Biondi’s former abode finds new purpose

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When St. Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus in 1540, he instructed the earliest Jesuits to go out and “find God in all things.” Today, as a Catholic, Jesuit University, SLU strives to continue to embrace this maxim of Ignatian spirituality. On campus, the new Catholic Studies Centre is the place to go for those who wish to achieve this.

Located at the west end of campus near Vandeventer Ave., the Catholic Studies Centre can be identified by the twin stone lions guarding its entry. Originally a 19th-century home named for the famous jewelers of the Cartier family, the Centre housed Fr. Lawrence Biondi, S.J. during his time as President of SLU from 1987-2013. The beautiful Victorian building has remained largely unused since Fr. Biondi left, until Fr. David Meconi, S.J., of the Department of Theological Studies was named the director of the Catholic Studies program here at SLU.

Thanks to a great deal of effort on the part of Fr. Meconi, the Centre for Catholic Studies has now become the hub for the Catholic Studies program and the Medieval Studies program. In addition, the building is the office for the College of Philosophy and Letters, the program for Jesuits in preparation for priesthood; and houses an office for SLU Fertility Care, a group of pro-life doctors who offer consultation services. The Centre also hosts three all-day symposia a year, with the focus of “bringing together strong Catholic voices within the University to integrate truth with academia.” Each symposium concentrates on a different field to correspond with SLU students’ most popular fields of study: business and law, medicine and the humanities.

On Monday nights, the Catholic Studies Centre sponsors the Campion Society, an interdenominational group of Christians and nonChristians that discusses issues of theological and cultural importance.

Fr. Meconi said during their meetings, the group “seeks to recover the great tradition, but I like to push the conversation a bit and address some edgier issues of concern to undergraduates today.” Issues such as the Catholic approach to study, science, family, human sexuality, care for the poor and the common good and any other of the disciplines central to a university. Campion Society begins with prayer and a light dinner together, a talk or sharing of some common reading, and then concludes with the celebration of the Mass.

The most notable use of the centre, however, is its role as the main office for its namesake, the Catholic Studies program. The director of the program, Fr. Meconi, describes Catholic Studies as “a way of honoring theology as queen of the humanities…theology deals with the highest object of wonder and has always been an umbrella over other disciplines.” Integrating the study of theology with the studies of philosophy, English, history, and literature among a close-knit group of students has the effect of creating a “more intentional community.”

“The premise is,” explained Fr. Meconi, “if God is Truth, God can be met in any discipline, any truth.” This approach speaks to the Jesuit principle of finding God in all things, as well as to the motto of cura personalis— care for the whole person— by developing well-rounded students with a grounding in theological studies.

Meconi was adamant that the Catholic Studies Program exists not to discredit other disciplines, but rather to illustrate how science, mathematics, literature, history, and all other fields can be true, while still integrating the pursuit of the truth of God with these disciplines.

“Truth should not have to compete against truth,” commented Fr. Meconi, “the program is meant to bolster what SLU does well already as a good, Catholic, and serious place. Catholic even with a small ‘c’—trying to find truth wherever it is.”

The Catholic Studies Centre is a place that all SLU students can go to find truth, regardless of religious background. Whether admiring the restored piano donated by the beloved Mary Bruemmer, former dean of student affairs and longtime SLU volunteer, spending some time in the garden sanctuary, or attending first Friday Mass, “Truth is beautiful, and you should allow yourself to find it in all things.” For more information, please feel free to contact Fr. Meconi, SJ at [email protected]