I have said it many times over: our experiences are very individualized, but they are better when shared. In sharing, we become personal which leads to vulnerability. With vulnerability comes trust. Thus, I have always try to uphold trust in every relationship. All of this leads me to an evening at Chartres during our pilgrimage.

We gathered in the parish center-like room southeast of the cathedral for the opportunity to process the pilgrimage for the very first time as a group. Many blog posts were shared or derived from that heartfelt “upper room” liberation, similar to this one. Everyone was a little vulnerable that evening, which enabled the deep connection we formed with one another.

Someone asked Fr. John how he became a priest, particularly a Holy Cross priest. He openly provided a heartfelt and sincere response. It was a vulnerable moment for him, yet he trusted us and shared his deep personal response to a loving invitation to a relationship with God. Similarly, every relationship is an invitation and a response he reminded us. This is called discernment. I experienced similar calling to the priesthood but right now, my vocation is the Rector of Duncan Hall as a lay minister.

As the rector of Duncan Hall I am finding God, fulfillment and satisfaction in knowing that I helped empower many people for the betterment of Duncan Hall, Our Lady’s University, the Church and the world. My ministerial experiences formed my opinion that an effective minister has to be able to empower other people to the ministry. I believe we should care more about celebrating Christ with others and leading people to powerful experiences with Christ rather than monetary or congratulatory rewards. Jesus focused his service on the betterment of others through significant actions with humility, acting as a model for all shepherds. I have had the privilege of witnessing the Holy Cross priests in their selfless service to their ministry at Notre Dame. It has been empowering to me as I share in their ministry.

I believe that this Christ-centered life is something critical to ministerial work, to being an effective minister. When people get too focused on the material, they lose focus of the more important virtues of a life of selfless servitude and have a difficult time fulfilling the rigorous demands of the ministry.

Sharing life with our students takes a lot of work! Developing deep meaningful relationships with proper boundaries requires a lot of maturity, wisdom and guidance. WORK! Authentic relationships need work and harder work to maintain them. All of this hard work points to one thing: relationship with God. It’s hard work but I am finding it in my ministry as the Rector of Duncan Hall.

Wherever I am called, I believe that with time I will gain greater understanding and insight into what God wishes me to do. I believe that over time I will continue to grow in wisdom and understanding to be the person God calls me to be. Discernment is a process the laity and clergy alike must undergo to understand and grow closer to God. My discernment has led me to an understanding of a life of cheerful, selfless servitude that I am continually exploring to better serve God and the Church. Right now, I am lovingly responding to tending the sheep and feeding the flock at Duncan Hall. This reference has significance to our pilgrimage because Fr. John used this teaching in one of the wood panels to test our group. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter for the first time since Peter’s three denials of Jesus and Jesus asked Peter “do you love me three times” and each time He followed it with “feed my sheep.”

Written by Nhat Nguyen


It’s only been three days since we left Le Mans, yet I am already feeling nostalgic. The Holy Cross Heritage Pilgrimage is one of those mountaintop experiences that I will look back often with awe.

We all have mountaintop experiences; every one of us has moments we can recall of great happiness and joy, a great sense of peace and meaning that come into our lives. As we look back on these moments, how many times do we just want to hold on to them? “They are so wonderful; I hate to see them end; I hate to see these people leave my life.”

To hold on to this joy, to this happiness, to this peace is a gut-level instinct we all have. We hold on even stronger when we don’t think that other experiences can top them, or we don’t trust that they can ever happen again.

In a spiritual sense, as good as it is to hold on to something wonderful, a love that is freely given, an experience of life that gives us new meaning to our lives, we ultimately have to let them go. We eventually have to go down the mountain.

We have to let go of our experiences so that something new can be realized. We are blessed with moments on the mountain; we are blessed with new insights about our lives; we are blessed constantly with the joy and happiness we share with each other. That should give us a sense that if this is good, there has got to be something more.

This pilgrimage validates all my other mountaintop experiences: there is always something more. My experiences are all interconnected and woven together to write the story of my live. These experiences tell my story, give me endurance for the journey, and strengthen my faith in God and in others.

