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A Wing and a Prayer

The walls of the new wing provided the blank canvas; funds designated to make the mission of the college visible provided the means. And members of our own college community provide here an interdisciplinary, liberal-artsy and wholly personal gloss to the series of eminent figures portrayed in a new 128-foot mural unveiled on campus this spring.

These figures are people – some instantly recognizable, others household names – whose work, it must be said, is seminal. It is game-changing work, work that stands squarely in the revolutionary and Gospel-inspired teachings of the Catholic intellectual and social traditions. Their likenesses are nothing if not fitting to find their place on the walls of our South Teaching Wing. And, contemplating these greats and saints, we wondered, too, about any more literal connections that might anchor them more personally in our community. How hard would it be to uncover encounters, big and small, with these figures who tower over the very disciplines within which we work? The answer: not hard at all!

On a wing and a prayer! The wing is the recently remodeled offshoot of the impressive Gehl-Mulva Science Center. And the prayer is … well, it is no less than the prayer of the ages: prayer made manifest, in this particular instance, in the ongoing work of this, the only Norbertine college in the world.

In communion with the saints
Each figure portrayed in the South Teaching Wing mural was carefully chosen to represent strands in the traditions that underpin the mission of St. Norbert College. Explore images from the mural, along with accounts of what these towering figures have meant in the lives of members of our own community, via our gallery. Or, read on.

Catholic tradition

Thomas MertonThomas Merton
My very first retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani, we spent a few moments browsing in the retreat house gift shop. A few feet away a monk was being interviewed by a reporter. My Dad whispered, “That’s Fr. Louis.” I must have looked confused because Dad explained, “It’s Thomas Merton.” I was 12 years old and had never read a word by Merton, but I knew he was a famous writer and was proud that my state was now his home. – Paul Wadell (Theology & Religious Studies)

Dorothy DayDorothy Day
While researching Catholic opposition to nuclear weapons, I held in my hand Dorothy Day’s typewritten statement to the court before her sentencing for her civil disobedience actions protesting a Civil Defense Drill in 1957. – Brandon Bauer (Art)

Oscar RomeroOscar Romero
During my last lecture to the environmental science class this spring, I mentioned Archbishop Oscar Romero as a key influence in Pope Francis encyclical Laudato Si. Romero said, “We go on corrupting the nature that we need. We do not realize that we have a commitment to God to take care of nature.” Pope Francis takes Romero’s words to its environmental end when he writes “the rich and poor have equal dignity” which can only be realized in a global human society that upholds the common good. This is at the center of the idea of sustainability, it is all about justice above anything else. – Ben Vallejo, Philippines exchange professor

Mother TeresaMother Teresa
It was the late Rev. Richard Mulroy, O.Praem., ’37 a priest of St. Norbert Abbey, who encouraged Blessed Teresa to offer her healing ministry to the poor in Lima. Through her mission in Peru, Mother Teresa also met the Rev. Rod Fenzl, O.Praem., ’53.

St. Norbert College history and purpose

Abbot PenningsAbbot Pennings
My older brother was in Norbertine formation. It was probably his vestition service. My family was on campus. My brother asked if we would like to meet the abbot. The abbot was sitting on a bench between Boyle and Main Hall. He was smoking a cigar and praying his rosary. There was something like 80 years difference in age between us, Here was a guy who was actually the founder of the college and head of the order in De Pere. I was about 12. – Donald Taylor ’67 (Galleries, Emeritus)

Rooted deepRooted Deep, Growing Upward
St. Norbert College is a place where goodness happens. The catalyst for that, in my personal experience, is love. The injunction of our founder, Father Bernard Pennings, to “love one another,” is visible and real within our college community. God is Love; these signs of love are sparks of the divine. – The late Tom Faase (Sociology, Emeritus)

Development of the whole personDevelopment of the whole person
“We promote the development of whole persons by cultivating practices of study, reflection, prayer, wellness, play and action.” – From the college’s mission statement

The liberal arts tradition

Gerard Manley HopkinsGerard Manley Hopkins
I hated poetry. So to prove a point (but mostly to teach me about wonder, beauty, and diversity), Dr. [Bridget] Burke Ravizza prescribed that I read and reflect upon Hopkins’ poem “Pied Beauty,” weekly. At the end of the semester, I emerged a lover of the way in which poetic language can lead one closer to the Great Mystery, God. – Breanna Mekuly ’12

Pope John XXIIIPope John XXIII
At the age of 23, just graduated from the college and studying in Rome, I was there for the last session of the Second Vatican Council. The whole atmosphere of the city from October  to December… it was exciting!. Every evening there were lectures from great theologians and bishops … I was at the closing Mass. It really was one of the most transformative experiences of my life. It all flowed from Pope John XXIII’s “opening of the windows,” as they say. – The Rev. Andrew Ciferni, O.Praem., ’64

Maya AngelouMaya Angelou
The Phenomenal Woman conference, celebrated annually at St. Norbert College 1999-2013, was named for the signature poem of the poet and civil rights activist:

It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,  
The stride of my step,  
The curl of my lips.  
I’m a woman

Marie CurieMarie Curie
My beloved professor, Barbara Ann Caruso, began one of my first women’s studies classes at Sealyham with the poem “Power” by Adrienne Rich. It started me on an intellectual adventure that changed my life. – Karlyn Crowley (CVC)  

Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified …

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
her wounds came from the same source as her power

The spirit of communio

Day of PentecostDay of Pentecost
Day of Pentecost is the title of the Norbertine constitutions that set forth the order’s spirituality and rules of governance. Norbertine life is the vita apostolica of the Jerusalem community, established after the first Christian Pentecost. (Acts 2)

Common PrayerCommon Prayer
Even one’s faintest awareness reveals that the Spirit of God is manifest and Christ is very present where two or more gather. – The late Tom Faase (Sociology, Emeritus)

The Norbertine tradition

Distinctively NorbertineDistinctively Norbertine
“O God, you made Norbert an excellent preacher of the Word, and through him brought light and peace into the world. Awaken in us that same spirit that guided Norbert.” – A prayer of Bill Hyland, former director of the Center for Norbertine Studies

Judeo-Christian DialogueJudaeo-Christian Dialogue
Delaney Sieber ’19 joined other members of the college on a May trip to Israel. “Dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims will be an integral element of our trip,” says Sieber. The group met with students, local families and religious leaders in Jerusalem.

Prémontré, site of the first Norbertine abbey, built in 1120, is on the itinerary for a J-Term 2017 course to be taught at the Abbey of Mondaye in Normandy, France. The course examines Communio & the Norbertines Through the Centuries.

June 27, 2016