Annual Request & Report 2017

Annual Request & Report 2017

It has been the great work of Sycamore Trust to respectfully but firmly call Notre Dame to stand tall for the truth of Catholicism. (Prof. Gerard Bradley, Notre Dame Law School) Click To Tweet

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Dear Friends of Sycamore Trust,

The world needs devout Catholic leaders whose faith not only defines their spiritual identity but is also the governing force of their lives. And these leaders need a Catholic alternative to top tier universities lest the most capable of them are formed in secular values to defend a secular world.

The University of Notre Dame is the only Catholic university in America that competes at this level. But powerful secular forces press upon it and it has lost much of its Catholic identity.. Sycamore Trust’s mission is to work toward the restoration of Notre Dame’s Catholic identity and to protect it for future generations. For the past ten years since our founding, we have done this by providing a source of information, a means of communication, and a collective voice to Notre Dame alumni and others in the Notre Dame family who share our concern. We investigate  and report whatever goes on at the university that undermines its Catholic identity; we provide guidance to students on selection of teachers and courses; and we afford financial and other support to the Catholic student organizations that are essential to the school’s Catholic character.

No one else does what we do.  If it weren’t for us, no one would know how much the school’s Catholic identity has been impaired, and secular forces would have no opposition from outside the university. Now, nothing gets swept under the rug, and publicity can both deter and alter actions. There was a notable example a few weeks ago when we exposed the university’s plan to make the cost of employees’ abortions reimbursable through the university’s Flexible Spending Account plan. Employees could get cut-rate abortions.  The university cancelled the plan the next day.

With more Notre Dame alumni, family and friends joining our mailing list (we’re up to some 17,000), strong support from Catholic news sources and a host of social media and blog sites that report on our bulletins, and record-breaking attendance at our Annual Breakfast during Alumni Weekend (which is streamed live online for those who are unable to make the trip), it’s clear that that our mission has struck a chord.

What’s also clear is that we cannot succeed without the support of those who share our goals. It is the time of year we ask for it, and we do so most earnestly. Our effectiveness depends in large measure on our resources. We are mindful of the demands that press upon you, and so we close with a request for the most important form of support, your prayers.

For the Sycamore Trust officers and directors,
William H. Dempsey (’52)

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If you’ve followed our bulletins, it will come as no surprise that our near-term outlook for an authentic Catholic renewal at Notre Dame continues to be bleak. What keeps us going is is an abiding love for Our Lady’s University and a vibrant Catholic presence that persists in a number of classrooms, institutes, and organizations. But there is a long way to go and we have a lot to do.

After more than a decade of experience, we are well acquainted with the subtle dynamics at work at the university that relate to its mission – the causes of the secularization that has taken place, the sources of Catholic vitality that remain, and the ways in which Sycamore Trust can most effectively achieve its mission.

Our principal methods for pursuing our mission are conducting regular investigative reports, organizing collective prayer projects among our supporters, contributing to student groups that advance Notre Dame’s Catholic mission, and assisting students in selection of courses and professors who uphold the schools Catholic mission.

Investigative Reporting

Our central strategy is to discover and report whatever goes on at Notre Dame that undermines its Catholic identity. We do not neglect the school’s strengths, but our principal task is to do what no one else does — tell the whole truth on mission matters.  In doing so, we deter potentially damaging actions by the administration and faculty.  In fact, a faculty speaker at one of our Annual Breakfasts said pointedly that the administration now knows they can no longer “sweep everything under the rug.” For example, it is probably the case that our publication of the distressing data on the dramatic reduction of Catholic faculty resulted in the change in hiring policy that halted the decline and made it worthwhile to continue to fight for Notre Dame’s heart and soul.

This year we have published 18 Bulletins on a variety of topics ranging from the impact of the presidential election on Notre Dame, to the awarding of the Laetare Medal to a dissident priest, LGBT protests on campus, another tuition increase far exceeding inflation, and the university’s  misuse of the judicial system to mislead alumni, Church leaders, and the general public on its position related to the Obamacare mandate. These and our other bulletins are available in our archives.

Annual Breakfast

Our Annual Breakfast during Reunion Weekend is both a measure of the growth of the organization and of special importance. From its small beginnings in the spring of 2007, the event now attracts an audience that overflows the large space in McKenna Conference Center and includes hundreds more who watch the event online live. Our speakers are drawn from the very best of the faculty and always include student speakers who reflect on their experiences at Notre Dame.  This year Prof. Gerard Bradley of Notre Dame’s Law School spoke about “The Election, the Church, and Notre Dame.” More about our Annual Breakfast — including a full length video and transcripts of this years talks — is available here.

Student Groups & Organizations

There are many Notre Dame students who are dedicated to the witness of the faith. They are not only ornaments to the university, but testimony to the fact that Notre Dame still has a significant Catholic presence. It is these students in groups such as The Irish Rover, Notre Dame Right to Life, the Edith Stein Conference, Students for a Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP), and Militia Immaculata who are crucial to the Catholic character of the university. More, we look to them for the future of Sycamore Trust and the continuation of our mission to restore the Notre Dame classrooms to the service of Catholic education. Accordingly, we have provided significant assistance – financial and other forms – to all of them.  And with your support we will do more by connecting them to alumni resources and helping them to increase awareness for their activities on campus.


With our 2017 Annual Breakfast there was an upwelling of interest in establishing an apostolate within the Sycamore Trust community to encourage each other to pray collectively for the faithful and fruitful success of Notre Dame’s Catholic mission. This resulted in an extremely popular Novena project which concluded on the first day of classes during the 2017-2018 academic year. We intend to repeat this project annually and have been encouraged to expand it to create other opportunities for collective prayer.

Not only are we unlikely to have a final victory without prayer, but it is perhaps the most apposite way to introduce newcomers to our cause and to others in the Sycamore Trust community who share their concerns and support our mission. There is more on our Novena, including a welcoming video by Fr. John Rapahel introducing the project and a concluding video by Bill Dempsey thanking those who participated with us in it here.

Through, we provide recommendations of teachers who will contribute to a truly Catholic education for students who choose their courses. The recommendations and narrative descriptions were furnished initially by Father Wilson Miscamble, C.S.C, the most gifted and courageous advocate of Catholic educational reform at Notre Dame. Unfortunately, he was ordered to disassociate himself from the project immediately after the site was launched. Nevertheless, we have continued to develop the site, updating content, promoting it to students, and adding additional recommendations from reliable sources.

Growth & Sustainability

Since our founding in 2006, we have funded most of our budget from a single online campaign at year end.  This has enabled us to achieve our initial goals; however, we are now in the position where we must grow in order to be sustainable for the future.  Both our mission and our margin are closely tied to our membership — and of the most significance to our impact and sustainability are:

  • Alumni — who put pressure on the University from the outside and who provide the financial and volunteer resources we need to continue our work;
  • Students — who advance the University’s Catholic identity and promote Catholic activities on campus — supporting our common purpose from the inside; and
  • Parents — who have the University’s ear in a unique way but who have been largely marginalized because of the separation of buyer and consumer interests.

We are focused on significantly strengthening our membership in these areas by increasing numbers, adding value, and deepening relationships.  If you would like to know more about our growth and sustainability plan, please get in touch with us.

The efforts of many faithful members of the Notre Dame family, combined with the generous contributions from people like you, have enabled us to develop what is far and away the most significant organization of its kind. Thank you very much for your interest in our mission and for whatever support you may be able to provide.

And please keep Notre Dame and our effort to protect her Catholic heritage in your prayers.

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