Australian student campaigns for US college's Catholic identity

Australian student campaigns for US college's Catholic identity

David Walsh

David is the youngest of seven children. Upon leaving St Kevin's College, Toorak, David was offered a Basketball and academic scholarship. He is currently completing a degree in psychological science and an arts degree with a major in French at the College of St Scholastica, Duluth, Minnesota.

David has been fully involved in campus life and has chaired the College Religion and Spirituality Committee. He was recently awarded the prestigious "Saints Award" for the person who best lives out the basketball team's values in all facets of student life.

The logo an institution chooses is one for its public image and one that defines wholly what that institution stands for. At The College of St Scholastica in Minnesota - a college that is said to have been "shaped by its Catholic Benedictine tradition" - the College logo has not fulfilled its purpose.

The College's main building still stands strong after 100 years. For it was 100 years ago that it was commissioned by four sisters who travelled unaccompanied and with only one chest of belongings from Collegeville, Minnesota, to Duluth. Their purpose was to establish primary, secondary and tertiary schooling for girls.

This building is called Tower Hall and is represented by two strong, square towers rising into the sky. In the middle of the two towers, a cross stands, usually silhouetted against the blue sky, or lit up by night lights. This cross's prominence serves as a reminder to students of the reason they attend the College. The cross watches over students as they mature as individuals during a challenging time in their lives. It reminds them not just about where they have come from, but where they should be headed.

Logo's omission

A logo was recently created to represent the College and has been adopted by athletics, music, campus recreation, the websites, and even the apparel store. It is ubiquitous and has been portrayed as our central logo.

The picture used as for this logo is in the shape of a shield, but at the top of the shield two towers spring up identifying our school's most noticeable feature. Yet this image is missing its essential component - the Christian cross.

Our surroundings constantly provide subliminal messages that allow people to make inferences. For example, we can tell if someone is not coping by how messy, or clean, their room is. These types of inferences are made on the basis of ecology.

St Scholastica is now witnessed around the Duluth community, greater Minnesota, the United States and even the world, via internet and international students. Often people say they haven't noticed the omission of the cross, but often what people don't notice can affect them unconsciously.

This is the point of making a logo: so that people see it and associate it with the real thing. The logo is supposed to communicate a message; hence by omitting the cross, is it being admitted that some individuals are not comfortable with our College's Catholicism? The absence of the cross can also be interpreted as a rejection of the College's heritage.

This difference went unnoticed even by myself until I saw a logo created by our centennial committee who used the same image of Tower Hall, but had reinstated the cross. This is a group that tries to understand and incorporate the school's history into everything it does. But shouldn't everybody at The College of St Scholastica try to do that? Isn't that our calling and part of the reason why we come here?

It is important that as we move with the times we do not discard the good that brought us to the present. It is important to remember those who have gone before us and whose beliefs and values we have inherited. I have compared the logo of the centennial committee with the athletics (and internet, apparel, etc.) logo.

It seems that when we look back on the College's history, it is only logical, reasonable, and respectful that the cross be instated as the centrepiece to the College's existence as an institution. But when we look to the future, our logo, adopted widely in many departments, remains an image of our Tower Hall, with only an emptiness in between. We need to remember the good of the past, so that we can continue the same good into the future. Yet it appears The College of St Scholastica's authorities are unwilling to represent that in its logo.

Catholic passion absent

I brought this point and the arguments that go along with it to the attention of the president's staff, the Benedictine sisters who reside in the Monastery and many faculty members. It certainly was an anti-climactic affair. I wrote letters and lobbied insisting that the logo needed to change. But after a week of this, I had heard nothing.

So I wrote another letter to the president, asking him to meet with me to discuss the issue, and if he had any questions. He replied at last, saying that he had met with athletics people and asked them to adjust their logo. I punched the air with joy, but then I read his words again, and it was clear that he was reluctant to be proactive on this. The spirit and passion of Catholicism that had founded the school was lacking, with our leaders falling prey to indifference.

The future will hold for us a major challenge to change the logo that is now omnipresent in so many places. I remain hopeful that people will understand the importance of our history and be prepared to reignite the spirit of Catholicism that has been looked upon with apparent embarrassment. We need to learn that in Christ we shouldn't be ashamed. As Moses held up the bronze snake to symbolise the people's shame, so today's students need to hold up the symbol of Christ who died for our sins.

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