At Loyola, saints come marching in

Jesuit college is renaming several buildings, roads after renowned Catholics

April 08, 2002|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

At most colleges, you have to give a lot of money toward the school's mission to get a building named after you. But at Loyola College, it helps if you give your life.

In an attempt to reinforce its Jesuit identity, the North Baltimore college is renaming a dozen buildings and several roads on its campus for great Catholic martyrs and thinkers.

The 10-story Wynnewood Towers apartments on Cold Spring Lane are now the Cardinal John Henry Newman Towers, named after the 19th-century theologian. Next door, the Guilford Tower is now the St. Edmund Campion Tower, named after the Jesuit martyred during the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

Officials say the wholesale renaming will help put the college's stamp on the buildings, mostly large apartment complexes just west of North Charles Street purchased by Loyola for student housing during the past 20 years.

"A lot of people feel it never hurts to re-emphasize our identity," said the Rev. Joseph Rossi, S.J., a theology professor who led the committee that oversaw the two-year renaming process. "We are a Jesuit Catholic school and this is one of the ways we reflect that. Iconography is very important; names are very important."

The renaming has won mixed reviews from students, some of whom see it as an unnecessary attempt to bolster Loyola's Jesuit image. Others have doubts about its practicality, saying most students won't use the new names, and questioning the wisdom of putting saints' names on dormitories, where students are known to misbehave on occasion.

As junior Gabe Reichenbach noted, is St. Thomas Aquinas Hall, the new name of the Notre Dame Apartments, an appropriate setting for the keg parties that inevitably will be held there?

"We don't really like the new names that much. We're so used to the old ones," said Reichenbach, a marketing major from New York. "It's going overboard. Why not stick with what works?"

Both sides agree, though, that the debate over the names, superficial as it may seem, has serious roots - the challenge Loyola faces in maintaining its Jesuit mission when the school is, in some respects, more secular than ever.

Founded in 1852 in downtown Baltimore, Loyola now has about a dozen Jesuits remaining on its 250-person faculty. The college estimates that as many as a third of its 3,450 undergraduates (it also has more than 2,000 graduate students) are not Catholic.

At the same time, students and administrators say the school's Jesuit character carries on in many ways. Theology, philosophy and ethics courses are required; 60 percent of students are involved in community service, although it is not mandatory. Mass is held daily on weekdays and three times on Sundays.

Students say the school's spiritual side was on strong display in the days after Sept. 11, when many services were held to console a college community with a large number of students from New York and New Jersey.

"You still feel the presence of the Jesuits pretty strongly," said Brian Marana, a sophomore from Hunt Valley and intern with the campus ministry. "You have student leaders who talk about leading for the glory of God; there are ideals that shine though."

Because Loyola retains much of its Catholic character, some students don't see the need to rename a large swath of the campus. "I don't see any point to change the names," said Terry Ciccolella, a junior education major from New Jersey. "It's a big waste of money, to spend a lot on signs, and a waste of time."

Rossi disagreed, saying the renaming would encourage the school's values to "seep into residential life." He predicted the new names would be accepted in a few years.

Seeking a diverse mix, the committee named buildings for lay activist Dorothy Day and Mary Elizabeth Lange, the founder of Baltimore's Oblate Sisters of Providence, the country's first order of African-American women.

It also named several buildings for Jesuits who were martyred in their youth, such as Campion and St. Robert Southwell.

With a limited number of buildings to name, the committee and the college's Board of Trustees had to make tough calls. St. Thomas More, the English lawyer and writer beheaded for choosing his Catholic faith over Henry VIII's demands, wound up with Thomas More Loop Road.

"He is of course one of the key saints," Rossi said. "We submitted his named for a building; I don't know why he only got a loop road."

Sun staff researcher Elizabeth Lukes contributed to this article.

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