The Importance of an Invitation

Joe Tenaglia, Senior Anchor Intern

“Hey man, how you doing? You going to mass tonight?”

The text flashed across my phone. It was my friend Ryan. I waited a few minutes before responding.

“I’m alright. Kinda tired. Think I’m just gonna stay in.”

A minute later another text came through.

“You should come to mass.”

I sighed. I knew he was right. It wasn’t like I had any homework to do or anything. It was just that my couch was so comfortable and the blanket that I was wrapped up in was so warm.

I had said I was tired, and I guess that was kind of true. I hadn’t really gotten enough sleep the night before, but then again that was nothing new. The main reason I wanted to stay in was because I wanted to watch some TV or play video games.

Digging deeper, I think the reason why I wanted to stay in instead of going to mass was because I was in a bit of spiritual dry spell. I figured it was easier to just avoid going to mass or thinking about my faith life than having to deal with it. Ryan knew this too, and that’s why he was taking the extra step to invite me to daily mass that night.

The key word in that last sentence is invite.

Often, we think of invitations as being for large events. As a child, you might receive an invitation for a birthday party.  As an adult, they probably come for things such as weddings. They usually have some fanciful design that announces the importance of the event and they include some RSVP information. While certainly these invitations are important, there are smaller invitations that occur daily, and which form the foundation of community, especially communities of faith.

An invitation to a birthday party or a wedding is as much if not more about the person sending the invite than the one receiving it. The invitation signals an important event that the inviter wants someone to know about. In addition it includes RSVP information so that the sender of the invitation can know exactly who and how many will be attending.

There is another type of invitation to which we are called though. This is the invitation modeled by Jesus on the cross. With his arms outstretched, Jesus invites us into relationship with the God of love who is our creator. It is a selfless invitation, focused on what the recipient can get out of it instead of the sender. There is no expectation of an RSVP, only a hope that we will reach out and accept this invitation for our own benefit.

Each of us is called to embrace this model of invitation, which asks for nothing in return. This is how we build up the Body of Christ. For while faith is inherently personal, it is also rooted in community. Communities of faith gather to pray and worship together, to rejoice with one another in times of consolation and to support one another in times of desolation. But if you feel lonely, or you if feel like you don’t know how to pray, or that you are less holy than others, it can be difficult to find the courage to take the step to join a community of faith. How then, are you expected to ever find a community? The answer is in invitation.

“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll be there.”

After a few minutes of indecision, I finally texted Ryan back. He was right that I should go to mass and I had realized it. I got up off my couch and got ready.

Students pray together during a Residence Hall Mass

In this interaction, Ryan embraced the kind of invitation that we are all called to. It was a selfless invitation. On the surface, he got nothing out of the exchange. My response to his invitation wouldn’t have changed his own plans of attending mass. But, by the extending of this invitation and my subsequent acceptance, a community was strengthened.

If I tried to count the number of times over the past three years that I have received invitations – to mass, to go to the Grotto, to night prayer – I wouldn’t be able to come up with a number. I’ve simply lost count.

Many times, when I have received these invitations I was teetering on the edge of going to something and the invitation made all the difference. Other times, I have received the invitation and turned it down or otherwise ignored it. Even in these instances, the community was still strengthened. I might not have been ready at that moment to accept an invitation, but I had more confidence to accept the next time I was asked.

Invitation is an integral part of my faith experience, as I suggest it probably is for many of you reading this. Whether it is an offer to join someone for mass, an encouragement to sign up for a retreat, or an offer to walk to the Grotto, an invitation can make a big difference.

So, at the end of this post, I want to invite each and every one of you to think of the people who have invited you into faith over the years. Not only that, but I also invite you to do likewise and to extend an invitation to someone else. There are so many people – around this campus, throughout this country, and throughout the whole world – who are searching for something more. They might be just an invitation away from finding it. Of course there is always the possibility they turn it down but imagine the joy you’ll both feel if they accept.

As I put on my shoes and a jacket to head out to mass, another text came in.

“Good. I’ll see you there.”

The Struggle with Uncertainties

Regina Ekaputri, Senior Anchor Intern

When I do my Notre Dame introduction nowadays, it starts with “Hi, my name is Regina, and I’m a senior…” and before I continue describing which dorm, which major, and so on, I tend to have this tugging feeling. I’m a senior. One sentence filled with so many different feelings, and it often raises so many questions from both myself and the people I encounter. “What are you thinking about doing after Notre Dame?” After hearing that I’m from Indonesia, another question would follow, “Where do you see yourself after Notre Dame?”

To be honest, I don’t know. I, too, ask these same questions to myself. What am I doing after? Where am I going to be? I don’t know. I don’t know.

I think this struggle and anxiety about not knowing things is not just common among seniors, but also juniors, sophomores, and freshmen. I remember that when I was a freshman, I experienced some doubts on what I was going to major in, how I could fit in, and many other things. Going into sophomore year, I thought I was in a slightly better place where I knew what I was doing, after surviving freshman year and comfortably adjusting to Notre Dame life. But then it came to the point where I realized that—again—I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my college education. I changed my intended major and minors so many times, my parents and my friends from home couldn’t keep track. I was fine, though, cruising along and taking it one step at a time. Junior year then came, when I spent a semester abroad in the beautiful town of St. Andrews. My experience abroad was amazing, and I could talk for hours about my time in Scotland. However, another wave of anxiety came, as I was looking for a summer internship. It didn’t help that I knew some people who already knew what they were doing since the beginning of fall semester of junior year. The questions started rolling in: What do you want to do after graduation? What kind of internships do you want to do? It was a lot of worrying and stressing out, while also frantically applying for twenty different internships.

