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By: Steve Miller – Sports Editor
As the chapel bells rang in anticipation of the regularly-scheduled midday Mass on Monday, the chapel’s interior teemed with excitement for a monumental anniversary.
“It’s not every day you get to celebrate the bicentennial of your order’s founding,” said Brother Andrew Kosmowski, librarian at the Marian Library, as he slid into a pew before the procession.
In 1817, William Joseph Chaminade convened a cohort of dedicated Catholics in Bordeaux, France, and founded the Society of Mary in a mission to educate.
“They made a retreat in the fall of 1817 and on October 2, 1817, they completed the retreat and made their firm decision to establish a religious order under the direction of Father Chaminade,” Brother Ray Fitz, University president emeritus, said in his welcoming remarks. “Since the earliest days of the Society of Mary, this date has been considered the foundation day.
Along with the Daughters of Mary Immaculate, the Society of Mary is commonly known as the Marianists. Following their founding, they expanded throughout France and Switzerland, and in 1849 to the United States.
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In 1850, they founded the St. Mary’s School for Boys, which evolved over the years and in 1920 became the University of Dayton.
And so, on a beautiful fall Monday, UD’s Marianist brothers, sisters, priests, lay people, students and staff packed into the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception to celebrate the day.
“We come together this day to give thanks for the inspiration and grace of the Spirit given to the Society of Mary and all its collaborators over the past 200 years,” Bro. Fitz continued. “Although much good has been done for which we are thankful, there is much yet to do.”
Bro. Fitz’s sentiment was echoed by his biological brother, Father Jim Fitz’s remarks as he celebrated the Mass.
While Monday was a planned jubilation for the Marianists, the world mourned in the wake of the very unplanned massacre in Las Vegas.
Fr. Fitz remarked in his homily that such evil serves as a reminder that despite 200 years of education and evangelization, much remains unfinished to bring forth God’s kingdom to the world.
Following the Mass, attendees sauntered across campus to the Kennedy Union Ballroom, where a lunch awaited because no Marianist celebration is complete without culinary delights.
In the two o’clock hour, those gathered recited a bicentennial prayer together with all those across the Marianist Province of the United States, which extends from Dublin, Ireland to Honolulu, Hawaii.
“There was a certain aroma of excitement in the air,” said senior biology major Chris Turley, who lives in a Marianist Student Community on campus. “You could tell that the Dayton community was becoming one with the global Marianist community.”
Later in the evening, the Marianist communities on Chambers and Stonemill both opened their doors to UD students for an ice cream social to culminate the momentous day and further cement the fact that food and fellowship are two wings on the dove of Marianist hospitality.
“When I was a younger Marianist I would go to some gatherings and worry there wouldn’t be enough food,” Brother Tom Farnsworth recanted at the Stonemill house, buzzing with joyful students. “But Father Paul Marshall told me ‘You don’t need to worry about that, Tom,’ so I knew I found my calling.”
Two centuries into their order’s existence, the Marianists still hold their food in high esteem, as they do with their Bicentennial anniversary.
“There is a time to fast and a time to feast,” Bro. Farnsworth concluded. “And today we are feasting and celebrating with all our friends and students.”
Photos courtesy of Deborah Shahady/UD Campus Ministry
This article was edited to correct the position of Andrew Kosmowski.