By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT – When future Ambrosians open a time capsule capturing elements of life in 2013, they should be able to recognize the items inside. This capsule will have its contents sealed in waterproof bags and the metal capsule will be welded shut to avoid what happened to items in an 1885 time capsule at St. Ambrose University. When the 1885 time capsule was opened in May of this year, the items in an unsealed box in the cornerstone of Ambrose Hall were found to have been damaged by moisture.
A ceremony for the new time capsule took place Sept. 28, during homecoming weekend, in the Beehive student union in Ambrose Hall’s lower level. St. Ambrose University President Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, said filling a time capsule is a rare occasion for the school. “It’s a unique opportunity for us to reflect upon what it means to be Ambrosian as we prepare to send a message into the future.”
Founded in 1882 by Bishop John McMullen, St. Ambrose began as a combined preparatory school, college and seminary. When the original Ambrose Hall was built in 1885, Bishop Henry Cosgrove worked with clergy and civic leaders to prepare a time capsule for the new hall.
“We learned from its contents, Catholic newspapers, catalogs, the institutional prospectus, and from records of speeches given at the ceremony that the emphasis was on the importance of Catholic education,” Sr. Lescinski said.
She noted that the university also learned from the 1885 time capsule the importance of making the new one watertight. Archivist Heather Lovewell “assures me that it will be carefully welded shut.”
Sr. Lescinski said the intention is to “send a care package to SAU of 2082, 69 years from now, on the university’s 200th anniversary.”
Msgr. John Hyland, the Davenport Diocese’s vicar general and a member of the university’s board of trustees, read a letter from Bishop Martin Amos, who was unable to attend because he is on a pilgrimage.
The letter stated that St. Ambrose has maintained its ties with the Diocese of Davenport for the past 131 years. Diocesan clergy ran the former seminary, have and continue to serve as administrators and faculty members, and the bishop serves as chair of the board of trustees. “It is remarkable to me that I am only eight bishops removed from the founder of St. Ambrose Academy. Bishop McMullen’s vision of a Catholic liberal arts school is one that continues today and is one that I fully support.”
Items placed in the time capsule included the book “Great and Lasting Beginnings” by Father George McDaniel, the Davenport Diocese’s chancellor and archivist; copies of The Catholic Messenger, the diocesan newspaper; a year in review DVD; presidential medallion; campus ministry bulletin; USB storage drives with various files; photographs and a proof set of U.S. coins. Students, alumni, staff and faculty had voted on items to be placed in the time capsule which represented a snapshot of life in 2013, Lovewell said. She made sure proof sets of U.S. coins from 2013 were included in the time capsule; money was not among the items contained in the original one.
“Bless this capsule which holds memories of the St. Ambrose journey thus far,” prayed Father Chuck Adam, chaplain and director of campus ministry, during the ceremony. “May those who one day open this capsule be inspired to continue on this sacred journey of witness and mission of enriching lives, trusting in the one who is the same yesterday, today and forever throughout the generations to come.”
The time capsule will be returned to the original location behind the cornerstone on the south side of the building. A plaque will be placed near the cornerstone with a message to future Ambrosians informing them of the capsule’s intended opening date of 2082.
Sr. Lescinski said some questioned placing USB drives in the time capsule. “There is bound to be some computer techie who will have an old computer in the back room that will be able to view our documents.”
Sophomore Grace Filipski, vice president of the Student Government Association, placed a USB drive with student government information in the capsule. She said students wrote about life in 2013 and what they thought life might be like in 2082. She said she wanted to be at the 2013 ceremony because it was a historic event.