Aug 2021 - David Manfredi ND ’73, ’79 Honored with St. Anthony’s Shrine "Pope Francis Award"

David Manfredi ND ’73, ’79 Honored with St. Anthony’s Shrine Pope Francis Award

By Jack Bergen ‘77

St. Anthony’s Shrine in Boston recently announced their 2021 Pope Francis Award Recipient as noted Boston architect & ND grad David Manfredi ’73, 79.  I had the opportunity to chat with David, (former Holy Cross Hall resident) about his ND background and his passion to help others through his firm’s work.

Why Notre Dame?

I was attracted by the extraordinary sense of loyalty and belonging at Notre Dame, by the academic excellence, and by the diversity of undergraduate disciplines because I was interested in literature and writing, in science and engineering, in philosophy and politics. In other words, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Also, I was determined to leave New England and the familiar.

You have the unique distinction of having two undergraduate degrees, why two?

As an undergraduate, I studied English because I liked to write and to read great stories, and because of an extraordinary professor, Frank O’Malley. I went on to earn a Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Chicago, but then returned to Notre Dame to start all over in Architecture. My father was a carpenter and home builder. I worked for him every summer in high school and college, and I witnessed how satisfying building was for him. For me, it was planning and design, but I have always respected the skill and satisfaction of craftsmen. I think my interest in literature and architecture are related: architects are storytellers who use words and images to describe ideas.

Notre Dame is all about building community—at any scale. For me, architecture and planning is about making places that bring people together, that make common ground, that support our best lives in many ways.

Tell me about your professional life.

Howard Elkus & David Manfredi

My partner, Howard Elkus, and I founded Elkus Manfredi Architects in 1988 after working together for a number of years at The Architects Collaborative. We simply wanted to do the best work with the best clients and the best colleagues, be rewarded for our work, and have fun. It was just the right moment in our lives, the right person with whom to partner, the right place to do it. We always want to make places that support the best kind of living, the most expansive kind of thinking, the most innovative kind of work. We want to imagine places that help our clients achieve their highest aspirations—always in the context of community, fairness and appropriateness.

Any particular projects or area of architecture that are your favorites?

Cathedral of the Holy Cross - Boston

At our firm we pride ourselves on the diversity of work we do.  If I had to pick one area that I find very rewarding, it is in the life science research field where well-designed buildings can help to promote innovation & accelerate discovery.  And of course, I am very proud of the work our firm did on renovating the Cathedral of the Holy Cross here in Boston.  We transformed it to a much lighter and brighter space.  Cardinal O’Malley would visit every day to keep an eye on the progress. 

What type of community service work do you find important?

Elkus Manfredi Architects’ philanthropic mission is focused on children, health, and homelessness. We are long time sponsors of United Way, Boston Children’s Hospital, Heading Home and, of course, St. Anthony’s Shrine.  My personal philanthropy is very similar, but my favorite is the University of Notre Dame and specifically the School of Architecture and financial aid for students.

It was recently announced that you will be receiving the St. Anthony’s Shrine Pope Francis Award.  How did you first get involved with the Shrine and what does the award mean to you?

As with many people who live and work in downtown Boston, I started going to St Anthony’s many years ago for early morning Mass.  I got to appreciate the advocacy they do and have profound respect for the work of the Friars; the Women’s Health Center (which Elkus Manfredi designed) and which cares for the most vulnerable population in the city, homeless and disenfranchised women; the Lazarus Ministry which provides funeral services and burial for every homeless person in Boston; the St. Anthony’s Food Bank, the Mychal Judge Recovery Mission for people struggling with addiction; the Emmaus Mission for families who have lost a child.

I am so proud to know the Friars, to support their work, and to call them my friends.  I am completely humbled by St. Anthony’s Shrine Pope Francis Award.  I like the phrase “giving forward.” I was blessed with wonderful parents who always supported me in every way—through all that circuitous education. I can never give back to them, but I can give forward.

How about your personal life outside of work?

David & his family

I married Elizabeth eleven years ago and was rewarded with three stepdaughters, Austin, Lida, and Ellie.  They have changed my life in many ways.  Ellie graduated from Notre Dame in May with a Bachelors degree in Finance and is living in Chicago with great friends from ND. None of the girls had any interest in studying architecture but were always interested in the projects we pursued.

We get to campus three or four times a year—for football games, for the School of Architecture Advisory Council or, recently, to visit Ellie.

What advice would you give to aspiring ND architecture grads?

My advice to young ND arkies is work hard, be brave, and expect to change the world. It is all possible!


Information on the Pope Francis Award

Fr. Tom Conway

As described by Fr. Thomas Conway, OFM, Executive Director - St. Anthony Shrine, 100 Arch Street

Pope Francis chose the name “Francis,” in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, who was a man of poverty, a man of peace, and one who loved and protected creation.

The Pope Francis Award is presented to an individual whose lifework mirrors the charism and mission of St. Francis of Assisi, lover of the poor and the alienated. It honors one who embodies the Franciscan values of humility, compassion, respect and dignity of all people, and lives out the Gospel. 

The Shrine is a downtown church that attracts the rich and the poor, both tourists and locals.  The friars and staff of the Shrine like to work with people who think broadly.  It takes a certain type of imagination to integrate the diverse worldviews on our doorstep: the zealous tourist on a personal religious pilgrimage, the desperate downtown homeless person, and the influencer who yearns to help.  David is invaluable because he has the unique creative ability to inspire us to be a more compassionate faith community.  David is the recipient for this year’s Pope Francis Award for his commitment to his faith, his humility toward his outstanding professional achievements, and his concern for the homeless in downtown Boston.

For more information on the award, go to:  2021 Franciscan Dinner and Pope Francis Award


Information St Anthony’s

Inspired by the enduring legacy of St. Francis of Assisi, lover of the poor and the alienated, St. Anthony Shrine, the Church on Arch Street, is a Catholic landmark in Boston, founded by the Franciscan Friars. The Friars raised the money to establish St. Anthony Shrine in 1947. For nearly 75 years, it has provided a convenient, safe, welcoming and prayerful setting for people desiring to strengthen their relationship to God.  The Shrine is so much more than Mass and confession. It is a beacon of hope in downtown Boston for those who thirst for compassion, respect, dignity and acceptance.  For more information on St Anthony’s, go to: St. Anthony’s Shrine

Editor’s note:  As a child many years ago, my mother dragged me into Boston to shop at Filenes, eat at Colestones (??) and stop in to “Arch St.” to say a prayer.  As an adult working in Boston, I visited there many times for ashes and to attend mass at lunchtime during a holy day of obligation. It is truly an oasis in the city for quiet and reflection.

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