Kate Barrett, Associate Director of Liturgy
Sometimes I walk around our almost ridiculously beautiful campus and think, “I can’t believe I get to come to work here every day!” I feel it when heading into the Basilica, or down that awesome center path through the trees between the statue of Fr. Sorin and the Dome, or past yet another group of tourists listening intently to the legends and factoids and lore that make up the Notre Dame story.
You may be thinking, “Aww, that’s sweet – she must be new here,” or perhaps, “Doesn’t she understand that there’s more to Notre Dame than how pretty it is?”
Well, no, I’m not; and yes, I do.
I’m almost embarrassed to say how not new I am … it’s been almost 36 years, actually, since I moved into Farley Hall as a first-year student, with a couple of short breaks here and there. A few things have changed: the bookstore, a tiny building on South Quad, was so cramped that at busy times you’d have to line up outside and wait your turn just to enter the building to buy books or t-shirts. What’s now West Quad was still about nine holes of the 18-hole Burke golf course, then our only campus course. So you might think I’ve been here long enough to get used to working (and at times, living) at Notre Dame. Nonetheless, I still have frequent moments of newbie-like awe at my great fortune to have the job I do, as it gives me the opportunity to accompany others as they explore their faith, and in so doing help me grow in mine.
After a career path in Campus Ministry that could at best be called “meandering,” and including more years than not of a very part-time schedule while my children were younger, I have been fortunate to land on the Liturgy team. Here (mind. blown. again.) I have the distinct privilege of supporting our common prayer all over campus: the residence halls, the Basilica, the Grotto, even the Purcell Pavilion when we turn it into a giant, temporary church a few weekends a year. I hope my ministry plays a small part in helping all our varied communities – students, faculty members, staff and visitors – to share our faith, to practice it, to try and fail and try again to draw closer each day to Jesus Christ.
Over the last three-plus decades I have learned that Notre Dame is exponentially more than its gorgeous campus; it’s more than all the facts and stories, embellished or otherwise, that you learn as a visitor, student or long-time faculty or staff member. At various times, Notre Dame has moved me, disappointed me, infuriated me, mystified me, and impressed me beyond my wildest imaginings.
Underneath the physical beauty of this place lies a foundation of 175 years of people faithfully seeking to know, love and serve God through a bold belief. We believe that we can find truth in the classroom and in the Basilica; in the lab and at the Grotto; in the Hesburgh and Kresge and Mahaffey libraries and in the chapels of each of our residence halls.
As a student at Notre Dame I somehow knew that I had come to a place deeply saturated with trust in God, a place that truly desired to share that trust with me and each of my fellow students. If you are reading this as an incoming first-year student, please know that if you are open to beginning or deepening your relationship with Jesus here, it’s perhaps the best gift Notre Dame can give you.
Um, how about an education, you might ask (or your parents might want to ask)? Yes, exactly. The deeper gift of Notre Dame lies in the truth that emerges from the “and.” Your education will be of your mind and your heart, grown in the library and the chapel, in friendships and in service, alone at prayer and joined in shared worship, in sorrow and in joy, when God feels acutely present to you and even when you feel most alone.
While you may think this place is beautiful to look at, especially when you are first learning your way around, pay attention to the ways in which the beauty goes much deeper than that. You’ll notice the beauty in the people who will become your dearest friends; in the opportunity to bring your joys and sorrows to prayer at the Grotto or in the chapel just a few steps from your room. You’ll notice it in the questions you’ll ask your classmates and professors and rectors – and the answers will be more complete because we can have the courage to allow faith in God to be a critical part of the conversation.
All these ways I’ve come to know Notre Dame over the years kept popping into my head while asking myself “why I minister.”
You incoming first-years who are reading this? You’re why I minister; you’re why we all do. Hope to see you under the trees on God Quad’s center path.