SBU Begins 150th Anniversary by Commemorating its Heritage

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

ALLEGANY, N.Y.  — St. Bonaventure University  inaugurated its 15-month celebration of the 150th anniversary of the school’s founding last week with a special concert and an academic convocation. Many friars affiliated with the university returned to campus for the festivities.

On March 31, the world premiere of a new musical of St. Francis’ Canticle of Creation was performed by Antares, a chamber ensemble, and Metropolitan Opera tenor Kenneth Reigel at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts. This tribute to the life of St. Francis of Assisi by Cal Stewart Kellogg was commissioned by the Quick Center to commemorate the university’s sesquicentennial anniversary.

In addition,  Antares performed “Quartet for the End of Time.” It was written by Olivier Messiaen (1908 to 1992) for whom St. Bonaventure’s Olivier Messiaen Award for the Arts and Spirituality was named in 2003.

The April 1 convocation in the Reilly Center Arena paid homage to the college’s history by welcoming descendants of SBU’s founders and awarding honorary degrees to three guests. Sr. Margaret Eletta Guider, OSF, chair of the Pastoral Studies Department at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass., spoke of the importance of peacemaking and of dreaming in her keynote address.

“I come before you today as one representative of the embodied fulfillment of dreams … dreams of Father Pamphilo, Bishop Timon, and Nicholas and Mary Devereux,” Sr. Guider said. “We are here today because seven generations ago, those whom we remembered dared to dream about us — and for us.

“As descendants — by blood, by vow, by appointment, by affection, by inspiration — we have realized their dream,” she added. 

Degrees Presented, Seniors Recognized
Honorary degrees were presented to Kenneth Riegel, the Most Rev. Edward U. Kmiec of Buffalo, N.Y., and to General Minister Jose Rodriguez Carballo, OFM, who said that “it is an honor and a joy for me to be here on the 150th anniversary of the founding of this glorious institution.”

After acknowledging the Provinces of Holy Name and Immaculate Conception, Fr. Jose said, “May St. Francis reward you all for the good you have done and what you will do in the future.”   Fr. Pampilo da Magliano, first president of the univeristy, founded the custody (later province) of the Immaculate Conception in 1861 to which St. Bonaventure belonged until Holy  Name Province was founded in 1901.

Fr. Jose, who visited the campus with seven members of the  Order’s General Curia in Rome, added, “There is a great intellectual tradition that characterizes this university. I thank the faculty and the administrative team for all they do.”

“I am so proud of St. Bonaventure and its history,” said Bishop Kmiec, who was installed as the 13th bishop of Buffalo in 2004. He added that he is glad that the college is in his jurisdiction.

Bishop Kmiec was one of three who gave the convocation prayer.  He began in English. Fr. Caoimhin O’Laoide, OFM, Provincial Minister of the Province of Ireland, read a verse in Gaelic. Dominic Monti, OFM, Holy Name’s Provincial Vicar, concluded the prayer in Italian.

University leaders recognized SBU’s bright future as a Franciscan university by presenting 300 members of the class of 2008 – dressed in commencement robes — with 150th anniversary medallions.

Thanking Descendants of Founders
They also recognized the university’s proud history by acknowledging relatives of benefactors Nicholas and Mary Devereux, who came from Long Island, N.Y., for the festivities, and founder Pamphilo da Magliano, OFM, who traveled from Abruzzi, Italy.

“We are just so honored and humbled by the way the university has gone out of its way to recognize our family,” said 2001 SBU alumnus Andrew Kernan, great-great-great-great-grandson of Nicholas and Mary Devereux, the Utica benefactors who donated the land and funds for the college. “Everyone at the university has just been wonderful, making these past couple of days as exciting and enriching for us as possible.”

Kernan, along with his wife, parents and two aunts, accepted as a token of the University’s appreciation, specially commissioned paintings of Devereux Hall, created by Allegany artist Anne Conroy-Baiter. Conroy-Baiter’s paintings of the campus were presented to more than 20 members of the Pietrobattista family, descendants of Fr. Pamphilo, who founded  the college in 1858 and was SBU’s first president. 

