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UD’s Marian Library: Just getting started after 75 years

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A 1910 photo of pilgrims at the Grotto at Lourdes is one of many historic photos of Marianist sites around the world in the Marian Library’s collection. Courtesy image.

From the University of Dayton’s Marian Library:

The University of Dayton Marian Library, which holds the world’s largest collection of books and artifacts on Virgin Mary, will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2018.

The library is recognized as an international destination for the study and appreciation of Mary. It holds more than 112,000 books, including more than 12,000 rare editions, along with statues, rosaries, art… even wine labels.

“Our mission is to make the Blessed Virgin Mary better known, loved, and served,” said Director Sarah Cahalan. “Whether it is through the prominent scholars who have studied and taught here or the local children who visit each Christmas to see the Nativities, we want the materials and knowledge to be accessible to everyone.”

The library was founded in 1943 with the gift of a single book from former University president, Marianist Father John Elbert, to celebrate the centennials of the Society of Mary arriving in the United States (1849) and the founding of the University by the Marianists (1850).

“I feel like the library is a monument to the Marianist mission of education,” Cahalan said, noting that about 5,000 people visit the library annually. “The anniversary reflects the work of so many people over the years — the founders, the students and researchers who use it, the local community, our dedicated volunteers. They make it a living monument that, at 75 years, is still just at the beginning.”

A graphic prepared for the anniversary highlights some of the thousands of artifacts in the library’s collection. Courtesy image/

The library’s archival and special research collections have grown to cover a broad range of Marian topics, including apparitions of Mary around the world. Its digital collections contain a selection of the library’s approximately 10,000 Catholic holy cards, 9,000 stamps, 3,600 Nativity sets from around the globe, 700 pieces of Marian sheet music, and other materials.

People everywhere can also access centuries of information on the Virgin Mary through the University’s All About Mary website (Udayton.edu/imri/mary/), which features more than 1,300 entries on Scripture, scholarship, popular culture and more.

“There are so many aspects that make Mary popular,” said Marianist Father Johann Roten, director of research, art, and special projects in the University’s International Marian Research Institute. “She is not only a religious figure, but she is a highly symbolic figure representing womanhood, maternity, affirmation, and affection. Mary leads to Christ, of course, but also to art, history, culture, spirituality, and so many directions because of the role she played and the way her role has become important for individual persons and the whole church.”

The University will celebrate the library throughout 2018, beginning Jan. 25 with a concert of medieval Marian music in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. Tickets are free, but must be reserved in  advance. For more information, see our online calendar of events (click on “events” in the upper menu bar).

Marianist Father Lawrence Monheim, director of the Marian Library in the 1950s, sitting in his office. Courtesy photo.
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