Regina pictured in Scotland during her semester abroad

Then, I’m a senior. To quote some of my friends, “things are starting to get real.” That fear of uncertainties is coming back, but this time I feel that it’s so much more overwhelming. It doesn’t help that all of us here at Notre Dame are high-achieving and hardworking students and that most of us know that handful of people who already know what they want to do next. It’s hard to not compare ourselves with our peers, or not think about this “expectation” that we’re supposed to know what we’re going to do after graduation. I know, though, that I’m not the only one who’s feeling this way. I know that I should stop comparing myself with others.

How do I deal with this fear? Some days are much harder, much more frustrating. I would lie on my bed and think about this uncertainty, and I would lose an hour or two of what would’ve been a good night sleep. However, some days are slightly easier. I remind myself that even though I don’t know about my future, God does. I know that He has a great plan for each one of us, that He knows us so well from when we were in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139). But even then, sometimes I still struggle with this. So God has a unique plan and calling for each one of us. But how do I know what it is? Sometimes I wish that I, too, would have some kind of divine revelation or miraculous vision like that of St. Paul or St. Francis, where God verbally communicates with them what they’re supposed to do. I would pray that God reveals what He wants me to do, so I could follow and do His will. But nope, I haven’t had any of those exciting and dramatic moments thus far in my life.

Recently, however, I was reminded that maybe the way I pray, by demanding to know God’s will, wasn’t the best. I was led to pray in a slightly different way—instead of demanding to God to tell me what He wants, I have been learning to pray that I am more open to God’s calling, that I am more aware to the little things I do, that I surrender my control, to let go, and let God lead my life and walk with me as I try to discover what it is I am called to do. I ask for the patience, the strength, the peace, and the joy to live every day in a way I could learn more about myself and be present with the people around me.

I also keep going back to this prayer by St Thomas Merton, that has also helped to give me some peace:

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Even with this prayer as my go-to shield and armor in times of stress and anxiety, some days are still harder than others. But when the anxiety hits hard, I try to take a short break and just take a deep breath—to remember that hey, I am not alone in this. I may not know where I’m going, or what I’m going to do after graduation, but I want to trust that God will lead me by the right road, that He’ll always walk with me, and that He will make everything beautiful in His time.

The Answer to Our Identity Crisis

Rosemary Agwuncha, Senior Anchor Intern

I’m currently taking a class titled: “The Meaning of Life”. A slightly overwhelming question to address for a 50 minute class that meets twice a week. No one ever has come up with a definitive answer, and I’m not sure if anyone ever will. Our life’s purpose will never seem perfectly straightforward. But I’ve been told an answer that comes pretty close: “To love and be loved is what we were created for.”

That’s a beautiful, poetic idea of how life is supposed to work. There’s one small issue though: People are so hard to love. Myself included.

No joke, my sister called me around 12:30 a.m. a couple of days ago. Fortunately, I was still awake doing homework, but I hesitantly answered the phone because I didn’t want to be interrupted. I eventually picked up and said, “What do you want?” She replies, “Dang, chill. I just wanted to see how your exam went.” Ouch. That gave me some serious guilt. Looking back on that, I realize how easy it is to take our loved ones for granted.

As relationships with friends and family evolve over time, I am growing more and more aware of how difficult it is to love others. But at the same time, I am also being reminded of the sacredness that lies within every single one of us because we are the Beloved of a merciful God.

The joyful community, Voices of Faith, where Rosemary feels deeply loved.

The next day, I ran into a friend that I hadn’t seen in weeks. She asked how I was doing. I said, “I’m good. Just been busy and kinda tired, but doing fine”. She responded, “That’s nothing new though. I’ve never known you to not be tired. Tell me something new”. I was shook… to the core.

My constant busyness and the resulting tiredness had become inseparable from my identity. Things had really gotten that bad over these past couple of years and I didn’t even realize how serious of an issue it was. Friends have told me time and time again to slow down and live life, but I admitted to them that I find it hard to be still because I always want to be actively doing something. These are real life issues in the life of a Notre Dame student. My constant fatigue, feelings of overwhelm, and restlessness come from not living out the truth of my identity: One who is Beloved. One who is doused in mercy.  

We often fall into the trap of believing that our worth comes from how much we can accomplish in a day, the score we get on an exam, the prestige of our job title, and the list goes on. But… none of that matters to God. It’s not that He doesn’t care, but God is just delighted in YOU as you are.

Wouldn’t it be an incredible and transformative thing if we were able to constantly live out of our true identity: Beloved and Forgiven? If in every moment, the way we regard others and ourselves was rooted in the love and the mercy of God that surrounds us? It’s like the air we breathe though, it constantly surrounds us so we often become desensitized to it and forget it’s there.

St. Paul knows we need this reminder, so he tells us in his letter to the Colossians that “as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience” (Col. 3:12).

