New Residence Hall Dedicated to Pope Francis
Sacred Heart University officially dedicated its new residence hall, Jorge Bergoglio Hall, to Pope Francis at a ceremony featuring guest speaker and close friend to the pope, Rabbi Abraham Skorka.
Inside the residence hall’s lobby on the late August day, students, faculty, staff, clergy and special guests took in the hall’s spectacular architectural features before settling in for the ceremony.
Fr. Anthony Ciorra, assistant vice president for Mission & Catholic Identity, commented on the hall’s impressiveness, but noted that it’s the people inside that make the building beautiful and meaningful.
Bergoglio Hall, a three-story 80,000-square-foot facility that took just under two years to construct is the new home to over 200 sophomore students. The building is located on SHU’s Fairfield main campus, across the street from the Frank and Marisa Martire Business & Communications Center. The residence hall is equipped with a CrossFit gym, video game playroom/classroom, laundry facilities and shared kitchen spaces. Its spacious lobby includes a cozy fireplace and plenty of chairs and couches for relaxation and study sessions
Ciorra mentioned many things that made the day special, including the number of Jewish rabbis who had come to the University to bless the building with guest Skorka. “We’re especially honored,” Ciorra said. “A significant number of rabbis have come here on this day to offer a blessing.” A little later in his speech, Ciorra noted that having a Jewish rabbi offer a blessing on a building named after the pope would have never happened 50 years ago. “This is highly significant and not to be taken lightly,” Ciorra said.
Skorka, who is no stranger to SHU, is a personal friend of the pope. The duo co-authored a book, and Skorka was one of the first people the pope called when he learned of his appointment to lead the Catholic Church.
“How strange it would have been 30 years ago, the fact that a Rabbi is representing the Holy Father in the inauguration of a building in a Catholic university. A very long way was paved since then until now,” said Skorka, who is also from Argentina.
Skorka talked about the first time he met the pope, who was then the archbishop at the Cathedral of Buenos Aires. He said his homilies had a “prophetic style. He used a simple language, a great commitment with the poor and the weak people, demanding for social justice and mercy. He reminded me of the Gospels, especially the synoptic, those who have a great affinity to the traditional prophetic sources of the Prophets of Israel that I had studied with a special emotion and shaped my own spirituality. This was the first thing that connected us. We identified this passion in one another,” he said.
Together the two friends tried to teach the value of dialogue as a key for understanding and peace. “Our relationship was not merely encounters with sympathetic expressions. We understood that to leave a mark that is able to make a turning point, we must go much more ahead,” Skorka said.
A little over a week before the dedication ceremony, Skorka emailed the pope telling him about his trip to Connecticut to bless the new hall. He asked for advice on his speech, Skorka said, which the pope provided.
After Skorka’s speech, SHU students went to the podium to talk about the new residence hall. Senior resident success assistant, Lauren Silver, said everyone in the hall is “beyond excited” to live there. She said she can’t wait to work with the student community and will do her best to try and get them to love SHU as much as she does.
SHU President John J. Petillo said the University names all of its residence halls after model people. Having the pope’s name on the building “enlightens the spirit of what the University was founded on,” he said. After thanking everyone for their participation in the residence hall’s completion, Petillo asked Skorka to “please tell your friend Jorge we’re very proud to bear his name.”