ALLEGANY, N.Y. — On Sept. 15, St. Bonaventure University formally dedicated the newly-opened Damietta Center, celebrating multiculturalism and diversity. Located on the west end of Francis Hall in a building that was originally the convent for Christ the King Seminary, this center is the direct result of an initiative promoted by the strategic planning committee for diversity. The name Damietta was chosen because it was the place where Francis of Assisi met with Sultan Malek al-Kamil.
In bringing the center together, donations of furniture, landscaping, dishes and silverware were organized from alumni, relatives of students, staff and faculty. Monetary donations were received from the St. Bonaventure Friary, University Ministries, the Journey Project and the Franciscan Center for Social Concerns.
Student groups throughout the university that have already met at the Damietta Center include Black Student Union, International Student Association and the teaching assistants from other countries. Four Damietta dinners have happened since its opening, bringing together faculty, staff and students.
St. Bonaventure University President Sister Margaret Carney, OSF, in August announced the opening of the new university center. The buildig is destined to serve as a place of community, collaboration and pro-active problem solving for students, faculty and staff who seek a multicultural “anchor” for social, intellectual and personal development.
The Damietta Center will provide cultural, intellectual and spiritual enrichment. Available programs, services and facilities will enhance and create a community environment that recognizes the university’s desire to learn and appreciate cultural similarities and differences while cultivating a campus-wide environment for cross-cultural interaction.
The center will celebrate the diversity of the university’s students, faculty, staff and administrators. It is located in the building formally identified as the Thomas More House. Equipped with a kitchen, dining room, living room and meeting space, it has once again become a “home” to many.
After listening to members of the strategic planning committee for diversity and meeting with interested students, faculty and administrators, Sr. Margaret committed to making this a priority for the university.
“I am grateful to the committee for the originality of its proposal and the careful cultural analysis behind it. I am also very pleased with initiatives reported to me by our students who have shown eager enthusiasm in taking ownership of this new opportunity for creating a better campus climate,” Sr. Margaret said.
“Together, we will ‘make our way by walking’ as the center evolves under the capable leadership of Peter Ghiloni, whom I have asked to serve as its founding director,” Sr. Margaret said, referencing the prophet Isaiah. “Peter has important experience in diversity work, has established wonderful relationships across our campus and is a trusted mentor of our students.”
Since joining the university ministries team as director of liturgy and music three years ago, a position he will continue to hold, Ghiloni has also served as a minister- in-residence in Robinson Hall. In both 2004 and 2006, he received the Joseph Doino “Staff Person of the Year” award.
While serving as director of prayer and worship for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for 10 years, Ghiloni also served on its multicultural task force and worked extensively with the African American, Latino and Hmong communities in the central city of Milwaukee. Additionally, he worked to create and host a major annual ecumenical conference.
“This is a very exciting endeavor for me and the entire campus. I look forward to establishing a home for all of us as we embrace our cultural gifts and realties,” Ghiloni said. The mission of the Damietta Center will be situated within university ministries.
“The Damietta Center is founded on our Franciscan tradition of treasuring the dignity of every person, culture and spiritual path. Its mission is to foster the brother-sisterhood of all members of our university community,” said Robert Donius, vice president for university ministries.