Recognizing our Belovedness gives us a more correct way of seeing others and seeing ourselves. It would change so many of our actions to be more merciful and compassionate to ourselves and to others. We could then be much more authentic to who we were created to be and help others to do the same.

As we consider how we relate to others and to ourselves, I think this incredible quote from C.S. Lewis’ book, The Weight of Glory, can be helpful in giving us the perspective to understand how significant our every interaction with each person truly is.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption… (like) in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations… There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”- C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

How much we recognize our Belovedness as well as share mercy and compassion with others is the true foundation of our spirituality. Recognizing Christ to be present in ourselves and in the other, leads us to respond in only one appropriate way: with love and joy. Acknowledging the glimpse of God standing before us when we look in the mirror or when we encounter another: this is the basis of our life as Christians. “Beloved, we are God’s children now…” so let’s collectively live into this truth (1 Jn 3:2).

 

Communion of the Heart

Elizabeth Hascher, Senior Anchor Intern

Just as quickly as my summer began, it was over. Even though I hadn’t been on campus for eight months, it felt like it was just last week that I was loading up my car with storage tubs and driving away, golden dome in my rearview mirror. At first, the thought of coming back was terrifying. I left campus last fall feeling very much ready to leave. It was a semester with a lot of difficult moments, and it left me questioning if Notre Dame was the place for me.

That trying semester did come with some unexpected blessings, however. One thing led to another during the fall, and I was presented with the opportunity to spend my summer participating in an SSLP with the L’Arche community in Spokane, Washington. There are 137 L’Arche communities throughout the world, and each of them provides a home and community where people with and without intellectual disabilities share their lives with one another. They live and work together, form friendships and relationships of faith, and seek to strengthen and provide growth opportunities for their communities.

That all sounds great, but what L’Arche really looks like is living in a house with ten other people and just embracing life with one another. L’Arche is about drinking coffee with your friends in the morning and sitting on the porch for hours. It’s about dancing in the kitchen and praying together after dinner. It’s also about talking with one another and sharing feelings of sadness or frustration, or giving someone a hug after a difficult day. Sometimes it’s even about laughing really hard when someone farts unexpectedly during breakfast.

L’Arche celebrates the Fourth of July together with a picnic.

As I left my L’Arche family and came back to school, I carried this experience with me. Knowing that a lot had changed during my time away from campus, I thought about my time in Spokane and wondered how I would be able to take what I learned and share it with others. How would I be able to explain to people at Notre Dame what a radically different lifestyle L’Arche was, and how it taught me more than perhaps any class? Well, here it is.

Living with people with intellectual disabilities showed me that the way we spend our time says volumes about the values we hold. If we truly let our lives speak, we can learn a lot about ourselves. We may be surprised to find that we may not be honoring our values and beliefs quite the way we perceive ourselves to be. It should give each of us pause to think about times when we have valued worldly things, validation from others, and power over vulnerability, humility, and sharing our lives with each other. My time at L’Arche showed me that if I truly desire to let God work in my life, I must intentionally create spaces in which He can dwell.

Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, writes in his book Becoming Human, “Weakness, recognized, accepted, and offered, is at the heart of belonging, so it is at the heart of communion with another.” If we are to invite God in, we must choose to make time for the moments of joy in our lives, but also for those times of pain and sorrow. We must be more open about offering this up with the people around us. It is in such moments, when we give each other even the tiniest of glimpses into what is on our hearts, that we come into communion with one another.

Through this communion of the heart, God enters our lives. God dwells in the spaces of brokenness and weakness, and he is present in times of joy and celebration as well. He is there when we share snacks and tell jokes with our friends, and when we tell someone how tough our day really was. He’s there when we dance in the car and when we need someone to help us get out of bed in the morning. When we share life with one another and become vulnerable in this way, we make room for God.

Elizabeth and Tina go out for community night at a minor league baseball game

God seeks a personal relationship with each of us, and it is up to us to invite Him in through encounters of the heart. This means different things for everyone. Perhaps it is as simple as putting down your to-do list and taking a walk with a friend. Maybe it means sitting at dinner to talk for half an hour longer instead of catching up on your favorite TV show. It could even be simply being physically present to the person next to you. We can’t pretend to know everything that is on another person’s heart, but we can certainly make more of an effort to share what is on ours and be open to receiving that from others.

As tempting as it may be to say that everything is fine or pretend that life under the dome is all sunshine and tailgates, we are closing off our hearts to communion with each other and God when we do so. Jean Vanier also writes, “To speak of the heart is not to speak of vaguely defined emotions but to speak of the very core of our being.” If we are to cultivate our minds and our hearts here at Notre Dame, we need to be more intentional about opening our hearts to one another. It is then that we will begin to recognize God’s kingdom on Earth.

 

A Letter of Humility

Nathan Miller, Senior Anchor Intern

Humility is not thinking less about yourself, it’s thinking about yourself less.

The amount of time I spend thinking about myself every day is frankly astonishing. When will I wake up in the morning? Have I studied enough to pass my Accounting test later today? Should I go for a run this afternoon so I keep myself looking good? I wonder if the new people I met today think I was funny? …You get my point I’m sure. It is in light of this self-centeredness that Jesus speaks in Matthew 16 –

For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?

