Centered in the Heart of Campus
"Without the Jesuits, and without all the wonderful gifts that they bring to this community and its students, it’s just another university,” donor Terry Mehan (A&S ’74) said.
But Saint Louis University is not just any university, Mehan explained. It is a Jesuit university, and SLU’s Jesuit community is now centered in the heart of campus.
Construction of Saint Louis University’s Jesuit residence was completed over the summer. Jesuits missioned as professors, pastors and staff members at the University moved into the facility near Spring Hall along Laclede Avenue beginning Aug. 1.
“One of the things we’ve really missed (during construction) is the fact that the University Jesuit community has been scattered around town,” said David Suwalsky, S.J., vice president of mission and identity at SLU. “Being able to share meals together, to celebrate Mass together and to live in community is so important.”
Having a strong Jesuit presence on campus was also important to Marian “Bo” (Vatterott) Mehan (VSN ’74, Law ’82), the vice chair of SLU’s board of trustees. She remembers the number of Jesuits on campus during her time at SLU and what an impression they made upon her.
“They were front and center in so many ways. You didn’t have to think about how important they are to the University. You saw them everywhere,” she said. “The new Jesuit residence affirms that — it puts our Jesuits right in the middle of the action.”
The Jesuit residence creates a space for enhanced interaction between SLU’s Jesuits and the wider community. The facility has 20 bedrooms for SLU Jesuits and five for guests. It also has a chapel, dining space and meeting rooms. The chapel and first-floor meeting rooms are open for use by the community. Several student weeknight Masses, previously held in residence halls, have moved to the new chapel.
“There was no one single place where all of the Jesuits connected to the University worked, lived and could be found,” Timothy McMahon, S.J., SLU trustee and rector of SLU’s Jesuit community, said. “Here, you can see the spire of the chapel. You can see the building, and you know that’s where the Jesuits are and that they’re here.”
Suwalsky noted that the new facility keeps SLU competitive for Jesuit assignments. The Jesuit provinces have made it clear that assignments will be based on strong resources available to the priests and Jesuit communities committed to and created on college campuses.
The new Jesuit residence keeps SLU well-positioned for future growth by creating both a home for the University’s Jesuits and a place for the community to gather with them.
Michael Rozier, S.J. (A&S ’03), assistant professor and chair of health management and policy in the College for Public Health and Social Justice, said his exposure to the Jesuit community at SLU during his undergraduate years led him to service.
“I would not be a Jesuit today if it weren’t for the Jesuits I met as an undergraduate student over two decades ago,” he said. “My vocation, my very being, is grounded in those relationships.”
Rozier added that he hoped the central location of the residence on campus would allow for increased interaction between the Jesuit community, faculty members and students.
Those interactions carry meaning for Terry Mehan, even 40 years after from his time at SLU.
“The Jesuits added a richness to campus life,” he said, adding that the tenets of Ignatian spirituality he learned at SLU stayed with him and have been beneficial in his everyday life.
A New Beginning
SLU Jesuits and other members of the Society of Jesus have resided in Jesuit Hall since 1973. In 2020, former Jesuit Provincial Ronald Mercier, S.J., confirmed a plan to create two new communities from Jesuit Hall: One designed for retired Jesuits and those who need medical support, and the second for Jesuits working at the University.
“It was really important to us on the board of trustees that we remain committed to our mission and values,” Bo Mehan said. “This new facility is a statement and a commitment to our Jesuits for years to come.”
The Saint Louis University community and members of the Jesuits Central and Southern Province broke ground on the new residence in April 2021.
University President Dr. Fred P. Pestello noted when the project was announced that the decision to locate the residence on campus followed SLU’s strategic priority to strengthen its Catholic and Jesuit mission.
“For many, many years, the Jesuits carried Saint Louis University on their backs from every perspective — from the business perspective, the educational perspective, the financial, the spiritual,” Bo Mehan said. “It’s our turn to take some of that load on our backs, and I think this building really helps do that.”
The facility was designed by HKW Architects, and BSI Constructors Inc. served as the general contractor. SLU was awarded a $2 million challenge grant from the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation toward the construction of the residence.
The Mabee Foundation funds new construction, building renovations and the purchase of major medical equipment. It limits its grants to brick-and-mortar projects located in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas. It was formed in 1948 by Missouri natives and Oklahoma residents John and Lottie Mabee. The couple also wanted to encourage others to give, and so crafted the foundation grants as challenge grants that both require and inspire widespread public support.
Members of SLU’s board of trustees officially opened the facility during Homecoming 2022, and the chapel was consecrated in October.
Universitas, the award-winning alumni magazine of Saint Louis University, is distributed to SLU alumni, parents and benefactors around the world. The magazine includes campus news, feature stories, alumni profiles and class notes, and has a circulation of 132,265.