Annual Request 2020

2020 Annual Request & Progress Report

"[Sycamore Trust] does more to promote serious discussion of Notre Dame than any other body" against the "controlled message of the well-oiled university public relations machine." (Rev. Wilson Miscamble, C.S.C.) #GoCatholicND Click To Tweet

Dear Friends of Sycamore Trust,

We are deeply grateful for the generosity that made possible the launch of Sycamore Trust 15 years ago and that has sustained our fight for an authentic Catholic renewal of Notre Dame ever since. Similar efforts by alumni at other schools had regularly failed, but  our supporters have not only kept us in the black but have made it possible to build Sycamore Trust into far the most significant organization of its kind while inspiring new efforts at other schools.

In so many ways for so many people, this has been an extraordinarily disruptive year. The continuous stream of negative news reminds us of Isaiah’s Holy Way, underscores the significance of our mission at Sycamore Trust, and encourages us to continue to stand tall for the truth of Catholicism at Notre Dame in the face of adversity.

We do 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.

Here’s what Father Bill Miscamble, C.S.C., award-winning historian and former chair of the History Department and Rector of Moreau Seminary, said about us:

Sycamore plays an enormously important role in promoting the Catholic character and mission of Notre Dame. It provides a sustained and deeply thoughtful monitoring of developments.  It works to influence Notre Dame for the good and it is greatly needed at this time.

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. For example, when we exposed how the University’s Flexible Spending Account would enable employees to get cut-rate abortions, the university cancelled the plan the next day.

With a solid base of Notre Dame alumni, family, and friends on our mailing list, strong support from Catholic news sources and a host of social media and blog sites that report on our bulletins, and an extraordinarily popular  annual event during Reunion weekend (cancelled this year due to COVID), 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 that we ask for it, and we do so most earnestly.

While remaining focused on our investigative reporting, our plans for 2021 include: (1) a foray into online programming with in-depth discussions about our bulletins with subject matter experts; (2) an effort to increase our support of student organizations with additional funds and a major update to our NDCatholic site which provides resources and recommendations for students who are seeking an authentic Catholic education at Notre Dame; (3) an expansion of our apostolate through additional opportunities for collective prayer among Sycamore Trust supporters ; (4) significant improvements to our social media profile and website; and, of course, (5) a return to our annual Breakfast event during Reunion weekend.

If you would like to know more about any one of these individual initiatives, please get in touch with me.

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 diverted from a deeper purpose to be formed in secular values to defend a secular world. 

For the Sycamore Trust officers and directors,

William H. Dempsey (’52)

PS. For a full account of our origins, history, and achievements, please see the program for our 2019 breakfast.

Progress Report

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 15 years 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

In our frequent bulletins, online videos, social media postings, webinars, and annual breakfast panels, we do what no one else does: report what’s going on at Notre Dame that undermines its Catholic character. As Professor Walter Nicgorski said at a Sycamore breakfast, now everyone knows they no longer can “sweep everything under the rug.”

This means something. An especially important example: a halt in the decline of Catholic faculty. When we entered the scene, Catholic faculty representation was in a decades-long decline and was poised to plunge below 50%. But shortly after we disclosed this alarming situation and began publishing the data each year, the trajectory leveled off and has even ticked up a bit. This has saved Notre Dame from continuing the slow-motion collapse that has ended so badly for most other major Catholic universities.

But we need more resources to be more effective by enlisting and training a group of young alumni of The Irish Rover to contribute to our investigative reporting. This will provide stability and continuity to this central part of our mission.

This year we have published 15 Bulletins on a variety of topics ranging from Marcus Cole’s appointment as Law School Dean, a virulently anti-Catholic program of Gender Studies with The Kinsey Institute, appointing pro-abortion, pro-same sex marriage, anti-religious liberty Pete Buttiieg to the faculty, the partisan support of the Biden-Harris pro-abortion anti-religious liberty Presidential ticket, and of course the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. These and our other bulletins are available in our archives.

Annual Breakfast

Our Annual Breakfast during Reunion Weekend, which has been both a measure of the growth of the organization and of special importance to it, was cancelled with the rest of Reunion 2020 due to the university’s COVID-19 response. While we recognize that there remains a chance that Reunion 2021 will be cancelled as well, we are moving forward with our plans for another blockbuster event on Saturday, June 5, 2021. From its small beginnings in the spring of 2007, the event now attracts an audience that has overflowed the large space in McKenna Conference Center and includes hundreds more who watch the event streamed online. Our speakers are drawn from the very best of the faculty and always include student speakers who reflect on their experiences at Notre Dame.  You can watch last year’s program with Rev. Wilson Miscamble, CSC, discussing his book on The Ambitious Life and Conflicted Legacy of Notre Dame’s Father Ted Hesburgh. More about our Annual Breakfast is available here.

Student Groups & Organizations

While about 80% of Notre Dame students self-identity as Catholics, a large and increasing number are only loosely attached to the Church. But the truly Catholic minority is still larger, we believe, than at any other major school, and their organizations are vibrant and absolutely essential to the Catholic character of the university. Accordingly, we maintain close relations with students in organizations like The Irish Rover, Notre Dame Right to Life, Militia Immaculata, and SCOP (devoted to issues of family and chastity). We provide much-needed financial support and assist – very successfully – in their fund-raising efforts. But more needs to be done. And with your support more will be done — to encourage them in their effort to live out their faith and to speak up for fundamental Catholic tenets even as the dominant culture on campus advances its radical opposition to the Church’s teaching on abortion, sex, and marriage unchecked by the administration. 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.


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 — which has been repeated each year since and has been expanded to include other prayer projects such as our 12-Days of Christmas.

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.

Our student website,, provides 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.

This site is being redeveloped under our main domain with increased functionality and additional resources for students who want an authentically Catholic experience at Notre Dame. With sufficient financial resources, we could also retain a service commonly used by students to select their courses that would integrate NDCatholic into their registration process. This would be a truly significant step, both in terms of helping students and introducing them to our mission

Growth & Sustainability

Since our founding in 2006, we have funded most of our budget from a single online campaign — the one you are reading now — at year end.  This has been sufficient to achieve our initial goals; however, we must expand our foundation and increase our activity in order to be sustainable for the long-term.  Both our mission and our margin are closely tied to our membership. Therefore, expanding our reach to these three groups is especially important:

  • Alumni — who put pressure on the University from the outside, who provide the financial and volunteer resources we need to continue our work, and who support and encourage students and teachers who stand tall for the truth of Catholicism at Notre Dame;
  • 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 been largely marginalized because of lack of both information and representation.

We continue to work to strengthen 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.

Sycamore Trust Founder and Chairman, William Dempsey, discusses with Laura Ingraham one of the most indefensible, and perhaps consequential, decisions of Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins’s tenure — namely, his decision to decline to condemn, or even criticize, a vile and inflammatory assault via poster and video by a group of students on other students, alumni and faculty for upholding the Church’s teaching on homosexual sex. The student organizations Irish Rover and SCOP were also targeted, as was Sycamore Trust.