This is where humility enters. As a virtue, humility is meant to be our aide, God’s free gift to us, to overcome the tendency of pride. Seeing as, however, it would be against the spirit of humility to stand up (digitally speaking) and tell you why you should be more humble, I simply wish to offer you this open letter to myself. In my own reflection over the past few years, I’ve been drawn to this prayer called the Litany of Humility. It is a challenging prayer – I’ve learned that when we pray for humility, God gives us opportunities to practice it! Still, it has been a blessing in my life and I hope my own struggles with it can be of some benefit for you.

——

Dear Nathan,

Now that you’re reading this letter, it means you’ve made it to graduation! As I write this now it is hard to imagine, but I’m sure senior year flew by for you. I hope you look back on this final year at Our Lady’s university and feel you have been a good steward of the blessed education you’ve been offered. It took so many people to get you to this point – I know you couldn’t have done it on your own! That’s why I hope, above all, you kept your promise to pray the Litany of Humility each day. Such a simple prayer, yet possibly even a greater challenge than graduating. There are 3 lines in particular that stick out. I hope they’ve stayed at the front of your mind amidst all the excitement of this year.

From the desire of being loved: Deliver me, O Jesus.

I remember the first time you heard that line and the initial shock that accompanied it. It’s the first one in the Litany and it gave you worries. “If God is love, isn’t it good for me to seek love?” Thankfully faith isn’t a solo ride and you had great role models who helped you wrestle with this. They helped you realize that love is inherently good, in fact, the greatest good (1 Cor 13:13), but like any good thing, it can be misused. Love is freely given and freely received. They helped you realize that the crux of this prayer is that you actually deserve love so much that when you reach for it, you sell yourself short. Trust in God’s timing.

I remember the times throughout college when you believed you needed everyone to “love” you. When you met new friends or even with your best friends, you judged every interaction by how much the other people laughed at your jokes, listened intently to your stories, and whether they wanted to hang out with you again. If people didn’t think you were the most interesting man in the world, you felt you did something wrong. Actually, it’s unfair for me to write that in past tense because even now I still struggle. That’s why I’m writing this to you Nathan – I hope you’ve learned to bring humility into every interaction you have. I hope you’ve accepted the grace of this first line in the Litany to realize you don’t need to be the center of attention. I hope you’ve learned to spend more time laughing with other people, more time listening to their stories, and freely given your time to all the inspiring people you’ve met here.

From the fear of being humiliated: Deliver me, O Jesus.

Excuses are an addicting thing. A brutally honest friend once told you that you’re always making an excuse when you mess up. If you’re not right, it’s because of this or that or something else. It’s never genuinely your mistake because that would be a sign of weakness – that you aren’t smart enough or athletic enough or convincing enough.

As much as you didn’t like to hear that at the time, I hope you’ve taken the lesson to heart. I hope you’ve learned to own up to your faults and stop worrying about how others might perceive a little failure. You are not defined by your successes or failures. I hope you accept every little embarrassing moment as a reminder that Jesus was humiliated too, and he endured it patiently out of love to win your heart.

That others may be preferred to me in everything: Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

Sophomore year was difficult when you applied for numerous internships and didn’t hear anything back for months. You wondered if you had become less “valuable” because suddenly you weren’t being chosen for the opportunities you wanted.

But there’s been countless little moments too. You’ve been offended when people seemed more interested in what others had to say than you. You’ve felt hurt when you didn’t get the leadership position you felt you had worked the hardest for. You’ve felt threatened when someone was more entertaining than you.

In all this, I hope you’ve recognized the futility of desiring preference. You spent too much of your life trying to impress others to gain favor. Yes, it’s wonderful to be chosen and to feel special, but that only brings out a feeling for something that is already imprinted on your soul. God gave you incredible talents, wonderful friends, and a plan only you could fulfill. Why? So that you could serve others, just as He did. I hope you never forget His example. I hope that every day you spend less time thinking about your worries and more time thinking about His presence in the people around you.

I’m sure you’re still working on it, but I hope this year and this prayer have brought you peace!

In Christ,
~Nathan

Meet Your 2017-18 Anchor Interns!

Anchor Interns, 2017-18

Did you know Campus Ministry has 11 senior Anchor Interns who desire to serve the church within our campus and assist in all areas of Campus Ministry?  Over the course of the semester, each intern will be featured on this blog which is designed to encourage you, our students, to follow God’s call in your lives.

Rosemary Agwuncha: Rosemary is originally Nigerian but was born and raised in Austin, Texas. She is majoring in Pre-Health and Thelogy, with a minor in International Development Studies. She currently lives off campus but lived in Breen-Phillips Hall during her freshman year. Rosemary’s favorite group on campus is the Notre Dame Voices of Faith Gospel Choir, because she loves to sing and they have been like a family to her since freshman year. She will be working in African-American Ministry with Becky Ruvalcaba. 

Michael Anderson: Mike is a senior from Tinley Park, Illinois, studying biochemistry and theology. While he formerly lived in Keenan Hall, he is now enjoying living off campus. He spends most of his time outside of classes doing cancer immunotherapy research though he also enjoys running, playing sports (especially volleyball), and doing service with the Knights of Columbus. He is planning on entering a MD/PhD program after graduation where he hopes to bring his Catholic values into his medical practice and research. This year, he is working with Christian to plan retreats and pilgrimages.

