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Celebrating and Continuing Mission

November 4, 2013

Father Samuel Mazzuchelli’s birthday has finally arrived! Tomorrow we will celebrate it with Founder’s Day where the whole university will acknowledge all the things that Fr. Sam has given to us and how he has shaped us. There will be a phenomenal lecture by Sr. Diane Kennedy, OP and a great Italian feast among other special treats throughout the day. This is one of my favorite moments in our university’s life. It captures exactly what our school strives to express each and every day. As I wrap up my time at Dominican, I can’t help but be nostalgic about who Fr. Sam has been for me over the past for years.

At the end of my first year I went on the Mission to the Mound retreat. We visited the Sinsinawa Motherhouse in Wisconsin. We shared time with the sisters, made cookies in the bakery, visited the “Tracing a Journey” display, and went to Benton, WI where Fr. Sam was buried. During our tour of the Fr. Samuel exhibit I learned about this man whose name I knew but whose story was a mystery. I learned about his long journey from Italy to become, as some call him, “the apostle of the upper Midwest”. The stories of his life with Native Americans, the beginning of the Sinsinawa sisters, and his commitment to fostering intelligent individuals marked my newfound knowledge of him. His eagerness to prepare himself for whatever the world needed was exemplified in one story when he taught himself how to construct a building – the Stone Building, which still stands today.


In just a few days, I gained insight into who this hallowed man was and the culture he created – and to which we are all invited. As the years passed, I kept these things in my mind and often referred to the spirit Fr. Sam shared with each of us: hospitality, inclusivity for all persons (especially women), and promotion of education. However, in the recent past I have felt a deeper connection to our founder. Last spring I went on a service-related academic trip to Montana and the Dakotas to visit Native American reservations. This eye-opening experience allowed me to be in wide-open spaces and see the lives of a people who have not always been given the hospitality and inclusivity that is due each person. Recognizing this injustice reminded me of the time Fr. Sam spent with this group of people advocating for their dignity. He even translated a prayer book into one of the native languages. This action is very telling of Fr. Sam’s character and desire to be in relationship with each person around him. He saw the culture and history of this group, respected it, and celebrated it.

As I reflect now, I am reminded of an experience I had during that first trip to the Mound. When our group went to Benton, WI to see where Fr. Sam was buried we dedicated a few moments to silent prayer and reflection. As we listened to the wind and felt the cold breeze of mid-March, an eagle soared over head and blessed this sacred moment. For those who do not know, the eagle has special significance to the Native American people. It is seen as a sign of the divine. I cannot help but reflect on how beautiful it is that this sign of divinity was present during our visit to a man so close to the native people. It is a moment that I will never forget.


Celebrating Fr. Sam is the calling for each of us to be a community of hospitality and inclusivity committed to education for all. It is our affirmation that year after year we will continue to walk in Fr. Sam’s footsteps, to exemplify his love of God and its dedication to the service of others. Year after year – 207 years to be specific – this man has been a model and it is our responsibility to keep his mission alive today. So, have a cupcake, an Italian feast, and enjoy the lecture; but above all, let it propel you to bring the light of Fr. Sam’s life into the world always.

Written by Jamie Visser, Class of 2014 – Jamie is the University Ministry Website and Marketing Assistant.

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