I have been on campus four times in the past three months, most recently the first day of class for the spring semester. While there, I had the occasion, as I always do, to visit St. Ignatius church. Each time, I was surprised to find the church entirely locked at every entrance.
Recalling my days on campus, St. Ignatius was our “chapel”; religious and ecumenical services, memorials, Sunday mass, concerts, and other ceremonial events, such as hosting guest priests or clerics, etc., were conducted there.
On this last visit I observed two sets of parents who, after dropping their children off, tried to enter the church to experience its beauty, perhaps even to pray. I could imagine their confusion when, upon sending their children to a Jesuit university, they found the university church closed to all who might want to enter.
Continuing my visit, I did notice a sort of “chapel” in Phelan Hall – more like an ecumenical meditation room than chapel. Visits to the other dormitories and buildings could find no specific chapel defined as such anywhere.
I understand St. Ignatius is a parish church for local Catholics, but one cannot deny it is an iconic symbol of this Jesuit university. Look at any advertisement or brochure for USF and you will see St. Ignatius prominently, oftentimes solely, displayed as the visual image of USF. Yet it is not “open,” even to its own students.
I realize there is a need for protection of the valuables in the church and of the church itself, but I can’t understand why something can’t be done to permit access by those who are choosing, and paying, to go the university.
Ubiquitous security cameras and even more complete electronic card entry systems pervade every facet of daily life. I expect each student is given some form of electronic identification which permits access to other buildings and classes. Couldn’t something be done to modify the door on the east side of St. Ignatius to permit students, and their visitors, to enter at convenient times for them, understanding that each night those electronic cards would be locked out?
Shouldn’t someone in the university community, perhaps someone on the Foghorn staff or the student ministry, take this on as an objective – to make the life of university students better aligned with the Catholic identity of the university?
Very truly yours,
James F. Spagnole ’66
James F. Spagnole, J.D. is an alumnus of the class of 1966 and a principal at the Sacramento-based law group The Ignatian Group, LLC.
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