The entire program was translated into Italian for them by Jean-François Godet-Calogeras, associate professor of Franciscan Studies, using wireless headsets.

“We really think we are at home here, and we hope the Lord will thank you for all you are doing,” said Laura Pietrobattista at a dinner following the convocation. In Magliano, Italy, the memory of Fr. Pamphilo is kept alive, said a family member who is vice mayor of the town.

Two multimedia presentations were shown at the convocation. The first was a video “titled History of St. Bonaventure University”; the second was a slide presentation about SBU’s service programs featuring BonaResponds, SIFE, The Journey Project, Jamaica Service trips, Relay for Life and others.

At the dinner, F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, SBU’s vice president for the Franciscan Mission, recognized the work of university President Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, and others in arranging the convocation.

“There’s only one word that’s not in the vocabulary of Sr. Margaret, and that word is ‘impossible,’ ” he said.

Guests at the dinner were given three chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil to represent an event early in the life of Nicholas Devereux.  According to historian Dominic Monti,  who served as SBU’s interim president from 2003 to 2004,   Devereux emigrated from Ireland in 1806 to New York City with three gold coins. He immediately attended Mass at St. Peter’s Church and placed one of the coins in the collection basket in thanks for his safe journey. The usher, thinking he had erred in contributing such a large sum, offered to return it, but the young Nicholas said no; he intended it as an offering to God.  The candy gift served as a tribute to Devereux’s generosity  that  was celebrated 150 years later.

Among the many participants in the convocation were other friars affiliated with SBU including:
•  SBU trustees John O’Connor, OFM, Holy Name’s Provincial  Minister and president of the OFM English-Speaking Conference, which  met on campus from March 30  to April 3, Daniel Dwyer, OFM,  Thomas Gallagher, OFM, and  Frank Sevola, OFM.
•  Kenneth Paulli, OFM, executive assistant to the president of Siena College, Loudonville, N.Y., who  was part of a group of higher education colleagues.
•  Xavier Seubert, OFM, guardian of the SBU friary, who served on the anniversary convocation committee.
•  Basil Valente, OFM, a member of SBU’s journalism and mass communications department, who served on the staging subcommittee.
•  Mathias Doyle, OFM, SBU’s president from 1975 to 1990.

Art Exhibits and Future Commemorations
In addition to music and academics, the university is using art to recognize its history.   An exhibition of recent work by Miguel Loredo, OFM, was presented for six weeks at the Quick Center (see related article in this issue), as was a display of drawings of St. Bonaventure presidents.

At the center’s entrance is a display of caricatures of the 23 SBU presidents.  They  were created by Fred McCarthy, who studied at SBU in the early 1940s and developed Brother Juniper, a friar character named for a friend of St. Francis of Assisi. McCarthy’s syndicated cartoon strip of the same name ran from 1958 to 1989 in more than 100 newspapers in the United States, as well as in Argentina, Australia, Brazil and Italy. McCarthy, formerly friar Justin McCarthy,  served as art director for Friar, a national Franciscan magazine, and he taught at several colleges. He still lectures on the history of comics and humor.

150LRGLast week’s two-day celebration was the first of several commemorations being held this year.

In May, a group of alumni and friends of the university participating in the St. Bonaventure Anniversary Pilgrimage will go to the countries of the school’s founders – Ireland and Italy.  Ed Coughlin and Sr. Margaret will serve as tour guides, presenting detailed histories of the places visited.

An Oct. 3-5 event will focus on the feast of St. Francis. The university’s celebration concludes in May 2009.  St. Bonaventure is sharing its celebration with the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, who also celebrate their 150th anniversary during 2008-09.

A report in a future issue of this newsletter will describe the parishes and organizations that Fr. Pamphilo established in Western New York.

Photo above shows convocation participants singing. Pictured are John McGinley, chair of SBU’s board of trustees, Sr. Margaret Carney, Sr. Margaret Guider, Bishop Kmiec, John O’Connor, and Dr. Patrick Casey, Chair of the Faculty Senate, who served as Grand Marshal of the convocation.

— Jocelyn Thomas, a 1977 graduate of St. Bonaventure University, is Director of Communications for Holy Name Province.