Regina Ekaputri: Regina is a senior studying Psychology with minors in Art History and Italian Studies. She grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia, but calls Flaherty Hall her home here at Notre Dame. Regina is really passionate about education and hopes to be an educator in the future. She also enjoys making art, reading, cooking, spending time with friends, having good conversations, going to art museums, and traveling to new places. She will be working with Christian for the retreats and pilgrimages throughout the school year.

Julia Erdlen: Julia is an English major living in Ryan Hall.  She hails from Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia.  When she finds a spare minute, she reads fiction that wasn’t assigned for class and embroiders.  She also rings in the Handbell Choir.  Julia will be working in Liturgy with Allie Greene to assist with residence hall and other undergraduate liturgies.

Emily Greentree: Emily is a senior, with a double major in American studies and Statistics. She is a true Florida girl, hailing from the wonderful town of Jupiter Florida, but on campus she calls Ryan Hall her home. She is obsessed with all things Disney and can often be seen jamming out to music as she walks around campus. She loves spending time with her family and friends and enjoys getting to meet new people. This year she is working with Kayla August on the Compass Program.

Melissa Gutierrez Lopez: Melissa is a senior studying American Studies with a minor in Latino Studies. She is originally from Escondido, California and now calls Flaherty Hall her home under the dome. Melissa enjoys spending her spare time with her friends, but also likes to keep up with her favorite shows, journal, and spend time outdoors. This year, she is working with Becky Ruvalcaba in Latino Ministry.

Elizabeth Hascher: Elizabeth is a senior who is double majoring in political science and peace studies. A former resident of Lewis Hall, she now lives off-campus and is proud to call Grand Rapids, Michigan home. Elizabeth enjoys reading, spending time outdoors, baking, and drinking lots of coffee. She is also passionate about service and has been involved with the Center for Social Concerns throughout her time at Notre Dame. This year, Elizabeth will be working with Kayla August to develop new spirituality and outreach initiatives for campus ministry.

Danny Jasek: Danny is a senior living in Duncan Hall and studying Computer Science. He is also minoring in Theology and is passionate about the intersection of technology and faith. He is originally from Dayton, OH – home of the Wright Brothers and the professional sports team with the longest sellout streak in North America. Danny is the oldest of 5 children and enjoys spending time with his family and friends, running/playing just about any sport, spiritual reading, soundtrack music, and eating cereal at any and all times of the day. He is working with Fr. Matt Hovde and the Short Course Sacramental prep team this year.

Nathan Miller: Nathan is studying Accountancy and Theology here at Notre Dame. For the past three years he lived in Duncan Hall but for senior year is living off campus. He is originally am from Manitowoc, Wisconsin and is very passionate with his love for the Badger state! As an Anchor Senior Intern, Nathan will be working in a new area called Bible Study Ministry. His focus is to coordinate leaders, help establish community events and resources, and continually invite new students to explore a relationship with Jesus through opening the Scriptures. In his free time, he loves football, the outdoors, and listening to country music.

Flora Tang: Flora is a senior political science and theology major from Beijing, China (a whooping 15-hour-flight away from Notre Dame!), and for the past three years, has been living in the Best Place on campus– Breen-Phillips Hall. In the rare hours when she’s not engaged in political debates with friends, Flora enjoys to cook, read social justice-themed books, and dabble in painting and watercoloring. She’s looking forward to working with RCIA in Sacramental Preparation at Campus Ministry this year.

Joe Tenaglia: Joe is a senior studying Theology and American Studies. Hailing from South Weymouth, Massachusetts he now lives on campus in the great Stanford Hall. In his free time, Joe enjoys loudly and proudly supporting Boston sports teams, reading, listening to music, and above all spending time with family and friends. This year Joe will be working as part of the Retreats and Pilgrimages team, and is excited to work to provide engaging and enriching programming for his fellow students.

 

Anchor Interns, 2017-18

Why We Minister: Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C.

Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C., Coordinator of “Need to Talk?”, Chaplain to Latino Student Ministry

Not long ago someone asked me this question.  “Father, if you had your life to live over again, would you?”  And my first response was, “No way.”  The person was surprised and asked why I wouldn’t want to live my life over.  I said, “There’s absolutely no way that I could be so blessed a second time around.”

Fr. John Dunne, C.S.C. (RIP) used to say this.  “The worst thing that can happen to you in your life is not that your life plan fail, but that it work, because God’s life plan is always so much bigger and better and deeper than anything that you could have ever thought up for yourself.”  That has certainly been the case in my life.  My life has been fuller and richer and deeper than anything that I could have ever put together for myself. 

My life has been filled with more opportunities and richness than I could ever have imagined.   God has been unspeakably good and generous to me.  God has seen me through ups and downs, successes and failures, hopes and disappointments, and so much more. 

I often ask myself if I love God.  I know, for sure, that I want to love God with all my heart and soul and being.  But I don’t know if I do.  On the one hand I think that I would not want to love God with my whole being if I did not already do so.  I hope that this is true.

Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C. gives the sign of peace at the weekly Spanish Mass

Recall the seventh chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke.  When Jesus goes to dine at Simon’s house, a sinful woman washes the feet of Jesus with her tears and dries them with her hair.  Jesus says of her, “She has loved much because she has been forgiven much.”  Well, if this is true, then it is very true of me.  God has forgiven me so much that I hope that it can be said of me, “Joe has loved much because he has been forgiven much.” 

And so the question for me is not “Why I Minister” but how could I not minister?   God has been so generous, so lavish, abundant in loving me.  God has been so reckless with his mercy and forgiveness towards me that I cannot not minister.  How could I not want to share with others all that God has given to me?  God has given me so much that were I not to share it in ministry, I would be hoarding such great gifts that God has given to me.  And all the gifts that God gives to one are given for the good of the community, not for the individual. 

There is a great story about St. Therese of Lisieux.  She would go to confession often and she would confess the smallest of faults.  And one day her confessor said to her, “But Sister you don’t have to come to confession to confess such small faults.”  She replied, “Yes, Father, but who are you to be stingy with a treasure that is not yours?”   So were I not to minister I would be being stingy with a treasure that is not mine.  Whatever I have, I have been given by God, and for others.

And so I minister, out of deep gratitude for all that God has given to me and always hoping that others might experience how rich and blessed they are by God, how loved and cherished they are by God, how God always has their back, how God is always on their side.

Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C. exchanges a greeting with Pope Francis

And so I gratefully and willingly celebrate the Eucharist in dorm chapels, at the Basilica, at the Milkshake Mass, at Mass in Spanish, in parishes, always looking for opportunities to preach about the mercy and love of God. 

And so I gratefully and willingly hear confessions inasmuch as is possible whenever asked because the sacrament of confession remains a unique opportunity to extend the mercy of God to others. 

And so I gratefully and willingly minister in Campus Ministry trying to accompany students on their journey toward God, walking with them, side by side, helping them to know that they are immensely cherished and loved and redeemed and forgiven by God. 

And so I gratefully and willingly live in Dillon Hall with about 300 undergraduates where I try to share life with them, always trying to be a sign of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

And so I gratefully and willingly do what I can do because God has given me so much and has been so good and generous to me.  In the end, how could I not?  When I was named to be a Missionary of Mercy, I said, “God has shown me a lifetime of mercy.  How could I not share it with others?”

And it’s true, so true.  The question that I have to ask myself is not why I minister, but how could I not. 

Why We Minister: Christian Santa Maria

Christian Santa Maria, Assistant Director of Retreats and Pilgrimages

On the top floor of the then AT&T building in downtown Los Angeles, I grabbed a drink from the bar and looked out the 25-foot floor-to-ceiling windows just like everyone else. I was an intern at Fox Sports West in Los Angeles and the 2009 NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, were parading in a cloud of ticker tape below. The parade viewing party was buzzing with excitement and I, an eager broadcasting student, was in the midst of the celebrations in one of the most historic television markets in the country. However, my eyes were fixed toward the east on the unending landscape of rail road tracks, factories, cement, and metal. Down below, there were workers and Los Angelinos going about their day working or driving across town doing whatever it is they need to be doing.  I gripped my drink pondering how my experience was tied up with theirs; what was it that connected us? Then, I felt a tap on my shoulder, “What are you looking at over there? The parade is on this side!” It was one of my fellow interns. I had not realized I was looking through the wrong windows. My palms were sweaty.  I turned around, followed him, and took a sip of my beverage. My drink was getting warm.

Senior year of college hosting “Sit Down with Christian Santa Maria.” Yes, I’m wearing white socks with my dress shoes. Super trendy.

That afternoon, was a pivotal episode in my discernment. Here I was, in the midst of a great opportunity and there was a deep voice within that knew this life was not for me. Now, television broadcasting is a noble profession, one that I had dreamed about since I was a kid, but an inconvenient truth was brewing inside. This line of work was not something I could see myself doing.

So, here I am. A little short of a decade later sitting in my office as one of the new campus ministers here in Campus Ministry writing about why I have chosen to do this work. Better yet, why in some ways it has chosen me. I often tell this story because it serves as the beginning of my journey toward becoming. Becoming is a place of transition, it’s about gently shedding ourselves of the things we have come to know as untrue so we can gradually live out who we are. It is on this road of becoming that we encounter our need to forgive, to be forgiven, to reconcile, to accept, to listen, to love, to grieve, to heal, to recognize our limitation,  and essentially, to become more human. How tempting it is to run away from our humanity and live as if we have an alternative choice. Yet college, if we choose to recognize it, is a time ripe for becoming. It is time set aside to ask the real questions that lie within the heart while being lovingly accompanied by a God who not only invites us into our own humanity but radically joins us in it.

I minister because, in this crazy experience of life, becoming the person God made us to be is one of the most joyful and challenging things we can choose to do. Often, our becoming is drowned out by the noise of our daily lives. Between all the “likes”, “tweets”, football games, crushes, relationships, friendships, emails, club meetings, familial expectations, and of course, school,  students in college are constantly navigating the game of busy, busy, busy.  I am thankful for the people in my own life who invited me to stop awhile and be still. These ministers helped me hit the pause button and drew my attention towards God’s movement within my own heart.

