More than just a logo, the Seal of the University of St. Mary of the Lake is the cynosure of the institution’s history, mission, and purpose, each aspect of the emblem chosen and designed with deep reflection and care. In 2023 the seal was streamlined and updated with a new typeface and stylized graphics.
The redesigned image sharpens the focus on USML’s legacy as it undertakes its third century of service. Faithful to its founding and purpose while anticipating a bright future, the seal conveys the centrality of resurrection and renewal, and the power of faith to transform, empower, and protect the human community through education.
In heraldic imagery red connotes both blood and fire. In the Christian context, these convey the Blood of Christ and the Fire of the descending Paraclete. Blue connotes heaven, origin of the Logos, the foundation of the teaching mission. Red and blue together, then, represent the dual callings of the priesthood and the laity: ministry and education alike with neither endeavor standing alone or superior to the other, their goals and successes irrevocably bound together.
The phoenix tops the crest emblazoned on the shield. The firebird arising to new life from the ashes calls to mind Resurrection, core tenet of the University’s faith commitment, as well as a tribute to its home, the Archdiocese of Chicago, rebuilt after the great fire of October 8, 1871.
Lilies convey purity, innocence, and fertility. As such, they symbolize the Virgin Mary, conduit of the Divine, for whom the university is named. Lilies are associated with the Easter season of resurrection, new beginnings, and hope—the ends of faith formation and education.
Beneath the Lilies lies the Torteau Roundel. One of the oldest charges in heraldry, the presence of the red circle in this context represents the Zucchetto, the cap that denotes the presbyteral rank of Cardinal, recalling the University’s founder, George Cardinal Mundelein.
The parallel wavy lines near the base of the seal symbolize water, source and sustenance of all life, assurance of eternal life in the immersive sacrament of Baptism, and another reference to the water essential to the university’s identity: Lake Michigan, the site of the original institution, and St. Mary’s Lake, its current home.
Unifying all these symbols is the Heraldic Shield. Magen in Hebrew, meaning The Lord is My Shield, it unites the several images that, taken together, communicate the ultimate meaning and purpose of the University of St. Mary of the Lake: unassailable protection from lack of understanding and ignorance that can undermine faith.