broader community," Father Collins said. "It's a great nexus for the integration of faith and academic rigor and building up of community beyond the campus."

The First Friday Masses and speaker series have been going on for nearly five years, the priest noted. It's been an opportunity to get faculty involved, bring alumni back to campus and engage with students.

Directed by Jesuit Father David Meconi, the Catholic Studies Centre offers a minor in Catholic studies, but is aiming to add on a major in the same subject by 2019. The centre also hosts the Edmund Campion Society, which draws about 120 students every Monday for a home-cooked meal, a talk and Mass — now taking place at the new chapel in Boileau Hall. Additionally, students take part in regular evening eucharistic adoration.

Overall, the centre "has made a phenomenal impact on undergraduates as well as alumni, who see the impact on the students," Father Collins said. "It's very edifying for the adults that show up at these things to see how profound the faith is, and the joy of these students."

One of the biggest challenges for universities is the temptation to become compartmentalized, and essentially cut off from one another, Father Collins said. Unifying academic disciplines through a lens of faith can build unity, he said. And the centre is on target to foster that unity.

"This is one of the nexus points where people can be interacting with each other," Father Collins said. "But it is also to demonstrate to our students that all of these academic areas are tied together. Faith is not just a private devotional activity, it has to do with understanding all of reality." 

Catholic Studies Centre

The Catholic Studies Centre opened in the fall of 2016 at St. Louis University. Located in the former Marion Rumsey-Cartier Hall, which for years served as the residence of SLU's president, the centre is home of the Catholic Studies Program, the College of Philosophy and Letters and a bachelor's program in medieval studies. It also is home of 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.

The centre is hosting a five-part adult continuing education series, "Church History: Major Councils, Debates and Figures," will begin Feb. 21. The group will meet on Wednesdays during Lent at Jesuit Hall, 3601 Lindell Blvd. Dinner begins at 5:15 p.m., followed by the talk at 6. A $150 gift to the Catholic Studies Fund is requested with registration. For information, click here.

SLU's Office for Mission and Identity hosts a first Friday Mass and speaker series from noon-2 p.m. at Boileau Hall, 38 N. Vandeventer Ave. (The building is connected to the Catholic Studies Centre.) Upcoming speakers include Maureen Wanguard, "Father Paul Reinert: SLU's Visionary for Catholic Higher Education," March 9; Greg Beabout, "A 21st Century Core Curriculum?" April 6; and Chad Flanders, "And Who is my Neighbor? Community and Mission at SLU," May 11. 

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