Manhattan College Establishes the Dorothy Day Center

The Catholic activist is currently being considered for sainthood.

Dorothy Day accepts De La Salle MedalManhattan College has announced that it will be the home of the Dorothy Day Center for Study and Promotion of Social CatholicismThe new Center will be located in Kelly Commons, and an official opening will be held in early 2023. It will accommodate a collection of historical materials and archives related to Day, who was known as the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and a tireless fighter for labor justice, pacifism and nuclear disarmament. The Center will serve as a resource for the campus, the local community, and the worldwide Lasallian network on topics related to Day and the wider Catholic social justice tradition. 

The Center will also house and support the offices of the Dorothy Day Guild, the official organization charged with promoting her cause for sainthood with the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.    

The famed activist also has numerous connections to Manhattan College. On May 19, 1975, Day received the De La Salle Medal from then-College president, Brother Gregory Nugent, FSC, and had visited the campus on numerous occasions. Since 2015, Manhattan College has hosted an annual Dorothy Day Lecture delivered by prominent religious scholars and historians.

Kevin Ahern, Ph.D., associate professor of religious studies, and a co-chair of the Dorothy Day Guild Advisory Committee, will serve as the director of the new center. Ahern has been deeply involved in the guild’s work advocating for Day’s canonization, and many of his students have worked directly with the guild to study her legacy and the canonization process. The Vatican is considering Day for sainthood. 

“I envision this as a destination and interactive space that pays tribute to the life and legacy of Dorothy Day,” Ahern said. “We realized we had all this material, and it was tucked away where no one could enjoy it. Students and those interested in Dorothy Day will be able to come to the Center and experience what made her one of the leading lights of her time and why she continues to be so relevant today.” 

Ahern said the Center will include some of Day’s personal artifacts, which will be donated by Martha Hennessy, Day’s granddaughter. There will also be historic photographs of Day, an interactive timeline on her life and spirituality, and resources to help students get involved in promoting peace and justice.  

In addition to the announcement of the new Center,  Day was also recently honored by New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the Department of Transportation. The city has commissioned a new Staten Island Ferry vessel named after the renowned Catholic activist, who for many years lived in Staten Island and was a regular ferry rider. Ahern and Julie Leininger Pycior, Ph.D., professor emeritus of history, were involved in planning the official commissioning of the vessel.  

Although she died in 1980 at the age of 83,  Day has left a powerful legacy that transcends generations. The new Dorothy Day Center will continue to carry her message of peace, hope, and love.