Notre Dame is still the best and, along with The Catholic University of America, the most Catholic of the major Catholic universities.
We pause during the Thanksgiving weekend to reflect with gratitude on the many manifestations of Catholic faith and learning that continue to grace the University of Notre Dame and for the rich opportunities for spiritual and intellectual growth that it affords its students. Our mission obliges us to report on the serious fault lines in the school’s Catholic identity so that the weakening of the school’s Catholic identity won’t go unnoticed until it is too late, but we recognize that this might lead some readers to think that it’s already too late and that Notre Dame has little left to offer parents and students looking for an authentically Catholic school. But in fact there is much about Notre Dame as a Catholic school to be celebrated, and Thanksgiving is good time to do it. We repeat what we have said before: Notre Dame is the best, and along with The Catholic University of America the most Catholic, of the major Catholic universities. There is a palpable religious “feel” on the campus; liturgies, retreats and the like abound; and a solid, if reduced, cohort of excellent Catholic (and some non-Catholic) faculty continue to offer those students who choose carefully a splendid Catholic education. It is to afford those students guidance that Sycamore Trust has established a directory of a large number of faculty members who provide the sort of education that should be the stamp of a Catholic university. Outside the classroom, faculty institutes such as the Center for Ethics & Culture , the Institute for Church Life, and the Toqueville Program, under the leadership respectively of professors O. Carter Snead, John Cavadini, and Phillip Munoz, play important roles in advancing the Catholic mission of the school. And there is the radiating impact of the ACE program under Father Timothy Scully, which trains graduates to teach in under-financed K-12 Catholic schools throughout the country. The annual Center for Ethics & Culture conference is a good example. I was joined by our executive director Tim Dempsey and board members Michael Bradley and Jonathon Liedl at this year’s conference a couple of weeks ago. We can all testify to the significance of this event both within and without the university. Luminaries like Ambassador Mary Ann Glendon spoke, as did many other gifted and prominent participants including a number of Notre Dame faculty; and the 1,000 attendees included many Catholic and Protestant scholars and public intellectuals along with a good many students. (The warmly applauded tribute Professor Snead paid to the Center’s and conference’s founder and long-time leader, Professor Emeritus David Solomon, was a special highlight. Professor Snead announced that the Center has funded a permanent graduate school fellowship in Dr. Solomon’s name.) The student organizations dedicated to Catholic faith and learning are at least as important. They are home to the many students for whom living as a Christian is a driving desire. We list these organizations on our website and will continue to pay attention to them in future bulletins, but at this time we want to emphasize that one of Sycamore Trust’s most important roles is to provide support to these students to the fullest extent we can. For example, several years ago we kept the Irish Rover publishing with a $10,000 donation; we have contributed as much or more to the annual Edith Stein Conferences; we regularly provide the strollers for the biannual showers the ND Right to Life club sponsors for women served by the Women’s Care Center who have chosen life; and we have often responded to requests from other student organizations for help. We have also on occasion assisted students in their individual missions when the circumstances warranted and we were able. For example, we provided the funds to enable two Notre Dame students to attend a Texas leadership conference of the Fellowship of Catholic Students (FOCUS), a wonderful organization that sends Catholic graduates to college campuses to be missionaries for Christ among students. And now that they have graduated from Notre Dame, we are contributing to their support in their first year of missionary work. Here’s a buoyant newsletter from Megan Fenowich at the University of Texas, and Marco Cerritelli writes from a new outpost in Vienna:
Thank you for your generous support of my work this year. Your generosity makes my work possible. The very important work of your organization is in my prayers.