Written by Nhat Nguyen


Many of my fellow pilgrims have already reflected on the special bond and connection we have felt with one another on this trip; nonetheless, I want to share my experience as well. Our last evening fellowship in Paris was a fitting end. We hiked Montmartre for the last holy site visit and then dinner at La Bonne Franquette where we sang many Happy Birthdays to fellow pilgrim Heather Grocke-Saunders, signed the ND flag for Fr. John, and toasted one last time.

As we journeyed down the mountain, I decided to be adventurous and slide down a set of steep decline rather than taking the steps: “You want to see something cool?” It was “cool” for about a second until I lost control, wiped out, and hit my face against the rocky concrete. While I got right up from the fall, pride and scar tissues remained on those rocks.

The concerns that everyone expressed for my reckless abandon save all embarrassment and physical pain. Of all the groups that I have been a part of, this group exhibits the most nurturing fidelity I have ever had to privilege to be a part of. It did not come as a surprise because as I got to hear each individual pilgrim’s stories and connect with each one individually, I recognized that we are a nurturing bunch. It worked out for me because I was the beneficiary of this nourishment on this particular night.

Written by Nhat Nguyen


The Holy Cross Heritage Pilgrimage, for me, has been transcending. It has not only brought the “New World” closer to its heritage but also connected the past to the present; thus, transcending time and space. During our first Mass of the pilgrimage, Fr. John DeRiso CSC greeted the pilgrims, “Welcome Home! You’ve done well.” At that instant, I had a vivid imagine of Fr. Moreau French-embracing Fr. Sorin with those words. While it was not Fr. Moreau, it was another CSC; and it was not Fr. Sorin who returned home, it was us! There we were, 175 years after the founding of the University of Notre Dame (Notre Dame Trail! Shameless plug.), 19 pilgrims journeyed home. To be welcomed home with such proud embrace was an enlightening moment for me. It sparked a deep connection and a sense of purpose in my collaborative work with the Congregation of Holy Cross and its coworkers. It rekindled the spirit within that burns for the zeal of spreading of the Kingdom of God—the very purpose of Fr. Moreau’s ministry. It gave deep meaning and purpose to my ministry as a Rector. I am a co-worker in this ministry and mission with the many Holy Cross priests that came before and many who will follow. It was real! An “ah ha” moment if you will.

As student affairs professionals, we are so often caught up in the busyness of our daily lives that we don’t have time to take a step back to take a long view of the big picture, which prompts a poem that I have used to keep myself grounded:

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent

enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of

saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith.

No confession brings perfection.

No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about.

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.

We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.

We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.

This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.

We are prophets of a future not our own.

Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw

In the work of caring for our students, it can be frustrating and powerless at times because we don’t know if all the late nights and early mornings will bear any fruits. Sometime it can even feel insignificant. As I am writing this, the awareness of self-knowledge and my understanding of God’s providence and the mystery of salvation are being revealed. This grace is humbling.

Self-centeredness can creeps up on us in this ministry—no one is dealing what I have to deal with! Thus, we can get discouraged, feeling self-centered, to see our insignificance in our work, to think of what we can or cannot do, and forget about God and God’s will and providence.

One thing is certain, God never forgets! God knows our significance, our dignity and our worth. But God also expects us to accept, as from God’s hands, the daily situations God sends us and to act as Jesus would have acted and the grace to it.

Perhaps, Fr. Moreau and Fr. Sorin felt these turmoils 175 years ago when they were establishing the University of Notre Dame mission. Perhaps not. But I am confident that we share the same frustrations, helpless, and powerlessness in this work collaborative work. But taking step back, I wonder if Fr. Moreau could have ever imaged this great harvest that is the University of Notre Dame. The seeds that was planted, namely by sending Fr. Sorin to this Northern Indiana Mission, are being watered and hold future promises—the hope of the Cross. Our work is not yet completed and hopefully, our spirit is enlivened by this pilgrimage and home coming to continue this work as co-workers in God’s vineyard, working to catch a glimpse of heaven on earth at the University of Notre Dame. Heaven—our ultimate home, the destination of every pilgrim—God!

Written by Nhat Nguyen