It started with one book
The Marianists had come to the U.S. in 1849; and in 1850, the year of the death of their founder Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, they had founded the University of Dayton.
Looking forward to centennial celebrations, in 1943 Father John Elbert, S.M. ’15, UD president, established the Marian Library. He also donated its first book, one he had written — Devotion to Mary in the Twentieth Century.
Father Thomas Thompson, S.M. ’58, director of the library from 1987 to 2015, said that this book was emblematic of what the library should do — focus on a devotion to Mary that was based on sound theology.
The collections of the library include books from the beginning of printing up to the present day as well as periodicals, articles, prints and religious artifacts. Materials are in 100 languages. The library exists not only on the UD campus but also on an extensive website.
The library serves as a resource for the campus community as well as international scholars. The current director, Sarah Cahalan, notes that UD students make use of its materials through classes, cocurricular activities and internships.
Among researchers using the library this past summer was Liz Hutter, assistant professor of English, who held a fellowship funded by the Marianist Province of the United States. Students taking her fall writing seminar are working on an exhibit, Rituals of Healing: Body, Mind, Spirit. Students, Cahalan said, “are curating artifacts from the library and writing narratives to explore what individuals or groups believe about religion, medical expertise and healing of the body, mind and spirit.”
The exhibit will be on display Feb. 8 through April 20, 2023.
The Marian Library began with one book, but by 1967 it had grown so much that its staff compiled a log for Brother William Fackovec, S.M. ’49 (pictured), to take on his European book-buying tours. Fackovec, a librarian in the Marian Library from 1960 to 2011 who died in 2014, took regular overseas trips and formed an extensive network of contacts as he developed the library’s rare book collection, which now bears his name.
He also added numerous other books to support not only the library but also the religious studies department. Additionally, he curated some of the library’s first exhibits. “Brother Bill loved books, art, music. He was a humble scholar with a great sense of humor; his laugh at times could be heard throughout the library,” said Cecilia Mushenheim, library faculty emerita.
He amassed a large collection of Christmas ornaments, medals, statues and postcards; the library’s scope extends well beyond the written word. Mushenheim tells a story reflecting the limits of its extension. One day a man came in with a picture that he said was exactly what Mary looked like. “I could tell Brother Bill and I were thinking the same thing,” she said. “After the man left, Brother Bill said, ‘If I thought she looked like that, I wouldn’t want to go to heaven.’”
A musician with an interest in hymns based on Scripture and in musical performance, Father Thomas Thompson, S.M. ’58 (pictured), added musical scores and sheet music to the collections of the Marian Library. He has particular interests in liturgy and ecumenism. A pianist, he enjoys a wide range of music, especially jazz. In retirement, he still has a keyboard in his room.
Holding a doctorate in historical theology, he was director of the library from 1987 to 2015. Skilled in languages, he diligently produced book reviews and Marian bibliographies. From 1990 until 2020, he served as secretary of the Mariological Society of America and edited Marian Studies, the proceedings of the annual MSA meeting.
“He directed my dissertation,” said Gloria Falcão Dodd, research professor in the religious studies department and current secretary of the MSA. “As an editor, he was very particular about format. So when I now submit something for publication, those editors appreciate there’s very little they need to change.”
Thompson has probed the question of Mary’s relation to the Church. He believes that her openness to God, her acceptance of Christ, is integral to Christianity.
“Mother of God,” a mid-20th-century print, is part of the Marian Library’s Ukrainian Marian Collection, which owes its origin during the 1980s and early 1990s to the persistence of cataloger Helen Nykolyshyn (1913-2000, pictured), herself an immigrant from Ukraine, in collecting and soliciting donations from the Ukrainian diaspora of the U.S. and Canada.
The collection contains many samples of Ukrainian art — including paintings, prints, embroideries and Christmas cards — representative of historic moments for Ukrainians during that time period, including the millennium of Christianity in Ukraine in 1988 and Ukraine’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. It was featured in “Mary, Queen of Ukraine” in the last issue of UD Magazine.
Father Johann Roten, S.M. (pictured), who headed the international Marian Research Institute for more than two decades, has a special interest in how diverse cultures see the birth of Christ in the form of Nativities (crèches). The International Crèche Collection of the Marian Library now numbers more than 3,500. The one pictured is from Peru.
Swiss by birth, his languages include English, French, German, Swiss-German, Italian, Spanish and Dutch as well as Latin and Greek. A former student of Pope Benedict XVI, Roten brings his scholarship to bear on how faith and culture intersect in different cultures and countries.
In the mid-1990s, the library under his leadership launched the Mary Page, which grew into the massive UD website All About Mary. He was also instrumental in developing the library’s art collection and cultivating for it an audience through rotating exhibits of art and other materials.
Father François Rossier, S.M. (pictured), a native of Switzerland, served in Africa before coming to UD. He was only 59 when, while director of the International Marian Research Institute, he suddenly died in 2017. Cecilia Mushenheim remembers him as a quiet and caring man who “made it a point to walk through the library and stop and talk to each of us.”
A Scripture scholar, he had been a student of Pope Benedict XVI and spoke five languages. Besides working with IMRI graduate students, he taught undergraduate classes in the religious studies department.
He also apparently liked leather jackets and rock ’n’ roll. He had a particular interest in Mary’s presence in popular culture and fiction. So, among the books in the Marian Library (as part of the Father François Rossier, S.M., Memorial Collection) is The Woman in Blue by British mystery writer Elly Griffiths.
Cecilia Mushenheim (pictured) said that she “enthusiastically complied” when Father Johann Roten, S.M., requested that the children’s books found in the Marian Library collection be brought together to form a juvenile collection.
That project is among the contributions Mushenheim made during more than four decades of service as a faculty member, research and editing assistant, cataloger and volunteer. Besides scouring church charity shops and thrift stores for good-condition children’s books featuring Mary, she is credited with being a driving force, working with many others, in getting the library’s catalog online.
“For a lot of our books,” she said, “there were no records to use to look up information. So we needed to discover it and create records.”
For a while she worked part time for the Marian Library and was also University archivist. When meeting the demands of the two roles became worrisome, “I realized my heart was with the Marian Library,” she said. “The Marian Library was a very happy place to be.”
Mildred Sutton (pictured), who died in 2010 at the age of 97, loved saying that she had lived during the reigns of nine popes. She volunteered at the Marian Library for half a century. During that time, she identified and classified mentions of Mary in newspapers, magazines and other ephemeral media. The result is a clippings file of 70,000 items.
Sutton refused, Cecilia Mushenheim remembers, to use an electric typewriter. “So we kept a second manual typewriter to use for spare parts.”
This past summer, the clippings collection was used extensively by one of the research fellows funded by the Marianist Province of the United States. Professor Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada of Kalamazoo College used it in researching 20th-century changes in the United States in rosary practices; apparently there are not only electronic rosaries but also ones that play on vinyl.