Pictured on retreat with students at Gonzaga University, my first ministry job. Recalling the gifts of this community gives me great joy.

Retreats and pilgrimages are like these long pauses; a chance for our students to catch their breath, find again what has been lost, and discover what they need to continue on their journey toward becoming. These sacred moments give students the permission to ask the real questions that get ignored amidst the clutter. This is how a Holy Cross education is different from other institutions. In Campus Ministry, we invite students to take some time and pause. Whether students are trying to discover new friendships, discerning life after college, or somewhere in between, our hope is that they take some time away from the busyness and enter back on their journey toward becoming just a bit more whole hearted than before.

So here’s to you fellow companion on the journey towards becoming! It’s the adventure of a life time. But, if it ever gets too bumpy or you just need someone to walk alongside you, let’s get coffee or go for a walk sometime. It would be my pleasure. After all, that’s why I minister.

 

Why We Minister: Kayla August

Kayla August, Assistant Director of Evangelization

As he hobbled toward the obstacle course with certain confidence, I realized “why I minister.”

This camper was a boy about 10 years old.   I had first met him a few days before, as his parents checked-in him, his bags, and his brother at the camp drop off location.  The father carried his son’s crutches, wrapped in army duct tape, as this camper cautiously walked up to the camp check-in location.

“You want us to put these under the bus with his luggage?”  I questioned, as his father handed us the crutches along with his suitcases. It seemed to me that if someone took the time to bring crutches, they must want to use them.

“He shouldn’t need them,” his father responded, “they are here just in case.”

At that point, I noticed this camper’s metal leg complete with tennis shoe as he strode away to join the other kids in the main lobby. His name was Dylan, and I later learned that he had lost his leg only a few months before and was in the transitional period of learning to walk in a new way.

This was not a jarring moment because this encounter is not unusual for the camps I work for in the summer.  Camp Pelican, a camp for kids with pulmonary diseases, and Camp Challenge, a camp for kids with Cancer, Sickle cell, and other blood disorders, have become a regular part of my summers. For these campers, the result of these ailments is not only the loss of health but the loss of other things kids are not prepared for: hair, the ability to walk, and the general security of being a “normal” kid. The awkward innocence that is prevalent in most prepubescent’s is replaced with adult considerations like the reality that life may not only be different from that of their peers, but shorter as well.  

When I first started working these camps 13 years ago, I realized that this week gives these kids what their hearts desire most. Not a cure, but that sense of normalcy that the disease takes away in their day-to-day life. The opportunity to not stand out in the crowd but to just “fit in.”

Kayla August, second from right, pictured after the “Stormtrooper Training” course

After an early morning preparing for a new day of camp, I set up an obstacle course for a Star Wars themed morning of physical activities. This course designed as “stormtrooper training” was compiled of tunnels to crawl through, crates to hop over, chairs to dart around, round tire-like objects to step through, and it ended with a Jenga block minefield that was only complete if you passed through it with all blocks standing unmoved.

The majority of male campers that came to the course that day rushed through the course with glee. In fact, it quickly became an intense competition for each one reaching the end asking, “what was my time,” in an attempt to be the best of the day! As each camper went through, I did my part to keep them pumped and excited using their competitive nature as a way to keep them motivated throughout the hour.

But, in my morning effort of creating a course brimming with kid intensity, I had not considered Dylan. When Dylan approached, we started the time as usual. Then, I quickly realized that this was an endeavor where the lowest time was not the prize but completion was the victory.

Accuracy was Dylan’s goal. Dylan started out slowly on the course placing his legs in each “tire” and the determinedly crawling through the tunnel ahead. He was determined but not hasty. As the goal of completion became the forefront, one of his counselors yelled “Go Dylan!” and the boys in his group turned to watch and cheer on their friend. The room was at a standstill, and all eyes were on Dylan as he made his way through the course. While it had previously been a competition, Dylan’s victory would be a win for everyone.

The slow rise of his name first crept in from the voices of the campers behind me…“Dyl-an! Dyl-an! Dyl-an! Dylan!” Then, his name echoed from the mouths of his group mates and his counselors as he steadily walked around the chairs meant for darting, walking over the crates meant for hopping and made his way through the “minefield’ without dropping a single Jenga block. As he crossed the finish line, there was no time called out as before. There was no need. He’d won more than a reduced time. He’d won a greater victory, and with this, he beamed as he noticed no difference between the friends that went before him and his completion of the course. His goal was accuracy and he achieved it with a room of fans cheering his name.

It was this moment that I realized this camp, which I’ve been a part of for almost half my life, was a ministry, and a beautiful one at that! While creating costumes, skits, and activities for the week long sleep over camp experience, I was also sharing with the kids the love of God, and that love is powerful.

For me, ministry has always been about that love. The Christian community contains a family that loves us for exactly who we are, a love that calls us to more than what we thought we could, and a faith that reminds us that we are capable of miracles if we let that love guide us.

