Echoes of education
As we walked down the tiled sidewalk, the sound of our footsteps echoed off the faces of storefronts lining the narrow lane. Rue des Menuts in Bordeaux, France, was not so different from any other street in this storied city. But what made it special was that we were walking in the footsteps of Father William Joseph Chaminade to the very place where Marianist education was founded.
I took this walk 12 years ago while writing about a pilgrimage for lay and vowed Marianists to places important to the founding of the Marianist Family. At No. 51-53 Rue des Menuts, ironworks now cover the windows and decorate the doors from which Marianists welcomed in 1819 their first 12 students. The country was still recovering from the ravages of the French Revolution when the Marianists envisioned a new way to teach. According to Brother Thomas Giardino, S.M. ’65, executive director of the Association of Marianist Universities, these new methods included suppression of corporal punishment, a closer relationship between professors and students, family spirit, and the teaching of more modern languages along with geography, history, accounting and the sciences.
“The University of Dayton started in a not unsimilar way, with a few students,” the then-chair of the religious studies department, Sandra Yocum, reminded us as we looked up at the four-story stone buildings.
Today, there are 97 Marianist educational institutions across the globe, including UD and its sister universities, Chaminade University of Honolulu and St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. The Marianists are educating more than 112,000 students served by 7,833 lay and vowed religious educators on five continents and in 24 countries.
I am one of those thankful for those brothers and their 12-student cohort. I began my Marianist education in August 1990 during what I am certain was the hottest move-in on record. Student volunteers already covered in sweat grabbed my crates of books and helped haul them uphill and upstairs to my Marycrest 6 South room. Over the next four years — and indeed, throughout my life to this day — I was educated for service, justice and peace in the family spirit. The excellence of my professors and the curriculum has prepared me for challenges and successes throughout my life. My faith has been broadened and deepened. And perhaps most importantly to my roles as both editor and foster parent, I have been educated for adaptation and change. I can swap out stories and still get the magazine to press on time. I can also help our 13-year-old learn something no one before had taken the time to teach: how to tie her shoe.
These are all characteristics of a Marianist education. As a student, you’ve embodied them. As a parent of a Flyer, you’ve seen their effect. As a community member, you’ve felt the impact of the University’s calling to do good in partnership.
On this 200th anniversary, we celebrate all those who have brought forward our founders’ teachings and make them alive in our communities today. We say thank you and keep up the good work. Because of you, we are walking in those footsteps first left in Bordeaux that continue to echo through our world.