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Marianists celebrate past, look to the future at Mount St. John centennial

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

By David Eck

DAYTON DEANERY — There were plenty of memories but also a vision for the future as friends and visitors joined Marianists from across the country on Oct. 24 to celebrate the centennial of Mount St. John in Dayton.

Marianist Father Solma
Marianist Father Solma, provincial of the Marianst Province of the United States, holds up an apostolic blessing from Pope Benedict XVI in recognition of the anniversary. (CT/E.L. Hubbard)

About 300 people filled Queen of Apostles Chapel for a formal ceremony, highlighted by Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr’s blessing of a special centennial tree. The tree will be planted in Chaminade Park on the Mount St. John campus.

“I wanted to be here because of the wonderful collaboration that exists between the Marianist community and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati,” Archbishop Schnurr said. “I’m very aware of the good work the Marianists do.”

Marianist Father Martin Solma, provincial, spoke of the many ministries housed at the Mount St. John campus and the Marianists buried on the grounds in Gate of Heaven Cemetery. He also mentioned the beauty of the 150-acre campus.

“It’s a delight for me to be here in this place,” Father Solma said. “We celebrate today hallowed space.”

Marianist Brother Joseph Kamis, assistant provincial, shared stories of his formation at Mount St. John. He recalled painting the walls of Bergamo Center, ball games and the large swimming pool that was on the property. He also read a letter of congratulations on centennial from Marianist Father Manuel Cortes, the Marianist superior general, who is based in Rome.

“I offer my joy and gratitude on this special day,” Father Cortes wrote.“ May our Lord bless the people and property that is Mount St. John and, inspired by the beloved apostle, St. John, may we continue to welcome Mary into our lives, knowing that through the Mother we will find the Son.”

With an eye on the past, Marianist Brother Raymond Fitz, former University of Dayton president, discussed the Vision 2020 plan, which calls for the Marianists’  United States province to focus its resources and personnel on key geographic regions, including the Dayton-Cincinnati areas. The focus in each region will be to build faith-filled communities, and to partner with other communities and individuals in mission.
The Marinists in the Cincinnati archdiocese cannot be satisfied just with sponsoring a strong university, high school, the ministries of Mount St. John campus and partnering with lay communities in the Dayton-Cincinnati region, he said.

“We now want to ask ourselves how these assets and resources for the church and the larger society come together to have a greater impact for mission,” Brother Ray said. “We must build a collaborative network for mission.  We need to ask with apostolic boldness and imagination how this partnership for mission might make things different in the future?”

Archbishop Schnurr poses with the centennial tree
Archbishop Schnurr poses with the centennial tree that he blessed during the ceremony. (CT/E.L. Hubbard)

One way of addressing the question is by reviewing the challenges facing the church, he said. These include developing the faith of young people, lay leadership for the church, a sense of communion within the church, a capacity for inner religious dialogue and solidarity with the greater Dayton- Cincinnati area, particularly the poor and disadvantaged.

Urban sprawl, caused in part by Catholics leaving the cores of major cities, have left city centers with high levels of poverty, negatively impacting the families living there, he said.

“We have become a suburban church with a weak presence in the urban neighborhoods,” he said. “It’s not too late for us in the Dayton-Cincinnati area to do something different, but we must act with urgency.”

He also encouraged the use of Mount St. John’s resources as a new center for faith formation and creation of new partnerships.
“The deeper question for us is how the entities of the Mount St. John campus can work in partnership for mission with the wider Marianist movement within the greater Dayton-Cincinnati area,” he said. “We need to continue this conversation as we move into the future.”

Other guests included local government officials and longtime Marianists. An apostolic blessing from Pope Benedict was presented. The order’s ministries were also on display throughout the campus and the buildings were open for tours.

Marianist Brother Joeseph Mariscalco joined the community at Mount St. John in 1944 while still in high school. Except for two years, he has spent his ministry on the Dayton property. He was a printer for nearly 45 years, and then a caregiver to older brothers for another 19 years. The centennial celebration was particularly special, he said.

“This is my life,” he said. “This is my home.”

David Eck can be reached at [email protected].

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