Category Archives: October 2018

André House: an experience of making God known, loved, and served.

Jenna Morgan, Senior Anchor Intern – Retreats and Pilgrimages

André House will always hold a special place in my heart.

For the past two fall breaks I’ve had the privilege to travel with a group of Notre Dame students to the André House of Hospitality in Phoenix, Arizona on a Seminage (a collaboration between the Center for Social Concerns and Campus Ministry). Last year was the first time I had ever been to André House, let alone Arizona. It was a whirlwind of a time to say the least. The experience and the people I met launched me on a yearlong path of heightened awareness, growth, and continued self-discovery.

After my first visit to André House, I knew immediately that if I was ever in Phoenix again, I wanted to return and volunteer for a few days. However, I never expected to have the opportunity to return so soon. That was until I accepted a position as a Senior Anchor Intern in Campus Ministry for Retreats and Pilgrimages and was asked if I would help co-lead the Hands of St. André Seminage over fall break 2018. After much prayer and reflection, I accepted the role not fully understanding all that my “yes” would entail, but feeling nudged in that direction none the less.

The series of meetings leading up to the immersion were a blur of Friday planning meetings with my co-leader and long Monday nights of class and leadership formation. On paper I was prepared to help lead this Seminage, but I can honestly say that between the businesses of academics, events for Campus Ministry, planning for my post-grad future, and simply living the life of a senior at Notre Dame, I didn’t fully comprehend that I was going back to André House until it was 4 am at the O’Hare airport waiting for our flight to Phoenix. As I sat at the airport I reflected back to a year ago, another early morning start, and to that experience, the people, the encounters, the moments, and the feelings. I was caught in this sort of tension between wanting the experience to feel familiar, to recognize faces around me, and at the same time realizing that if it was too similar and I saw too many of the same faces from last year, then sadly in the intervening year nothing would have changed in the lives of the homeless and impoverished guests that rely on the services of André House.

To give a bit of background for those unfamiliar with André House, the André House of Hospitality in Phoenix, Arizona began in late 1984 when two Holy Cross priests from Notre Dame rented a house in a working-class neighborhood in Phoenix with the mission to respond to the basic needs of the poor and homeless, while encouraging others to do the same. On November 29, 1984, the first guest was welcomed. This began a long tenure of hospitality inspired by the life of St. André Bessette and the traditions of the Congregation of Holy Cross. This mission of André House has continued to be supported by many Holy Cross religious and countless volunteers over the years. Today, André House serves an average of 600 plates of food per night, six nights a week, as well as providing other needed services such as a free clothing closet, laundry, showers, an office with a phone, basic medication and first-aid, lockers, legal services, blanket distribution, restrooms, access to clean water, and a welcoming porter by the gate.

Notre Dame's fall break group pictured with an image of St. André Bessette.
Notre Dame’s fall break group pictured with an image of St. André Bessette.

Upon arriving in Phoenix with all my fatigue, stress, and worries, I wondered what the week ahead would look like for us. As soon as we pulled up to the gate to begin our week at André House, all those thoughts dropped away and I was fully immersed back into the André House community, that crazy, caring, blessed, sometimes dysfunctional family. In a way it was like going home; a place that was familiar but still different then the last time I had left it. A place where so many elements of life are beautifully and messily juxtaposed against one another.

A few significant moments from this year’s trip particularly stand out to me:

My first shift this year was in the office with a member from our group and a member of the core staff. I remembered being in the office last year and the fast-paced, request filling agenda. This time was no different. Some requests for hygiene kits or aspirin were easily fulfilled, others were more of a challenge. The office is a balancing act between upholding the established rules and procedure, and determining when they can be stretched or broken to meet the varied needs of the guests. A special moment was when a guest asked for a rosary and I was able to go downstairs into the basement and find one for her. Her gratitude was sincere.   

