Ceremony dedicates Cronogue Hall in moving tribute
About 70 friends, admirers and former associates of late beloved Edmundite "Father Mike" hear fond remembrances and witness an official blessing with a sprinkle of holy water
“A day that tugs at the heartstrings of thousands” is how Angie Armour, Saint Michael’s College director of alumni and parent relations, described Saturday afternoon’s dedication of the newly named Cronogue Hall on campus to memorialize a beloved late member of the College’s resident founding religious order, the Society of Saint Edmund.
The official naming of the handsome modern residence hall on the northeast corner of campus – already in service for several years as “Residence Hall Four” — honors the late Fr. Michael Cronogue, who died suddenly in 2016, a moment that stunned and saddened the campus and extended Saint Michael’s community.
The brief but emotion-tinged 4 p.m. ceremony, with Armour as master of ceremonies, included remarks from Saint Michael’s President Lorraine Sterritt and a blessing of the new building complete with a sprinkle of holy water by Fr. Brian Cummings ‘86, director of Edmundite Campus Ministry.
About 70 friends, admirers and former associates of “Fr. Mike” also heard a moving remembrance and tribute to the building’s new namesake from Brian Donahue ’88 — the first director of volunteer services in the MOVE program founded by Cronogue, his dear friend and mentor.
The ceremony took place just beneath attractive and tastefully prominent freshly placed lettering with the new building’s name above the entrance. In her brief remarks President Sterritt said, “This community, led by Fr. Mike’s Edmundite brothers, came together to honor his memory in a way we have rarely seen – and achieved the rare honor of dedicating a building on our campus in his name. The collective gifts of $1 million, launched by the Edmundites’ remarkably generous gift of $500,000, have brought vital support to the way we are keeping the Catholic mission of Saint Michael’s College thriving.”
Brian Donahue spoke of his close personal connection to Fr. Mike since his student days – “he mentored and ministered to me as student, gave me my first job out of college, married my wife and me, and baptized every one of my children,” he said.
“Mike was special in how he took on the ordinary things with extraordinary enthusiasm,” Donahue said. A most notable an example of that for Donahue was Fr. Mike’s founding of a formal community service organization that became the signature MOVE program at the College, with Donahue serving as the first director of Community Service at Saint Michael’s after Fr. Mike convinced him to do so. “Mike’s vision grabbed me and in the simplest terms it changed my life and made me who I am today,” he said.
Donahue said that the day’s ceremony, beyond being the dedication of the building, was more meaningfully “about establishing a community of extraordinary enthusiasm’’ for “a little extra” unconditional love, compassion, service and joy.
President Sterritt said that while she came to the College three years ago, shortly after the death of Fr. Mike, “I have come to know in my time here that Fr. Mike Cronogue loved this College – more specifically, the people who are this College – in an extraordinary and transformative way. His love for the people of Saint Michael’s echoes around us every single day.” Also clear to her, the president said, is that “the people of this College, this College family, the people gathered here today, loved – love – Father Mike … The generosity of this community and our care for one another – a care Fr. Mike clearly modeled in his ministry and in his many friendships – sustains us. And together we will sustain Mike’s memory.”
A group of Edmundite priests and brothers from the campus religious community came forward together for the formal blessing by Fr. Cummings. Among those attending in the crowd was former Saint Michael’s President Jack Neuhauser, along with many retired longtime employees or those now in new jobs who also were close to or strongly affected by Fr. Mike for many years or decades.
Brian Donahue’s closing words summed up the spirit of the ceremony best:
“This special community and members living in Cronogue Hall can follow in Fr. Mike’s footsteps and remind us all to take on the ordinary with some extraordinary enthusiasm. A community where everyone belongs, where there’s ‘something for everyone’ – and a community where best friends can always pick up where they left off. My hope for Cronogue Hall is that it truly becomes a Cronogue Community and through that, Fr. Mike always remains present at Saint Michael’s College,” he said.