My freshman year at Notre Dame I ran into a friend who was going to a talk on Shakespeare and Catholicism put on by the Center for Ethics and Culture. I somewhat mocked him, saying that anything Catholic at Notre Dame can’t be all that Catholic. (Some background information here, from the time I was in 8th grade and thinking of coming to Notre Dame my dad made it his purpose in life to remind me that Notre Dame is not a truly Catholic university.)

My friend responded that I should go to every event hosted by the Center for Ethics and Culture, because that is exactly what they espouse, true Catholicism with an emphasis on how Catholicism relates to culture and the intellectual life. I listened to what my friend said, and when I received an email from the Center about one of their Breaking Bread dinners I responded as quickly as possible.

            I went to my first Breaking Bread dinner in the fall of 2007 and the Center’s fall conference, titled “The Dialogue of Cultures.” At the conference I remember how influenced I was by Ralph Wood’s talk on “The Dialogue with Atheism: Chesterton’s Ball and the Cross.” I had never heard of this Chesterton before, but I knew that I instantly liked him, and his way of engaging the modern world. The next semester I again attended everything I could that had the name Center for Ethics and Culture on it.

            My sophomore year I talked to Professor David Solomon, Director of the Center, and his wife after an opening event of the year. He said to come up to Center anytime, even just to do homework. He said he likes to see students there. One day I gained enough courage to take him up on it. I walked in nervously hoping no one would mind that I was there, no one even noticed me. (Now that I work at the Center I realize that this is because plenty of students walk in and out of the center daily.)

While sitting in the conference room reading I overheard Greer Hannan, an undergraduate assistant at the time, say she needed someone to go to a dinner with Father Paul Mankowski before his talk on Evelyn Waugh for the Center’s Catholic Culture Series, themed that year as “Wit’s Way to Wisdom.” I jumped at the opportunity. I still remember the conversation from dinner; it changed my way of relating to people who aren’t orthodox Catholics. Fr. Mankowski’s talk made me fall in love with Evelyn Waugh’s approach to literature: a supernatural outlook on life, and God writing straight with crooked lines.

            But it wasn’t until I took Professor Solomon’s class “Morality and Modernity” in the spring of my sophomore year that I ever thought to ask for a job. I remember reading about tradition in Professor Alasdair MacIntyre’s book After Virtue, and thinking I wanted to be in a living tradition. I belonged to the Catholic tradition, but what about a philosophical tradition? And a local tradition concerned with the restoration of Christian culture? I decided at that moment I needed to be a part of the Center.

            Every day after class I mentioned to Solomon my desire to work at the Center, then I started to bother every person I knew who had a connection to the place. The more I talked to people the more difficult I realized it would be. I nearly gave up on the possibility of getting the job, but I didn’t drop my efforts. I still remember getting the email while in Oxford for the summer, after having appropriately just visited the Eagle and Child, from Mrs. Kathryn Wales, informing me I could work at the Center next year.

            It has been such a blessing to work at the Center.  I have met some truly incredible scholars, whose lectures and discussions with me have changed my life. I owe much of my intellectual and spiritual formation to the Center. I am certain that my college experience would be drastically deprived without the Center. The most important thing about the Center is its sense of community. I have made friends who I might never have met had it not been for the Center; friends who share similar loves with me, but who also challenge me. Professor Solomon and the rest of the Center community have welcomed me into their hectic lives, and I am eternally indebted to them all.