There was the encounter while portering by the gate (a legacy of St. André Bessette’s hospitality) when I was walking amongst the guests on the rows of benches. I sat down across from one guy with a Syracuse hat on and started talking to him, asking if he was also from upstate New York. Our conversation was slow, fragmented and waning when another guy further down the bench woke up and started talking. He shared that it was his first day at André House, he had just been released from the hospital, and his mother had recently died. This was a lot to comprehend in the span of a few short sentences. Immediately he was seeking a blanket for the evening when the temperature would drop substantially outside, but his need was much greater than that and less tangible. He came back a few minutes later and straddled the bench right next to me. He repeated his story, this time with a few additional details. At what seemed like the end of our conversation, I told him that I would be praying for him. At that, he could not resist embracing me in a hug, and then another hug, and then finally another hug while lightly kissing my cheek and gently patting my back which was then followed by the question of if I had a boyfriend. In that moment I realized multiple things; the importance of extending genuine prayers to others, the need to be truly listened to, the need for human connection and embrace, but also my own vulnerability, particularly as a young woman. Without wanting to cause him any additional suffering, but also recognizing my vulnerability in the situation, I gently extracted myself with a quick self-protecting “yes” and a need to go help inside. Looking back on this encounter, I wonder if this was not the face of Christ present to me in that moment, an opportunity to encounter and embrace another broken individual in their time of need, despite my own hesitations and misgivings.

André House is a huge family sharing in life together. During lunch one day we celebrated the 50th birthday of the hardworking maintenance worker with a special lunch and lots of cake. As a community, we mourned the loss of a guest’s beloved dog and comforted her with empathy and a framed picture of them together. Signs of hope were present with the “weddings” of two couples; one that began the day before with the most unique version of Say Yes to the Dress you could probably ever see in the basement clothing racks. We had the opportunity to experience André House as a guest by grabbing a meal ticket to go through the service line for dinner, sit in the dining room, and talking with the guests. André House truly blurs the line between those serving and those being served in the most beautiful ways that lead to solidarity, empathy, and community.

Holy Cross signage at André House
Holy Cross signage at André House

The way Mass is celebrated each day at André House is unique. It is not in a fancy basilica or chapel, but directly in our place of service and community; the St. Francis dining room with all the staff gathered together sitting around a series of circular tables pushed together. Last year and this year again, this celebration of the Mass struck me as the closest I will ever come to being at the Last Supper with all the faithful disciples gathered around the table for the consecration of the bread and wine. For me, one of the most beautiful moments in this celebration of the Mass is the passing of the Body and Blood around the table, each person receiving from and giving to the other. On Wednesday my idea of what Mass looks like expanded even further when we brought the Mass outside to the guests on the rows of benches. This isn’t the peaceful, quiet, reverent Masses we might be used to at the Basilica on campus, no this is truly sharing the Gospel with the masses, hearing real, messy petitions offered up for prayer, smelling the stench of who knows what, and placing the Body of Christ into dirty, weathered hands while looking into the eyes of strangers, who aren’t really strangers, but brothers and sisters in Christ. This might not be what we initially think of when we think of the Mass, but it is beautiful in its own way none the less, and might actually be more related to our everyday lives then we may initially believe or want to admit.  

In the end, André House is a lot about listening to the stories of others, calling each other by name, and cleaning away the dirt, both literal and metaphorical, to discover the glimpses of grace sparkling throughout our lives. My André House experience was a beautiful reminder of the joys and sorrows that accompany the sometimes crazy life I lead, but above all, it was an important reminder of how truly blessed I am, as I keep all those who call André House home in my prayers.

St. André Bessette, Pray for Us!

If you are interested in learning more about André House, or how you can get involved, please visit for more information.



Oscar Romero: The Saint Who is Done with “It’s fine, I’m fine”

Marissa Griffith, Senior Anchor Intern – Sacramental Preparation and Catechesis

During the summer following my freshman year of college, I went on a mission trip to Uganda. As we encountered the poor, I saw how so many of them were completely reliant on charity simply to survive. I wondered if this was a parallel for my relationship with God. When he says “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” is he asking me to rely completely on His charity, on His Love? (Matthew 5:3)  To accept the reality of my brokenness – my poverty – and rely completely on the Lord meant that I had to learn to trust Him.

