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Spiritan Oral Histories Lend Unique Voices to Duquesnes Founders Week

A day in the life of a Spiritan priest can involve starting a credit union, youth center and a high-risk maternity ward in Africa, administering a hospital amid the starvation and havoc of Nigeria's Biafran civil war, and serving the homeless in the United Kingdom.

Routine, Spiritans might say. But others call these stories insightful, interesting, unique.

During Duquesne University's 2016 Founders Week: Live the Spirit, Monday, Jan. 31 through Friday, Feb. 5, several members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, the University's founding Spiritan Congregation, will share their stories.

To keep a more permanent record of Spiritan experiences for the congregation, academic and religious communities, other Catholics and historians, Duquesne's archivists are working with Spiritans based at the University and beyond to capture these oral histories.

"The mission of the project is to record the history of the Spiritans in their own words," said oral historian and alumnus Megan DeFries, who has been conducting interviews since January 2014. "This includes biographical sketches about their development as Spiritans and work they've done-how they've lived the mission as Spiritans."

The priests' personal stories reflect changes in the church, their faith communities and the world. The bigger historical context includes intersections with notables such as Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first prime minister. The stories add a human voice to the historical record, provide a first-person account and can inspire others to serve.

"They've had a wide range of experiences that many of us couldn't imagine," said DeFries, adding that Duquesne, as the only American Spiritan-founded university, should be involved in capturing, preserving and sharing these histories.

Luci-Jo DiMaggio, Duquesne's director of mission animation, hopes that the Live the Spirit theme will inspire the campus community to reflect and share how they live the Spirit in day-to-day actions on campus and beyond. "The idea is so simple, yet at the very core of our University's Catholic Spiritan roots," explained DiMaggio.

Events begin with a Mass on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 11 a.m. in the University Chapel of the Holy Spirit and include talks from alumni and faculty on how they live the Spirit, and an evening concert of world music from areas where Spiritans serve on Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m.

On Thursday, Feb. 4, at 4:30 p.m., Spiritans will share their stories from around the globe while attendees enjoy a local beer flight and hors d'oeuvres in the Africa Room of Duquesne's Union. This over-21 event, $25, requires an RSVP at www.duq.edu/mission.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 10,000 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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