Kayla walking with students as she ministers

This is why I minister. That love gives us courage. It gives us hope. It propels us. It gives us the power to complete the obstacle course of life with smiles on our faces and cheers in our hearts. Camp isn’t the only place people encounter the struggles of life. It’s all around us. Our society is filled with hardships, poverty, crime, illness, natural disasters, broken relationships, unhealthy attachments, and unearned struggles that people face which are far from fair but are actualities nonetheless. When a student comes before me in tears dealing with the hardships of life, I am the reminder of God’s love. A reminder that God hasn’t left them, but is instead holding their hand through the Jenga minefield of their day to day struggles. In ministry, Christ is the one screaming their name and I get to cheer them on along the way. I get to be there as they realize the beauty of what God made them to be.

That moment with Dylan reminded me that I’m not just a part of a camp community but a church family and that the power of love and support has been a motivating force in my life. Everyone is welcome to that family, and as Dylan made his way through the obstacle course, the kingdom of God manifested in a way that brought to life a clear vision of the world. One where a pure love was the ultimate unifying source. A world we all want to live in. A world that we were meant for.

Thirteen years ago, this view of the kingdom motivated me to make the whole world that small campsite in southern Louisiana. It showed me what the radical love of Christ can do. Everyone was invited to share in that love and receive the hope it brings.

As the Assistant Director of Evangelization, it’s my job to share that love.  Evangelizing is being able to spread the good news. That this love is for everyone! In my ministerial life, my goal is that everyone comes to know the power of that love. I’m reminded of this as I read the gospels and see the revolutionary way in which Jesus’ love touched and changed the hearts of those he encountered. In fact, after his resurrection, Christians risked death to preach of this life-changing love. The love that not only made the blind see or the lame walk, but also called people to walk away from all they knew to follow a new path of hope.

With each student I encounter, I mirror that love of Christ, so that they may experience it as I have. That inner awakening that resounds in the soul. The love that affirms who we are now and have always been while still calling us to more. The love that unites us all. It is an open invitation that I have the privilege to share, and I watch as that transforming love changes the lives of the students before me. In ministry, I’m blessed to witness the miracles that come from that radical love and also to be the vessel to bring it to those in need.

That love is God. It’s why we’re here. It brings us to life. It keeps us moving forward. It gives us hope. It’s why I minister.

Why We Minister: Patrick Kronner

Dr. Patrick Kronner, Choral Program Director and Organist, Director of the Women’s Liturgical Choir and Community Choir

God speaks to his people in many different and varied ways. For some it may be through the comfort of the Mass, or for others, the silence found when we’re open to it. For me, I’ve always felt God’s presence most in beauty. Whether it’s in his creation, the words of a prayer, or in the kindness that people show to one another. However, the beauty that has taken the deepest roots in my life has been the gift of music.

I vividly remember first finding this beauty in Beethoven’s symphonies when they were originally introduced to me in my second grade music class. From then on I would, as most grade-schoolers do, save up my pennies to buy cassette-tapes of Mozart and Bach (Oh, wait—was that just me?!) I felt a strong pull to immerse myself in this beauty. At the same time, I remember falling in love with the beauty of the Church as I experienced it in my community. It wasn’t until high school, though, that these two areas of my life began to intersect.

Dr. Patrick Kronner and the Summer Community Choir

Through the encouraging guidance and example of a high school mentor, I began to see the peace found in a life devoted to serving God and his people through music. Through my mentor, I was introduced to the pipe organ, the human voice, various monastic traditions, and the vulnerability that necessarily accompanies creativity. This, along with his inspiring love for his family and vocation, became a powerful model of a music minister’s life. It is a life which strives towards holiness through prayer and creativity.

As in most areas of my life, my sense of vocation did not come to me quickly. While I had a passion for music and the Church, it wasn’t always clear that these things should work together in my life. I don’t think I can pinpoint any one moment when I realized my vocation was to be a music minister. Rather, it has been through small moments, encouragement, challenge, and loving examples, that this picture has slowly come into focus.

I feel compelled to bring others to the beauty that I find around me. All of us are created in God’s image and should strive to reflect this beauty in ourselves and in all that we do. I take comfort in the fact that we’re all struggling together as we strive for holiness, just as many saints have done before us.

When I first arrived at Notre Dame for an interview over two years ago, the beauty of this campus was immediately apparent. Despite the gray and cold outside on that particularly frigid February day, I found warmth in all the people I encountered and in all the sights I saw. As I had felt at similar moments of my life, I was drawn to this beauty and curious to explore it further.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart

Having now spent two years as a campus minister at Notre Dame, I’ve been blessed with many moments of beauty. I’ve experienced it in the musical offerings of our choirs, in the familial care our students have for one another, in the intricate details carefully painted in the Basilica, and in the calm of a walk around the lakes. Most powerfully, I’ve seen it in the examples of service for the body of Christ that many of our choristers are boldly living out through their daily lives. All of this has enlivened my own zeal for ministry here on campus.

I minister because I hope to leave this world more beautiful than it was when I first found it. Jesus, through the greatest act of beauty, gave his life for us that we might fully experience his love and mercy. In the same way that my mentors, choristers, and students have inspired me to delve more deeply into this love, I pray that my work in campus ministry might do likewise for those around me. One of the most loving things we can do is to help others find this in the person of Jesus Christ.

Particularly in the spring, this simple quote from the Greek playwright Nikos Kazantzakis often pops into my mind: “I said to the almond tree, ‘speak to me of God,’ and the almond tree blossomed.” If we use our creativity for the pursuit of beauty, we’ll surely find God.