The following spring I was preparing for an ISSLP in Tanzania, and in learning about international development, I saw how seeing the poor as passive recipients of charity instead of active protagonists in their story is an unhealthy social dynamic that fosters continued dependence on developed nations that stunts the growth of developing nations. I was so convicted that this was true, but what did this say about my call to be poor in spirit? I didn’t want to ignore the reality of suffering in order to explain the Gospel.

Seeking a space to grapple with these questions, I signed up for a theology class called Mercy and Liberation. There I was introduced to Oscar Romero, the archbishop of El Salvador during the oppression leading up to the Salvadoran civil war. Reading Romero, I was struck by how he preached the Gospel. He didn’t try to explain away the suffering of the poor as God’s will or tell them that if they suffered patiently God would reward them. He made no attempt to say that everything was fine if they just trusted in God. In fact, he was very comfortable saying that everything was not fine and that suffering was not God’s will for His people. He was convicted that his people were worth more than a pat on the shoulder, a trite saying, or any false preaching of the Gospel that ignored the reality of their pain. So, every Sunday homily, as he announced the Gospel of the Lord, he denounced structural sin right along with it. He called his people to a deeper trust that when God saw the suffering of his people, he did not stand by and watch, but came and dwelt among them. Just so, Romero came to his suffering people and stood with them. He acknowledged the depth of their suffering and, by standing with the lowest in society, had the eyes to see the reality of injustice that the poor experienced, an injustice that was maintained by oppression. Any “peace” that covers up injustice is false peace, he saw; true peace is rooted in justice.

I had the opportunity to go on pilgrimage to El Salvador with Campus Ministry last spring break; this photo was taken from the altar on which St. Oscar Romero was martyred. He was shot through these open doors while saying mass.

The next semester, everything was going great. I had a good group of friends, I was enjoying my classes, and nothing was going particularly wrong. However, just when I thought I was fine, life threw me some gut punches and it became clear that everything was not fine. First, a bad job interview. Next, waitlisted for the Campus Ministry Internship. Then, a friend unexpectedly called me out for a habitual sin I was unaware of that was hurting many of my relationships. Each one of these was a blow to my ego, but the last one really knocked the wind out of me. I place so much value in my relationships that it physically hurt to think that my behavior had harmed those that I treasure so deeply. Confronted with the reality of my sin, I couldn’t ignore the state of my heart anymore. It was only by facing my brokenness, sin, and inability to get out of the mess I had made that I saw my absolute need of God’s grace to lift me out of it. God can’t heal something that I won’t give to him; I had to expose my heart so the Divine Physician could do His work. I had to trust Him enough to uncover the hidden sin in my life so that it could be rooted out, and I learned not to be scared to pray for “everything hidden to come into the light.” (Luke 8:17)

St. Oscar Romero was canonized October 14, 2018, along with Pope St. Paul VI. Here he is with a group of young people in El Salvador.

This semester, I’m continuing to walk with Romero as I write my thesis on his ministry and preaching. As the hidden sins of some of our Church leaders come into the light, Romero has given me a way to grapple with these horrific realities. Confronted with the reality of shockingly widespread sin, I have been given strength to pray that everything hidden will come into the light so that the work of healing can begin. Although it is overwhelming to think of the scale of our brokenness as a Church, people deserve more than just picking up the pieces of the wreckage sin has left behind. It’s going to be a painful process, but Romero reminds me that it’s not enough to say that our Church is “fine.” The Church isn’t fine, but she is holy; not because her members are holy, but because Christ is holy. Romero says that “the Church persists because she is composed of people who place their fragile trust in Christ, and Christ is in God, and God is in Christ and in us.” Romero preaches that the Church, the Body of Christ, is made up of individual members and if we are to address root causes of widespread sin we must begin with the heart of each person. We the Church are part of the culture that forms its members. A culture of sin begins with the personal sin of individuals, so a culture of truth and healing begins with each individual who has the courage to expose their heart to the Lord. That we may have the courage to let the painful healing process begin, St. Oscar Romero, pray for us!




