A Vibrant, Spiritual Campus

When the Sisters of the Holy Cross came to the land on which Saint Mary’s College now thrives, it was a vast plain with some sparse vegetation. We can’t be sure what it looked like exactly, without images of the land, but we know that they didn’t see emptiness. They saw potential — to build a place and foster a community that would empower women. Their plot in Notre Dame, Indiana was exactly what they needed to live out their vision of a place to educate women. An illustration of campus in 1903 allows us to imagine campus in the early days with only two collegiate buildings: Holy Cross Hall, originally called Collegiate Hall, and Saint Angela Hall built in 1892, served as the campus gymnasium until it was razed in 1975 and rebuilt as Angela Athletic Facility on the north side of campus.

1903 campus illustration

Today, in 2019, the land looks a little different than it did back then, but the mission remains the same. In September a campus pilgrimage gave alumnae, friends, parents, students, faculty, staff, alongside the Sisters of the Holy Cross, an opportunity to learn more about the history of our physical campus while reflecting on how campus spaces have impacted them personally.

The day began in LeMans Circle with the tolling of the bells, to gather the community in prayer and mark the time as sacred. Sisters of the Holy Cross and campus administrators shared their thoughts, reflections, and stories about the special campus spaces and the evolution of each over time including Bonadies Garden and The Island at Lake Marian, Regina Hall, Riedinger House, and others. Poetry was read at Sister Madeleva's gravesite in Our Lady of Peace Cemetery, Sister Veronique Wiedower ’70, CSC, president of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, gave a talk in Bertrand Hall, and a sister led visitors with one of Sister Madeleva's walking sticks into Loretto, back to the original chapel for reflection, where the first Mass was celebrated in September 8, 1859.

All of these experiences made up the pilgrimage, which was anything other than an ordinary day on campus. A pilgrimage is a journey of intention, seeking deeper meaning through the sites, sounds, and people you experience. And reflection is a key part, asking questions like: How do you fit into the story of Saint Mary’s College? How do you draw strength from the Sisters of the Holy Cross and those who came before you?

The answers to these questions are not simple. Four years as a student, a 20 year-career as a faculty member, special days on campus as a parent, these moments on campus are meaningful, no matter the duration. Reflecting on them further allows for a richer perspective of our own meaning and appreciation for the work of the sisters who saw the land years ago not as empty, but as a place where women could grow.

Saint Mary’s College is needed now just as much as when the sisters looked out at the vast farmland and imagined a place to educate girls across the disciplines, empowering them to grow into women who would go out and make a difference in the world. And so as the physical space changes, so does the depth of the work and the capacity to educate more women and men (in graduate programs).