SHU student discovers secrets of the archives

Let me ask you all a question: Have you ever been to the Seton Hill Archives? If you find yourself questioning what an archive even is, you are not alone. In my experience, not many students know about the wonderful treasure that is the Archives. It is a place that stores the past of Seton Hill, collecting the many different items that have been connected with the school at one point. This includes anything from playbills to plate glass windows. But it is also more than that. It is a place to relive that past, to encounter students and events that have come before us, to see the physical remnants of our history as a school.

The taxidermy Griffin is ready to pounce! Photo courtesy of D.DeClaudio/Setonian

The taxidermy Griffin is ready to pounce!
Photo courtesy of D.DeClaudio/Setonian

I can imagine some of the readers don’t particularly care about that. You imagine that it is just a dusty old place, filled with dusty old pieces of Seton Hill. But there are three items within the Archives that almost no one knows about, yet which are some of the most interesting pieces of school history. I have told people in my personal circle, always to their awe (and sometimes horror) about these things. The pieces of history I’ll be revealing are not just scrapes from a bygone era, but are interesting snapshots of time. We can be proud that these items are within our school, and maybe you’ll even go talk to Bill Black about them. Well, if you can find the Archives anyway.

The first piece might also be the most peculiar one. Everyone knows the friendly face of the Griffin mascot. Imagine this: a small, slightly fluffier version. One that’s really an animal. Or rather, a freeze-dried taxidermy version of a few animals put together. If you’ve been the McKenna gym, you might have already seen it. For there is an amalgamation of a cat, a dove, and a falcon floating around the Seton Hill walls. That’s right. Someone made a realistic version of our beloved mascot. The reactions I’ve got from revealing this factoid have been mixed. Some have been very interested, even excited, to see what it looks like. Others of course have been repulsed that such a monstrosity could have been made in the name of the Griffin.

While the taxidermy itself is not located within the Archives, the progress is recorded in a series of pictures found there, taken by the man who made the piece. You can even see the award for best Freeze-Dried Taxidermy that it won in a competition. If nothing else, you know it has to be a well down effort in the taxidermy arts. If your morbid curiosity get the better of you, or you’d just like to see what the thing looks like, you might want to check it out.

Go see the Griffin in the McKenna workout room! Photo courtesy of D.DeClaudio/Setonian

Go see the Griffin in the McKenna workout room!
Photo courtesy of D.DeClaudio/Setonian

The next item is the one that I think is imperative for everyone to at least know about. It might not strike anyone at a first glance. The physical item is a colorful array of flags on a string, bright and cheery if a bit worn. However, the event that these flags represent is a momentous occasion in Seton Hill history. On November 11 1998, these flags were given to Seton Hill from the 14th Dalai Lama, the leader of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhist monks. The Dalai Lama is a person that immediately brings the symbol of peace and spirituality to many minds. The fact that this man, whom many know by title, actually visited Seton Hill is a great piece of history. Yet almost no students know about it! The friends I have excitedly told were always amazed by this historical piece of knowledge. I myself was floored when I learned this fact. Someone as well known and respected as him actually visited our school, and no one had ever mentioned it to me. Not only did he give us the prayer flags as a symbol of peace, he also gave two public talks. These flags represent such an incredible moment of Seton Hill’s past, and it would be a shame if no one even knew they existed.

And if that doesn’t interest you enough, here’s another fact: the person to introduce the Dalai Lama during his first speech was none other than Mr. Rogers himself. Our loveable friendly neighbor introduced a man who symbolizes spiritual peace. If that image doesn’t peak your curiosity and interest, I’m not sure what will.

The last item, or should I say series of items, directly reflects the Catholic life of our school. In the past, as some of you may know, relics were a necessary part for a legitimate shrine to a Catholic saint. As some of you may also know, (well all of you should know this), Elizabeth Seton, the woman we all look to for educational guidance, is a Saint. Thus, we have three relics of Mother Seton within the Archives that were used on her shrine, two small ones, and one large one. They are in small square boxes. You can even open them up to get a better look at them.

Photo courtesy of Seton Hill Archives

Photo courtesy of Seton Hill Archives.

This may not be interesting to readers unless you’re fully aware of what a relic is. A relic of a saint, in the religious sense, must be a verified part of the deceased person’s body. In essence, we have three pieces of Mother Seton, in a very real sense. They are bone fragments, with official documentation from the Vatican to ensure their validity as relics. The largest, pictured here, was sent to Seton Hill in 1963. The other two arrived in 1975 and 1987, and were displayed until the inclusion of relics was no longer mandatory for a shrine. Now they sit in the front room of the Archives, behind a protective case.

The late Dr. JoAnne Boyle with the Dalai Lama during his speech. Photo courtesy of Seton Hill Archives

The late Dr. JoAnne Boyle with the Dalai Lama during his speech. Photo courtesy of Seton Hill Archives.

The reaction I’ve gotten from telling people about these items have been mixed. Some have been shocked at this; these are mostly the people who are not familiar with Catholic customs. Those who are familiar are not surprised, but pleased to know: or in cases wildly indifferent. In any case, as student of Seton Hill it only makes sense that we should all be aware that there are literal pieces of Mother Seton that one can visit and admire.

The archives houses the documentation and Relic of Mother Seton. Photo courtesy of A.Yanniello.

The archives houses the documentation and Relic of Mother Seton. Photo courtesy of A.Yanniello.

Hopefully I’ve made a good case for readers to visit the Archives. These are the items that have most stood out to me. But you may have your own opinions when/if you visit. Go find out about our history, and see what you can discover.

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