Resurrection: A Daily Event

Andie Tong, Senior Anchor Intern – Evangelization 

We laugh about it now, but at the ripe age of seven, I accidentally cut my dad’s finger with pruning shears. This learning moment, seared into my memory, comes to mind every time I read John 15:1-3:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does not bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

Though I didn’t have the best track record with pruning, I asked God to show me what needed to be pruned in my life. Spoiler alert: He answered.

The end of junior year brought to a close one of my most challenging years of college; a year full of learning how I love, or fail to love others, and a tough goodbye to a cherished relationship. What resulted was a brokenness I had never experienced. Slowly and painstakingly, this season of change seemed to prune away my pride and attachment to my plans  – things of comfort that I wanted to keep.

In tandem with the inner pruning at work, I embarked on a journey of professional growth. Through towering concrete, mountains, and forests, I traveled 7,000 miles around the country working for a non-profit that prioritizes community through justice education on college campuses. No words can fully articulate my gratitude for the vineyard workers whom I had the privilege of working alongside; their openness, generous questioning, and dedication to community building have shaped some of the best parts of me. Despite this felt growth, I sensed a restlessness in my bones. I presumed that God, the vinedresser, was rustling in the leaves – drawing close for reasons I did not yet know.

The Break Away office in Atlanta where I worked as a Programs Intern
The Break Away office in Atlanta where I worked as a Programs Intern

At Break Away, I was surrounded by beautiful people, people passionate about social justice and fueled by a healthy dose of righteous anger. Anger wasn’t an emotion I had dealt with often, so it was disorienting to feel the chords of anger others struck resounding within myself. My heart clutched onto withering branches: holding onto my pride, shame, and anger on behalf of others.

Brokenness in my relationships, brokenness in systemic injustice, and brokenness in our church. My withering branches steeped in frustration that the Lord wanted to take so much away. Exhausted, I set out to find balm that would heal these painful wounds.

I saw two paths crystallizing before me: one of reckoning with shaking fists and one of mercy with open hands. Out of fear of the unknown, I was resistant to taking a step in either direction, until I read the following excerpt from Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson:

“We are all broken by something…Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would have never chosen…But simply punishing the broken – walking away from them or hiding them from sight – only ensures that they remain broken and we do, too.”

The mountains of Salt Lake City where the words of Bryan Stevenson left me shook

Though not all at once, I began to realize that forgiveness and mercy were the hands I needed to extend, rather than walking away or hiding. I knew I couldn’t will myself into it; day by day the Lord faithfully walked with me, revealing that brokenness is not something to resist but something to bring to the light.

This is not just any light; it’s not the stark, fluorescent glare of a classroom nor the warm glow of Edison bulbs in a coffee shop. It’s the brilliance of the Resurrection in everyday life. For me, the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross has served as a beacon of what this looks like:

“Resurrection for us is a daily event… We have known the forgiveness of those who misuse their neighbor; we have seen heartbreak and defeat lead to a transformed life; we have heard the conscience of an entire church stir; we have marveled at the insurrection of justice… We walk by Easter’s first light, and it makes us long for its fullness” (Constitution 119).

Finally yielding to the vinedresser allowed this light to peek through the overgrowth of my dying branches. Delicately and assiduously (unlike seven-year-old me), the Father helped me lay dead branches to rest – making room for trust in the truth of the Resurrection.

The contrast of stepping back into the familiarity of campus as a new person has been the surest sign of growth, as confusing as it may sometimes feel. From heavy talks about injustice redeemed by the hope of grassroots change to simply making new memories in old places: the Resurrection, an event I used to think of as a one-time miracle that occurred 2,000 years ago, is now something I experience daily.

Meaningful conversations offer glimpses of the endless depth of another person that meld my anger into mercy. Placing relics of a past self along with evidence of brokenness in our institutions at the foot of the Cross transforms my shame into trust that all has been and will be made new. Every day, I see goodness and brokenness come into tension; every day, I recommit to the eternal perspective that this is what makes life whole. Dreaming of eternity: this is the fruit that lasts.

