The University of San Diego announced Monday it will rename two buildings — including iconic Serra Hall — to honor California’s indigenous peoples.
Serra Hall, named for Father and later Saint Junipero Serra who founded the state’s chain of Catholic missions, will be renamed Saints Tekakwitha and Serra Hall. St. Kateri Tekakwitha is the first Native American Catholic saint.
“It is hoped that by placing these two Catholic saints together, we will recognize that indigenous peoples preceded the Catholic missionaries who settled here,” said USD President James T. Harris III in a campus-wide address.
“It is also meant to encourage continued dialogue on the important topics of colonialization, the spread of the Catholic faith and the impact both had on Native American populations,” he said.
The university will also rename the Mission Crossroads building to Mata’yuum, which means “gathering place” in the language of the local Kumeyaay Nation.
Harris said the university has engaged in numerous discussions about the history and legacy of both the local indigenous tribes and St. Serra.
“The friction between these two dialogues is not easily reconciled, yet our university mission and vision requires us to lean into these discussions with open minds and compassionate hearts,” he said.
In addition, USD will permanently honor two international Catholic figures. Plaza Mayor will be renamed in honor of St. Teresa of Calcutta, and Plaza Menor will be renamed to honor Francis Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận, the Vietnamese cardinal and social justice advocate who Pope Francis named as venerable in 2017.
The university said those changes strengthen ties to Tijuana and the work of the Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa in that community. It also acknowledges the significant Vietnamese Catholic community located in Linda Vista and throughout San Diego.
On April 17, the Canadian Feast Day of St. Tekakwitha, the USD community will gather for Mass at noon followed by a brief campus gathering on the Plaza de Colachis to celebrate the name changes.
The private, Catholic university has more than 9,000 students from all 50 states and 85 countries.
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