In the following interview, Mary Daly told The Rover about her position as the executive coordinator of University Life Initiatives within the Institute for Church Life. She works with numerous campus groups and organizations to promote the sanctity of human life.

Daly graduated from Notre Dame in spring of 2010.  As an undergraduate, she served as the president of Notre Dame Right to Life, and as editor-in-chief of The Rover.


Could you give a general description of your position? Is it newly created, or were you hired in the place of someone else?

This is a brand-new position. It was created at the recommendation of last year’s Task Force on Supporting the Choice for Life.

Broadly, I assist in promoting the sanctity of life across the Notre Dame community focusing on issues that extend from conception to natural death. I serve as liaison with campus departments and groups to facilitate collaborative functioning related to life issues. This includes the identification and nurturing of known and new partners interested in supporting the sanctity of life, and the fostering of awareness about life issues across campus.

 Is there a set duration of the position, or do you hold it indefinitely?

Right now, we are working on a couple of two-year projects. And we will go from there. Overall, I would say the future looks bright.

Who are your immediate superiors? Who is the ultimate authority overseeing your activities?

The office of University Life Initiatives is housed under Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life. As such, I report immediately to Professor John Cavadini who runs the Institute and who also served as a co-chair of last year’s Task Force. I work closely with Professor Cavadini.

Through Professor Cavadini, I report to Fr. John Jenkins.

What end(s) are you trying to promote? What is your main goal?

Broadly, my priorities will focus on fostering a respect for the sanctity and dignity of life, from conception to natural death, and fostering an increase in knowledge and understanding of the major life issues of the modern world. I believe this can be accomplished by integrating principles of the Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life across all areas of the university and by collaborating with relevant education and research programs across all colleges of the university to support and enhance the university mission and vision as a Catholic institution of higher education.

Through my work, University Life Initiatives is dedicated to broadening and deepening the pro-life culture in and among various constituencies in order to strengthen the Notre Dame community’s witness to Catholic teaching on life. This will assist in determining ways in which the University could increase and manifest its own commitment to a culture of life across campus and in partnership with other constituencies in the Notre Dame family, focusing on issues that extend from conception to natural death.

Also part of this, we will work on the implementation of recommendations developed by the Task Force on Supporting the Choice for Life and approved by the President of the University; assist in research on life-related topics; and help in assessing University activities related to Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life.

The scope of the dignity of life covers those endeavors which pertain to the growth of the “culture of life,” as understood in Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae, and includes the fostering of a respect for the sanctity and dignity of life, from conception to natural death, and fostering an increase in knowledge and understanding of the major life issues of the modern world (“life issues” understood as offenses against life at its beginning and end stages).

Is your job unique, or are there employees of other initiatives who fulfill a similar role?

Currently, I am the only university employee charged specifically with supporting University Life Initiatives. I recently hired two undergraduate assistants to support the work that I do.

There will be an advisory committee to assist and guide the coordinator. The list of members of that committee should be announced soon.

Who is affected by decisions you make/ policies you implement?

Thus far, I have not been involved in policy work or any significant decision-making of the University’s. However, I foresee that any such work I would be involved in would affect—positively, I hope—a broad contingent of the university community.

I am first and foremostly working to implement the recommendations developed by the 2009-2010 Task Force. Second, I aim to facilitate and support academic scholarship related to the life issues across campus, both by students and faculty.

Third, I am working to strengthen the university’s supportive policies toward pregnant and parenting students as well as and increase awareness of these resources to members of the Notre Dame community.  To that end, I I am in the process of starting a Pregnant and Parenting Student Assistance Fund. This will positively impact students who are pregnant and or parenting by providing financial assistance to complement the already great support that Notre Dame provides for these students.

Fourth, I am working to create and support educative efforts on campus intended to inform the campus community on issues pertaining to life in the effort to form an academic culture of witness to life as it is appropriate to any given academic venue.

Finally, I add that we will support as we can student-led initiatives to promote awareness of right-to-life issues.

What other campus groups do you work most with?

The Center for Ethics and Culture, Notre Dame Right to Life, the Institute for Church Life, the Office of Student Affairs, and the Office of the President.

Others that I will be working with include Campus Ministry, Center for Social Concerns, the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, and University Faculty for Life.

Do you do work with off-campus groups? If yes, can you say which ones?

As Notre Dame is a Catholic university, it is important to me that the work I do support, and be supported by, our local diocese. To that end, I try to stay in touch with the diocese, specifically the Office of Family Life, which coordinates the pro-life activities in Fort Wayne-South Bend.

I also intend to reach out the Women’s Care Center. The WCC does fantastic, inspiring work with local mothers and children. The service model with which they work is one that can and ought to be replicated wherever needed. Particularly with regards to the pregnant and parenting resources offered here at Notre Dame, it is important that we maintain the University’s relationship with the WCC. In my new role, I hope to join in this.

What’s your official relationship with Notre Dame faculty? With the administration?

I seek to remain connected and in-tune with faculty, as well as students, so that I can remain as informed as possible about what the University needs in terms of supporting the dignity of life. In this way, I would describe myself as a colleague as well as an ombudsman. I would say the same is true for my relationship with the administration.