DeSales University Announces Name Changes to Two Campus Buildings
After careful consultation with members of the DeSales University community, including students, faculty, staff, alumni, and members of the Board of Trustees, DeSales University will change the names of the Bishop McShea Student Union and the Bishop Thomas J. Welsh Residence Hall.
“Having learned in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report about Bishop McShea’s and Bishop Welsh’s roles in not protecting children and young people from priests known to abuse, DeSales has decided to remove their names on two of our buildings,” said Rev. James J. Greenfield, OSFS, president of DeSales University. “Child sexual abuse is evil and must be eradicated in all places, especially the church. We seek to share compassion and stand in solidarity with those abused and their families and friends who have supported them.”
The Bishop McShea Student Union will be renamed the Dorothy Day Student Union. Dorothy Day, whose cause for sainthood is being advanced, was a laywoman hailed by Pope Francis in his 2015 visit to the United States for “her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed.”
“It is our hope that students who regularly gather in that building for their social activities and service will champion these values and follow Day’s inspiration as a model Catholic woman of deep faith in the Gospel,” said Greenfield.
Campus support for the selection of Dorothy Day for the student union building is strong. “Dorothy Day's life is a demonstration to us that anyone can serve others and stand in solidarity with others, a call fully embraced by the DeSales community,” senior Sarah Knop said. “Last week during Freshmen Orientation, more than 500 freshmen, unique in their backgrounds, talents and abilities, stood together for two hours of service for their new community here in the Lehigh Valley. Renaming the student union after Dorothy Day is a reminder of the call that we all have to serve others, a call which permeates the academic and student life of this school,” Knop said.
The Dorothy Day Student Union is home to all student activity programming, especially service learning. Jaime Gerhart, director of the Center for Service and Social Learning, acclaims the new name on the building where she leads the University’s outreach efforts. “Dorothy Day is a person our students can look to as a shining example of caring for the most vulnerable and standing up against larger institutions of injustice. Dorothy joined and served alongside the most vulnerable; there was no separation between her and the poor, and she deeply believed in the inherent dignity of all people,” Gerhart said.
The Bishop Thomas J. Welsh Hall will be renamed Annecy Hall. Annecy, France is the region where St. Francis de Sales served as bishop. The area’s vistas, lakes and streams, and abundant flora and alps inspired the saint’s writings and moved him to prayer and service, especially as a bishop. “The name of this building will now connect our campus to the very land where St. Francis de Sales served as a bishop of great honor, commitment, and pastoral zeal and charity,” said Greenfield.
Most Rev. Barry Strong, OSFS, the newly elected superior general of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales and 1978 graduate of then-Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales, delights in the new Annecy name for the residence hall. “Annecy was the place where St. Francis de Sales’ thinking and devotion developed and matured over time and found written expression in his timeless teaching on devout humanism in the Introduction to the Devout Life. I still have the first edition I read during my college years there,” said Fr. Strong, who is also a member of the board of trustees. “I wish that all the residents of Annecy Hall may forever possess such clarity as to the goal of their education, such life-long humility as to their progress, and such determination to mentor, with boundless courage, all those who follow,” he added.
The decision to rename the buildings came after wide consultation with various constituencies of the University community. “It was important for me to listen to what our community was saying. This was a difficult decision for many, as Bishop McShea is considered a co-founder of our school. However, we need to stand with victims and be clear about our concern for them. While his name is no longer on our building, his role in helping to found DeSales remains a valued part of our history,” Greenfield said.
The consultation included a dialogue with students, faculty, and staff which Fr. Greenfield hosted. “As a University community, I value our students’ voices. What’s more, we felt the need to teach them how to engage tough issues through civil, honest, and respectful dialogue. They are the future leaders of our parish councils and church service programs. It is my hope that they are learning how to take responsibility for what is truly theirs,” Greenfield said. “I was edified by their candor, thoughtfulness, and maturity when well over 100 people gathered last night for a DeSales in Dialogue conversation on this topic,” he added.
“I also wanted to respect their timing. They hadn’t arrived here at school when the report was released. It took them some time to read it, understand it, and ask questions about it. This is essential to making informed decisions.”
Signage both on the buildings as well as other campus signage will begin to change immediately.