Renovations to the Thomas Merton center

By Elyse Breeze @ezeerbesyle 

[photo courtesy of]

University officials have released information regarding St. Bonaventure’s latest, anticipated renovation project: The Thomas Merton Center.

In the fall of 2014, St. Bonaventure publicly unveiled its $7.5 million renovations of the freshman residence halls Robinson and Falconio. This year, University Ministries has received a generous donation that will be used to revamp the center after its many years in establishment.

The Thomas Merton Center is home to University Ministries, a program on campus that invites St. Bonaventure students to participate in various activities such as liturgical ministries, service learning, community building and other opportunities focused on spiritual growth. University Ministries works closely with programs such as Bona Buddies and the Warming House, as well.

Fr. Francis DiSpigno, Executive Director for University Ministries, has been with St. Bonaventure for four years; he never thought he would see the Merton Center reestablished during his time here. “There were hopes,” he said. “I was told that Murphy and others were ahead of the line. It was when this donor stepped forward and targeted [the donation] for here that we went into a different mode.”

The donor is in the beginning stages of finalizing the donations; his/her identity will not be revealed yet, nor will the amount in which the donation is pending.

With these tentative renovation rumors floating about campus, many were expecting the John J. Murphy Professional Building, home to the Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication, to be next in line. “There is a master plan for space renovations on campus… Murphy is being explored as the next academic space to be renovated,” said Mary Driscoll, vice president for university advancement.

“When a donor decides to give gifts to St. Bonaventure University, or to any organization, they can direct their gift to an area where their passion lies… The donor has long been an advocate of University Ministries and sacred spaces on campus…”

During Francis Week, the friars offered questionnaires to students to gauge interest in the future campus ministry center. “I have about five pages of data from students,” DiSpigno said. “People were requesting things that would be appropriate to a university center or a student union… we kind of had to sift through that.”

“One of the requests was the have a Chiptole,” he laughed. “We’re not ‘gonna have a Chipotle.”

While many of the requests have been leaning in the direction of a university center rather than a ministry center, DiSpigno intends to integrate some of those suggestions into the remodeling. He’s made it very clear that he intends to preserve the Merton Center’s greatest qualities such as leaving its doors open 24 hours a day, a small kitchen, comfortable furniture and tables for students to do their homework at.

Sophomore Stephanie Kennedy, Music Ministry Coordinator, agrees that some of the Merton’s best qualities should be reserved. “It would just be more appealing to students if it was renovated into something like a student union,” she said. “It’s in the center of campus and it could be a great place to go between classes to study or just relax.”

DiSpigno hopes that he will be able to, somewhat, address the wishes of all of the students, faculty and staff. Currently, a major concern for the Merton Center is that there is not a large enough space that could house enough people for the annual Ash Wednesday service.

Construction for the Merton Center is projected to begin in the summer of 2016.

Unplug and shutdown with Tread Lightly

 By Maddie Gionet, Co-editor in chief, @MaddieGNA

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. (Oct. 17) – The green may be disappearing from the trees scattered across St. Bonaventure University’s campus as fall sets in, but Tread Lightly is bringing the green back during Sustainability Week.

Starting Wednesday, Tread Lightly will work to promote sustainability and going green in an effort to reduce the university’s energy consumption by more than 25 percent (which it did last year).

“We would love to exceed the 25 percent energy reduction from last year, but meeting that number would be just as great,” said Alex Bulszewicz, a senior finance major.

Tread Lightly, started on campus by students a few years ago, focuses on promoting sustainability on campus through recycling and other green initiatives.

“We usually do a ‘Take Back the Cap’ initiative in which we encourage students to buy aluminum water bottles which we sell,” said Gina Shumate, a senior environmental science major.

Along with ‘Take Back the Cap,’ the group sponsors Sustainability Week with events taking place on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to ultimately make students and others on campus aware of the club’s cause.

“We want people to know their little actions do make a difference,” said Shumate, the vice president of the club. “Being aware of what you’re doing and doing small things like recycling or shutting off your lights when you leave your room do make a difference.”

And a difference will be made this week with the events the club has planned.

Kicking off Sustainability Week on Wednesday, Oct. 17, the club will host the ‘Second Hand Swap’ event in the Thomas Merton Center from 3 to 7 p.m.

“You can come and drop off a piece of clothing, shoes or any other items you might have and then swap them in for something someone else has dropped off,” said Bulszewicz, the club’s president.

On Thursday, Oct. 18, there will be a viewing of the documentary Sun Come Up in Walsh Auditorium at 7 p.m. which will also be a plenary session for Senior Forum.

“The documentary is about a group of people who live on an island close to sea level and how the melting glaciers are impacting their home and where they live,” said Shumate. “You hear about global warming all the time, but this documentary puts a face to the issue.

‘Unplug and Shutdown Day’ will take place on Friday, Oct. 19, and both Shumate and Bulszewicz hope the Bonaventure community will make a conscious effort to be aware of their energy consumption on this day.

“We hope people will shut their lights off during the day and that the hallway lights in buildings will be off also,” said Shumate. “Last year, the university shut off the heat and some of the gas boilers which really helped decrease the school’s energy consumption for the day.”

Along with conserving energy on Friday, Bulszewicz said other activities will take place.

“We’ll be doing tie dying on the Hickey Lawn from 1:30 to 3:30, too,” said Bulszewicz. “It’s a free event, but if you don’t have a shirt, you can buy one of our Tread Lightly shirts to tie dye.”

Bulszewicz also said that recycling will be promoted throughout the week when club members hand out information in the Hickey Dining Hall.

“The campus only recycles 12 percent of their total waste output,” said Bulszewicz. “Our goal is to reach 20 percent by the end of the year. Tread Lightly is working to pursue a compost pile project with the Land Use Committee to increase the university’s recycling efforts.”

Although Sustainability Week will eventually end on Friday, Shumate and Bulszewicz hope students and faculty alike learn that little steps can be taken each day to help the environment.

“Shutting off lights, riding your bike to class while the weather is still nice and recycling are a few simple ways for you to make a difference every day,” said Bulszewicz. “We want to change the culture at St. Bona’s to make sustainable practices part of our lifestyles, and every little thing counts.”

The rain location for tie dying on Friday, Oct. 19 is the Thomas Merton Center. If students would like to get involved with Tread Lightly, please come to one of the group’s meetings on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. in the Thomas Merton Center.