The Gift of Music

Joe Crowley, Senior Anchor Intern – Liturgy

When I was young, I never really understood why the bread and wine were put on a little table in the back of my home parish church before Mass started. Couldn’t the priest just keep the cruets and the bowl on the side of the altar until the liturgy of the Eucharist? Why did they need to be marched back from the sacristy by an usher, and then marched up the aisle to the priest, and then doled out to altar servers before finally being used? My efficient sensibilities didn’t approve of all of this changing of hands. Get the gifts up there so that I can receive Jesus.

I began accompanying Masses at my home parish when I was finishing eighth grade. At first, I looked at this opportunity primarily as an opportunity to spend a lot of my time during the Mass doing something that I love to do, which meant less time wondering what I should be thinking about or praying about or how I should be holding my hands or anything like that. I loved playing piano, and when I got the invitation to join the music group I thought playing for Mass would make me enjoy Mass more.

After accompanying a few Masses the whole way through, I came to an important realization: providing music for Mass was a time-intensive job. I was still working on becoming a better pianist, and so every week I would spend hours practicing the handful of songs that were up for that Sunday, then take a quick breath and start in on next Sunday’s songs. Mass used to be either engaging or boring to me, but now Mass could be a lot of things all at once: thrilling, stressful, embarrassing, frightening, moving, exciting. In the larger cost-benefit analysis, why did anyone choose to give so much when they didn’t feel like they were getting entirely positive benefits? Why serve?

There’s a lovely woman who sits in the front row at my home parish during Saturday evening Mass. She walks elegantly with a cane and dresses in clothes that are perfectly matched to whatever the colors of the church season are. She has been at Saturday evening Masses for as long as I am able to remember. She was one of those people who somewhat regularly brought up the gifts at Mass. One day, a couple of months into my accompaniment career, she pulled me aside after Mass and said, “Thank you for your music. It makes me feel alive, alive in the life of Christ. Thank you for sharing your great gift with us.”

The piano in Dillon Hall chapel where Joe regularly provides music for Mass.

I was stunned. People had told me that I had been doing a good job, and of course, my parents were incredibly supportive of me in my accompaniment endeavors, but this was different. This was the first time someone who I didn’t really know in any way other than by her faithful devotion of attending the Saturday 5 pm Mass came to me and told me that I had helped her to connect to Christ.

That was what service to the Church was all about. I don’t give of my gifts for my own sake, I give of them for other people to enjoy too, in the hopes that they’ll bring others closer to Christ. Over time, I found that this realization powered my faith life: I started to grow closer to God through my ministry because I knew that I could take joy in this opportunity to bring others closer to God too.

It took me a while, but I finally figured out why the presentation of the gifts is so important at Mass: it’s an outward embodiment of our community giving what we have to give so that our entire community may be nourished. My piano playing at Mass, then, is an extension of this presentation of gifts. The lectors, the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, and the singers are all an extension of this wider presentation of gifts, each one of them giving what they have so that our community may be spiritually nourished. Participating in the Mass is about so much more than me getting spiritual enrichment for myself. It’s about giving my gifts to God and to my community, trusting that God will use them to bring others closer to Him. I love liturgy because of the beautiful ways in which God takes the gifts we offer him and multiplies them out further than we can ever imagine.

My faith life looks fundamentally different now than it would have had I never been invited to give of my gift of music to my parish community. I am privileged to be at a university where I can frequently share my gifts with so much of the campus community through accompaniment that I can pour my heart and soul into, raising myself and everyone else in song. I would encourage every person who reads this blog post to ask how they can give of their gifts to their parish community. Once you find a way that you can get involved, go and ask exactly how you can share this gift, whether it be in the context of parish life at large or in the liturgy of the Mass. For me, that primarily looks like providing music for a Mass. For others, that could mean greeting people as they come through the doors, offering to do one of the readings, or sitting next to a community member whom you can tell is having a tough day. Ministry comes in many forms, and we are each called to be ministers to one another. Our God is generous, no one is empty-handed when it comes to the gifts He gives, and we are all invited to bring our gifts to the Lord and trust that He will use them for the enrichment of our community.