All posts by Danielle

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.

Why We Minister: Mary Olen

Mary Olen, Administrative Assistant, Retreat Administrative Coordinator

Why do I stay up watching one more episode of Fargo when I have to work in the morning? Why do I eat that third piece of chicken when I was full after the second piece?  Why did I offer to write this blog when I despise writing?  Those are the difficult questions!   Why we minister?  That is much easier.

Tender, Strong and True // Freshman Retreat

Leaving Martin’s supermarket, I have a trunk full of groceries and two kids strapped into the backseat. As I pull out onto Elwood Street heading home, I notice a young woman struggling to juggle groceries and a toddler while standing at the bus stop. I pull up to the curb and ask if she would like a ride. She eagerly and gratefully accepts. We make room to pack them into our little Saturn wagon. Driving several miles to the west-side on Indiana Avenue, she points to the building where I should pull over.  Mentioning how far she has to travel to grocery shop, she tells me the commute takes her downtown where she transfers buses. The block we are on is not residential and she motions to a door on the side street.  We gather her bags and trudge up the stairs which empties into a single dingy room above an abandoned business front.  There is one wooden table with 2 chairs, a bed, and a sink. I am ready to drop the groceries and get the heck out of there as she reaches for a bible from the bed and tells me how she is trying to get her life together.  She has done a lot of drugs in the past and knows that she needs to stop. Calling me an angel, she believes that God sent me to help her that day.  I laugh and tell her I am about as far from an angel as there could be but that I was happy I could be of some help.  “Keep praying,” I say “I will pray for you, too.”

Days later, my daughter asked why I picked up a person on the street that I did not know.  I told her it was because she seemed like she needed help and I felt sorry for her.  As soon as the words were leaving my lips, memories shot back into my mind: my mom taking prepared meals to elderly neighbors, buying extra groceries for a single mom who lived in a rundown house at the end of the alley- witnessing those acts of kindness made a deep impression on me.  Are we born with compassion or are we taught compassion?  Is caring and compassion what fuels our desire to minister?  Did 12 years of Catholic education make a difference? I believe yes is the answer.     

The Plunge // African-American Freshman Retreat

The awesome part of ministering is that it often has a retroactive effect.  I left the apartment of a stranger I helped and it made me more humble, more grateful, more present and alive to all the blessings in my life.  “There, but for the Grace of God, go I.” My encounter with a stranger ministered to my children.  You do not need an invitation to assist.  Ministering is just aiding someone in need or just sitting still for someone who needs a listening ear.  We do it every day.  Why?  Well, that depends on who you are.  

So, here I am in Campus Ministry.  I am not a minister by definition.  I do not hold an MDiv., not even a minor in Theology.  As an Administrative Assistant, I minister all day long: to students, to the staff I support, to the people who just drop by because they are visiting campus. But, that is my job. I believe that the true ministering is done with perfect strangers, not expecting anything out of the ordinary who are suddenly given a smile, a hello, a ride as they are standing in the rain waiting for a bus, or given a place in line at the store because they look like they’re in a hurry.  Each of these people are being noticed.  In that small instance of acknowledgment, they feel loved. Isn’t that what everyone really wants?  We seek to minister because we love and we are able to minister because we have witnessed it.  Amen.

Why We Minister: Allie Greene

Allie Greene, Assistant Director of Liturgy

I sat in the Basilica alone on a freezing winter evening, in need of a quiet place to pray. I chose a pew, sat down, crossed my arms, and glared daggers at the tabernacle. My silent prayer went something like this:

“Really – nothing? It’s been months. Which part of my prayer was unclear? I’m out of patience and so tired of this. No more gentle ‘I trust in your will’ prayers. It’s your turn.”

Both satisfied in my silent reproach of God and defeated that I had come to that point, I genuflected and exited the church. It wasn’t my finest moment of trust in God’s providence and grace.

It was, however, one of the most honest moments of prayer I’ve ever experienced. Before then, I believed that giving my intentions over to God would feel good-natured and graceful, easy to do with answers to follow quickly. I was wrong: it felt more like exhaustion from running out of other options.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart // University Photographer

The answer to why I minister is rooted in my experience of prayer. I try to be a faithful disciple, and I hope to help our students do the same, to grow in faith here at Notre Dame and far beyond. Specifically, my ministry is to help our students to pray well together, and there’s a phrase I use to describe this work: serious joy.

It’s serious because this ministry is no small task: to teach students how to pray and how to lead communal prayer, to offer formation as they plan Masses and prayer services, and to encourage them to grow in their faith long after they leave Notre Dame.

At the same time, this ministry is abundantly joyful. I’m privileged to see what happens when students — while praying together — encounter God. I hear them give reflections on Scripture and listen as their words bring new light to old passages. I watch as students give their time, energy, and boundless courage to lead music during their hall’s Sunday Masses. I see their heads bowed, eyes lifted, hands folded, hugs of peace, and other postures and gestures of prayer expressed. It’s a true joy to pray with, for, and among our students.

