Skip to main content


Discovering Our Roots

By Melanie Zebrowski, Library Specialist

Tucked away in a little corner of the Marian Library is a painting that very few people ever notice. The image glows, it is almost ethereal in nature, but still can easily be overlooked if one does not understand its meaning. What it depicts is a pivotal moment in the life of Father William Joseph Chaminade. A moment of spiritual revelation and the inception of an idea that would later become the foundation and beginnings of the University of Dayton.

January is typically the month that we celebrate our Marianist heritage. In the Marian Library, we strive to keep the celebration going all year long by always remembering the men and women who planted the seeds that have grown into the University of Dayton as we know it today.

During the French Revolution, it was not easy for the Marianist founders to establish communities of faith. Many priests and other religious were forced into hiding and had to minister underground. At one point, Chaminade was exiled from France and spent 3 years living in Saragossa, Spain. It was here, praying before the statue of Our Lady of the Pillar, that he began to understand the relationship between Jesus and Mary and the importance of her role as Mother of God. He received inspiration and courage for his mission to bring Christianity back to France, and in time, his dream began to spread. Chaminade's Marianist communities grew and dispersed all over the world, somehow finding a home right here in Dayton, Ohio.

So, back to the painting. In it we see Chaminade kneeling at the feet of the Blessed Mother at the statue of Our Lady of the Pillar in Saragossa Spain. The silhouette of the cathedral sits in the background, with a dome that looks surprisingly similar to the chapel here at UD. By understanding the context of the image a little better, the content of the painting becomes clear.

Roots imply something buried. Something hidden and yet fundamental. But when we make the effort to rediscover our roots and seek them out, there is a lot of wisdom to be gained. If you dust off the picture in the corner you might discover that it has more meaning than you think.

To learn more about our founders, I invite you to check out the article, "Meet the 3 Remarkable People Who Got Us Started."

Previous Post

Newly Digitized Novenas

Modern access to historical novenas
Read More
Next Post

Weekly Marian Features: March 4, 2019

Ash Wednesday is upon us this week. Use this selected content to prepare for the beginning of Lent.
Read More