Catholic Symbols Stir Diverse Feelings At BC

February 12, 2009

Author: Michael Paulson

Source: The Boston Globe

On the plaza in front of Higgins Hall at Boston College, there is a new oversized statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola, robes flowing and his hand over his heart. For the university's nearby Newton campus, a large statue of St. Thomas More is being designed.

On each side of the foyer in Lyons Hall is a new mosaic, one depicting Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic worker movement, and the other Pedro Arrupe, a former superior general of the Jesuit order.

And suddenly, in all 151 classrooms, there is a Catholic icon, in most cases, a crucifix above the lintel.

Students and faculty returned to campus after winter break to find that Boston College had quietly completed, without announcement or fanfare, an eight-year project to dramatically increase the presence of Roman Catholic religious symbols on campus. The additions are subtle but significant, as the university joins other Catholic institutions around the nation in visibly reclaiming its Catholic identity.

"The Christian art reflects our pride in and commitment to our religious heritage," said Jack Dunn, BC's spokesman.

Student reaction has been generally supportive, but among faculty, there is division over the appropriateness of the step. A meeting last month of arts and sciences department chairs turned into a heated argument over the classroom icons; a handful of faculty have written to the administration to protest, and some unsuccessfully circulated a petition asking to have crucifixes removed.