I have a personal investment in working with students to plan liturgies because it was in the Mass that God and I first found each other. In effort to grow in faith, I’d gone on service trips, attended many retreats, and prayed with Scripture; however, it was in Mass that I first encountered God and that encounter is what compelled me to return.

At different points in my life, I’ve found great comfort at Mass — even if I’m distracted, even if I don’t know the songs, and even if I only caught the opening line of a homily before my mind raced in another direction. I have strong memories of events that took place in the context of Mass, some monumental and some rather routine: I’ve witnessed my college friends become ordained priests, and received chrism oil on my forehead at Confirmation; I’ve run straight from the lake to church on a summer Saturday, and celebrated the beautiful sacrament of my sister’s wedding. Like my prayer, Mass takes different forms and shapes, but it is a constant in my life. Mass was both fifteen-minutes before starting my high school day and the three-hour Vigil on the night before Easter. Mass sounds like a packed residence hall chapel of women’s voices and like echoing silence after communion in a French cathedral.

Truthfully, going to Mass doesn’t always feel like the most thrilling activity in which I participate. I can’t compare it to rollerblading, kayaking, or watching Notre Dame football. But I don’t go to Mass because it’s always thrilling. I go to Mass to meet God there, again and again. And I keep going back because of what the liturgy compels me to do after: to be God’s hands, feet, voice, and love in the world.

I’m grateful for this ministry in helping students to pray well together. I hope that they will always want to return to God in different moments of prayer, as I do, and never to be far from that encounter.

Student Prayer in Ryan Hall Chapel

About a month later, I felt overwhelming gratitude when I received an answer to my despairing, wintry-day prayer. So I returned to that same pew in the Basilica, this time for a different style of prayer. I found there a place to pray when I was exhausted and felt unheard, so it made sense to go back when I was grateful and filled with hope. I was honest with God before in my pain and confusion, and honest with God again in amazement and joy. I minister with the hope that our students will do the same and find faith in the constancy of God’s love, particularly in the way it is revealed to us through the Mass.

Why We Minister: Fr. Pete McCormick, C.S.C.

Fr. Pete McCormick, C.S.C., Director, Campus Ministry

Out into the Deep

As Faith began to wade out into the water, I attached her skis and taught her the basics of what to do when the boat began to pull.  Confident that she had a good enough sense of the mechanics, I told her to sit down in the water and close her eyes.  After a quizzical look, she settled into the water, closed her eyes and at that moment I cupped my hands and splashed her in the face with enough water to get a quick “What did you do that for?”  I looked at her and said, “Most water skiers your age fail not because they can’t pull themselves out of the water, but because the water hits them in the face and they start to panic.” 

Fr. Pete on the water!

With water dripping from her face, she smiled and settled in for her first attempt.  It wasn’t until the fourth try that we hit pay dirt.  Faith made almost an entire loop around the truncated path that my uncle carved out on her maiden voyage.  About 100 yards from shore Faith encountered a set of waves that looked fierce, and in fact they were fierce.  I watched her go up and down, up and down, and then just down. 

Splash!  After my uncle circled back and began bringing Faith to shore I could see her standing on the boat like George Washington on his way across the Delaware.  When she finally made it back, Faith looked over and said, “Now that was a lot of water.”

The key to our spiritual faith is to be equally expressive.  Jesus asks his disciples in St. Matthew’s Gospel to clarify who people think he is.  They respond by saying: John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.  However, St. Peter filled with faith replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” 

St. Peter, the fisherman by trade, the one who had a documented temper from time to time, who would go on to deny Christ three times, recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah.  Jesus’ response was clear and direct:  “… you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…”. 

Was St. Peter fully ready for Jesus’ invitation?  Debatable.  Yet, the compelling fact about faith is that it never leaves us where we started and rarely offers a complete road map for how to get there.  When Jesus first encountered St. Peter on the Sea of Galilee he didn’t unfurl a ten-point plan on the benefits of following Him.  Jesus simply said, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  That same invitation to follow is extended to us today.  How do we respond? 

First, we can stay near the shore and play it safe.  The waves will pose a minimal threat and we’ll have no fear of the water hitting our face.  This lifestyle tends to be more predictable, minimal risk, less stress and a greater reliance on our own abilities. 

Or, we can let Jesus pull us into the deeper water where the waves are bigger, trust and belief are essential and we are reminded that the answers we seek are sometimes too big to solve in a lifetime.   

When answering the question of “Why I Minister?”, I hope that it is because I’m willing to let literal and figurative water hit me in the face.  To be out a little deeper than I’d prefer, but always trust that the one who called and even tugged me here will also see me through.  As St. Paul so beautifully points out in his letter to the Romans, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  For from him and through him and for him are all things.” 

I cannot promise that a life lived with faith will be perfect.  You will fall and fail.  Further, I cannot guarantee that everything will go according to plan: majors will change, relationships will change, priorities will change, and you will change. 

I can promise that lives dedicated to faith will ultimately transform relationships, improve communities and bring us all a step closer to the Kingdom of Heaven.