“Whose side are you on?”

For the first year at the new campus, SI held half-day sessions to let workers finish the building. The Jesuits also had to adjust their schedules, eating their meals at the Holy Name Parish Center, as workers still had not finished the kitchen in the Jesuit residence. “Each morning we would board a bus at Welch Hall and drive to Holy Name,” said Fr. Charles Gagan, SJ ’55. “It was an old bus and pretty grim.”

In 1970, the school began a new tradition and one that would last until the 1990s. The Sunday Evening Liturgy began not in Orradre Chapel, which was still unfinished, but in a double classroom on the second floor. Every Sunday, Fr. Gagan had students move the altar from the small Jensen Chapel to the classroom and then move it back. A priest in charge of the chapel complained to the rector each Monday that the altar hadn’t been replaced correctly. “He was very careful about Jensen Chapel,” said Fr. Gagan, “and if we put the altar back one inch from where it had been, I would hear about it.”

Within a few weeks, students began crowding into the classroom every Sunday night for Mass. “We were addressing a need not being addressed by parishes at the time,” he added. “This became a sore point, as pastors in the area resented their parishioners coming to us. Now that I’m a pastor, I see their point.”

It didn’t take long before the double classroom proved too small to fit all those who came to Sunday Evening Liturgy. To accommodate the crowds, Fr. Gagan had the chairs moved outside and invited people to sit on the floor. “Even then it was crowded. We didn’t really have enough room until we moved into the chapel.” Mercy student Mame Campbell Salin preferred “sitting on the floor to pews” and she liked the fact that Masses were celebrated at night. “That seemed to make it special for some reason.”

The same priest who was in charge of Jensen Chapel was also placed in charge of Orradre Chapel, and he again proved an adversary to Fr. Gagan. “We argued over the number of confessionals for the chapel, and he insisted that the altar be set in cement on top of the stairs, so we had to use a second altar, as we didn’t want to celebrate Mass that way. We asked for a portable altar, and this created controversy in the community. This was a time of tension in the Church between the old and the new when changes in the liturgy brought on by Vatican II were still being promulgated.”

Fr. Gagan wasn’t the only one to sense the tension. Many in the administration were used to a pre-Vatican II way of doing business, while many of the young priests, scholastics and teachers were ready for a change. Colleagues soon found themselves in adversarial roles, fighting over all sorts of issues — from the plays performed to the dress code among priests, some of whom did not feel the need to wear a Roman collar all day.

Tensions came to a head in 1972 when Nick Weber, then a Jesuit, put on The Fantasticks. Controversy arose when the Jesuit administration told Weber to cut a few risqué lines and the show was nearly cancelled. (Nick left SI after another fight over the play Celebration when the administration objected to a sexual reference in the play’s opening line.)

Charlie Dullea ’65, recalls being pulled aside by a colleague during the first mandatory faculty retreat shortly after he was hired in 1972 and asked, “Whose side are you on?” “He wanted to know if I supported the old guard or the younger priests who were pushing for change.”

Fr. Gagan praised Fr. Sauer and Fr. McCurdy for helping to restore peace between the factions in the years that followed. “In addition, a tremendous group of lay faculty helped spread the Jesuit message,” said Fr. Gagan. “Some of them understood the Jesuit message better than the Jesuits did. When I look at other schools, I’d say that one of Fr. McFadden’s strong points was that he hired good teachers. He also refused to take sides. He hated conflict. At the time, some found that diffidence infuriating, but his care and concern for individual teachers was outstanding.”

The struggle between old and new was inevitable, Fr. Gagan adds. “Looking back, I don’t see how we could have avoided it. We had to enter it and come out. Those who did were better off than those who pretended that Vatican II had never taken place.”

Fr. Gagan’s fondness for SI stems from his happy experiences there both as a student and scholastic. “I received my vocation at SI. And I loved teaching under Fr. Reed in the 1960s.” But the best was yet to come, he noted. “Some say Jesuit schools live on a great reputation. In the 1970s, SI began to deserve its reputation. It improved academically under Fr. McCurdy, and the ideas of ‘Men for Others,’ of social ministry and faith that does justice distinguished us from other schools and made us successful. In years past, the Sodalities did outreach work. In the 1970s, that spirit of outreach permeated the entire school.”