An old beech tree at the bottom of a steep hill along Bellarmine Road no longer stands on Fairfield University’s campus, but it’s been reborn within the new 23,000-square-foot Jesuit Community Center.
Gray Organschi Architecture, a New Haven firm, incorporated the tree into the design of the $10 million building. (12 priests divided by ten million dollars, equals $833,000.00 per Jesuit)
“One lone beech tree at the foot of this hill, four feet in diameter, unfortunately died,” said Alan Organschi, a principal of the firm with Lisa Gray. “Today it finds new life in this building. Its limbs are used to shade the windows, and its trunk was used for the alter.”
A geothermal system 400 feet below the surface heats and cools the Jesuit Center, which will be used for Jesuits’ apostolic missions and as housing for its 12 priests.
While noting that the number of men entering the Society of Jesus is in decline, Fairfield University President Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., said the Jesuit Community Center will strengthen the school’s Jesuit identity and lead to a closer relationship between the priests and the campus community.
“Students and Jesuits will literally cross paths,” von Arx said, “and I believe this will lead to learning opportunities, and that new and as yet unforeseen opportunities for creative and collaborative engagement between the university and the Jesuit community will emerge as this new Jesuit Community Center comes to life.”