(from left) Bellarmine Guild officers Gloria Mattia, Cynthia Sikaras and President Marie Tegler  with some of the gifts collected as part of the Guild’s annual Christmas service project.

(from left) Bellarmine Guild officers Gloria Mattia, Cynthia Sikaras and President Marie Tegler with some of the gifts collected as part of the Guild’s annual Christmas service project.

Reminiscing with the Bellarmine Guild

SJU women’s group reflects on 75-year legacy of hospitality and good works

An unabridged history of Saint Joseph University’s Bellarmine Guild would feature a colorful mix of memorabilia and accounts of the group’s numerous ways of making a difference for students and in the community. It would have to include:

  • A program from a St. Joseph Lecture hosted by the Guild
  • The 1949 Plymouth Special Deluxe Sedan offered as a grand prize in a drawing to benefit Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse
  • A scholarship check for a deserving student
  • Candid photos from the Western Hoedown and Square Dance
  • Christmas gifts wrapped and ready for delivery to a local family in need.

Behind the event preparation and service project selection stood the smiling women ready to welcome their guests.

Founded in 1940 during the lean years of World War II, the Bellarmine Guild was organized and attended by and for mothers of students, wives of alumni and other women considering themselves friends of Saint Joseph’s College. The Faculty Wives Club was its unofficial sister association.

“Beyond its beginnings – in the days when June Cleaver met everyone at the door with cookies and milk – this group of women quietly soldiered on, adding warmth, graciousness and personal charm to every event they hosted,” said Carmen R. Croce ’71, director of Saint Joseph’s University Press. “The Guild sponsored social and literary events and raised funds for countless students and service projects over the years.”

Guild President Marie Tegler with newest version of the organization’s original guest register that dates back to its 1940 founding.

Guild President Marie Tegler with newest version of the organization’s original guest register that dates back to its 1940 founding.

Friendships First

The Bellarmine Guild values friendships formed across generations, including those documented in a guestbook kept since the 1960s. “My mother Jeanne Feehery signed the book in 1973 and my mother-in-law, Louise Tegler, was a guest as well,” said Guild President Marie Tegler. “After joining my sister-in-law as a guest at a Holy Communion breakfast before my son entered the University in 1990, I remained active in the Guild as four of my five children went through Saint Joseph’s. I’ve been involved ever since.”

The Guild holds six meetings a year, including the annual freshman mother’s tea, Christmas party and Ascension Thursday Mass and Communion breakfast.

A Focus on Academia and Giving Back

Members raise funds for the Bellarmine Guild Scholarship through their regular meetings and mailings. Representatives typically attend the annual President’s Scholarship Celebration with more than 200 other benefactors and scholars.

As regular hosts of the St. Joseph Lecture at Saint Joseph’s University, which ran from 1992 to 2011, the Bellarmine Guild welcomed guest lecturers and other attendees. That role earned the Guild a special footnote in SJU history. According to Saint Joseph’s University Press Editorial Director Rev. Joseph F. Chorpenning, O.S.F.S., S.T.L., Ph.D., it was the longest continuously running lecture series in the more than 160-year history of Saint Joseph’s University. (Joseph of Nazareth Through the Centuries commemorates the 20th anniversary of the program, which explored the rich theological, literary and artistic tradition that has developed around the person and mission of the University’s patron saint.)

The Guild also works with Campus Ministry each year to identify a community outreach opportunity. “One of my most gratifying memories was the year we prepared gifts for a family of six children who had lost their parents and were living with their grandparents,” Tegler said.

The Bellarmine Guild has always been about companionship and pride in an institution defined by the live greater tradition. As it turns out, those aims are sometimes inextricably linked to the ability to offer a buffet of delectable homemade desserts to friends of Saint Joseph’s University.

Indeed, life is sweet when the Bellarmine Guild sets the table.

– Valerie Asuncion