Christmas at the Mansion : A Mundelein Gathering

Christmas Tree, Mundelein College Photo Collection Box 17, Folder 8

Nothing says “Happy Holidays” quite like a party! Each of us hold age long traditions and precious memories close this time of year, no matter how we celebrate. The winter season allows us to slow down our regularly scheduled lives and join together in good will. As Catholic institutions, both Loyola University and Mundelein College celebrated, and still celebrate, the tradition of a vespers service as a way to offer prayers of thanksgiving and receive blessings during Advent as a community. This year’s Vespers was held on December 3rd in Coffey Hall, a former Mundelein building, but how did this honored tradition start here in Rogers Park?

Mundelein College affiliated with Loyola University in 1991 and took up the Mundelein tradition too. Although the evening prayer service is centuries old, this was the first year it had taken place in the way we still understand it today within our community. When first started, the event was held entirely in the Skyscraper building as an open house, welcoming Mundelein College alumni, former staff, and friends to join together to celebrate Advent, including our very own Sister Jean!

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Happy Holidays from Terry the Turtle and the Terrapins! 

Terry the Turtle, Scrapbook 3, page 44. Mundelein College Collection.

This jovial turtle named Terry, dressed here as Santa Claus going down a chimney, served as the mascot for the Mundelein College Terrapin Club. Founded in 1931, the Terrapin Club was the competitive swimming club of the all-girls school until the club dissolved in the early 1980s. The activities of the club throughout the years were documented in two scrapbooks recently digitized as part of the Mundelein at 90 project. The calendar year of a Terrapin didn’t start during the holiday season; from fall to spring, these swimmers had a packed calendar, starting with tryouts early in the school year.  

Terrapin tryouts were open to any student at Mundelein College, even if they were not in the swimming class. The group consisted of two skill levels, the Junior and Senior Terrapins. Any student with a successful tryout became a pledge of the club until initiation a week later. The most important part of pledge week was playful humiliation. Through the years, pledges had to engage in peculiar tasks such as collecting signatures on bathing caps, greeting Terrapin members with the phrase “I am a poor fish”, and even walking around the halls of Mundelein wearing a swim cap, swim shoes, and a life preserver around their neck while carrying either a fish or a turtle. Luckily for the new members, the initiation ceremony at the end of the week put a stop to the madness.  

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