Bishop Loras statue removed

By Megan Himm (TheLorian)

LORAS COLLEGE – On Sept. 8, Loras College president Jim Collins sent out an announcement regarding the history of its founder, Bishop Mathias Loras. It had recently come to light that Bishop Loras owned a slave, Marie Louise, for 16 years. Addressing the issue, Collins stated:

“Slavery is an evil in any age, and its legacy of dehumanizing injustice persists. Bishop Loras’ abhorrent conduct is antithetical to the mission, vision, values, and Catholic identity of this institution. Consistent with these values, Loras College denounces racial injustice and hate in all its forms.”

This announcement came during the national scholar strike; and although surprising, the announcement was fitting.

Because the values of Loras College are not reflected by the actions of Bishop Loras, the Board of Regents met and decided to remove the memorial statue of the Bishop. College Diversity Officer Sergio Perez was consulted throughout the discussion. Describing the process, Perez explained that the Board of Regents,

“really processed everything that was going on, the new information, and what this meant. I think they did a very good job of first setting those values of transparency. They then worked on building trust with the campus to know that they took it seriously and wanted to act clearly.”

The statue of Bishop Loras stood on Keane Hill, one of the highest points in Dubuque, along Loras Boulevard. Upon its removal, it was placed in storage until a final decision can be made about what to do with it. In regard to the removal of the statue, Perez commented that

“it was a necessary step. It’s not that we are erasing the man, he will always be our founder, but let’s teach the whole story.”

The name of the college will remain ‘Loras College,’ as the Board agreed that the college has grown to represent more than only the man who created it. Perez states that we need to:

“focus our energies on how we move forward. The idea of giving a new definition to what Loras College will become: a future of diversity, of inclusion, a belonging of everyone regardless of who you are.”

This statement is in line with Loras’ vision to be a campus oriented towards openness and acceptance.

One of the goals made after the discovery of Bishop Loras’ history was to honor Marie Louise by setting up a scholarship fund in her name that will take effect during the 2021-2022 school year. Loras will also be setting up another fund in honor of the college’s first black graduate, Fr. Norman Dukette. Both of these scholarships are designed to help students, especially those in minority groups.

Loras plans to stay transparent by sharing more information as it is gathered. Up-to-date information is being provided at https://www.loras.edu/founder/. There, members of the community and alumni can also share their thoughts. In the closing paragraph of his email, Collins declares his commitment to creating a dialogue about the changes, stating that

“We recognize that not everyone will agree with these decisions. I ask that we all pause and reflect first, and then engage openly, honestly, and civilly as we come together as a community to honor Marie Louise and the facts about her enslavement.  I am sure you will have questions, and we welcome them.”

While the past cannot be changed, Loras is doing everything in its power to make things right by honoring Maria Louise and helping minorities and the community.

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