In the following interview, Greer Hannan, a Notre Dame graduate, former ROVER executive editor, and events planning coordinator for the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, describes her program Integritas. A seminar and service-based program open to students at Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College, and Holy Cross College, Integritas offers students a unique opportunity to explore Catholic culture.
What is Integritas?
Integritas is an undergraduate program administered by the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture designed to integrate scholarship, spirituality, and service. A monthly seminar is the foundation from which we explore ideas related to faith, truth, social justice, beauty, happiness, holiness, and vocation.
Each month’s seminar is closely related to the activities we undertake for the other three weeks in the month, so that the readings we discussed in the seminars illuminate and give deeper meaning to the activities we do. Our experiential activities include service projects, liturgies, a field trip to Chicago, a retreat to the Trappist monastery in Gethsemani, Kentucky, and cultural activities such as attending plays or academic conferences as a group.
How and why did Integritas get started? Who were its founders?
I founded the Integritas program in the fall of 2010 as part of my work as program coordinator of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. As a senior at Notre Dame, I wrote a thesis for the joint major in philosophy and theology exploring the curricular concerns of Catholic universities, and how a well-founded curriculum like that described by John Henry Cardinal Newman in THE IDEA OF A UNIVERSITY could be integrated with the liturgical and social justice activities of a Catholic university community.
My research for my senior thesis laid the groundwork for what would become the Integritas program. My experience as an undergraduate at Notre Dame was that while the student body as a whole is vibrantly engaged in service, in prayer, and in the intellectual life of the University, those pursuits did not often get integrated on a deep level.
I think it’s too easy for us as individuals to identify ourselves with just one of those fundamental aspects of Catholic life, and I was discontented with a campus culture that accepted that kind of disintegration as the status quo. I wanted to design a program that would challenge students to step outside of these boxes in order to engage Catholic culture in its fullness.
What is your mission statement? What purpose does it serve to the community of Notre Dame?
At its heart, Integritas asks students to fully engage our humanity in its corporal and spiritual identity by practicing the corporal AND the spiritual works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and shelter the homeless, but also to instruct and counsel those in doubt of the truth, to pray for the living and the dead—in short, to do all that Christ asked of us in Matthew 25 and taught us by his example when he ministered and walked among us. The challenge is to embrace what God requires of us: to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).
Were there any events last year that were momentous for the program? What events are coming up for this academic year?
One of my favorite events last year was our Catholic social teaching sequence in January, which involved a seminar on Dorothy Day and the papal encyclical RERUM NOVARUM led by Prof. Michael Baxter, and then over the following weeks we visited the Catholic Worker House to prepare dinner and spend time with the community. I loved seeing the ease with which the Integritas students entered into that experience: the conversations they struck up, their readiness to help in an unfamiliar kitchen, and their immediate recognition of the warmth and welcome of that community. Afterwards, students made comments like “That place doesn’t feel like a homeless shelter, it feels like a HOME!”
Since my own background is in working with the homeless and those struggling with addictions, it really impressed me how readily the students stepped outside of their comfort zones and had the eyes to see the common humanity we share, even if our backgrounds and circumstances look very different. Watching the students’ work, eat, pray, and laugh with our brothers and sisters at the Catholic Worker House was a real joy for me. They maneuvered their way through an unfamiliar kitchen with surprising grace, and they maneuvered their way through an unfamiliar side of South Bend with equal grace – the side where people don’t always know where they’ll find a bed for the night, or when their next meal will be.
Another feature of the program is our annual retreat to the monastery of Gethsemani, Kentucky, where Thomas Merton lived as a Trappist monk. Gethsemani is one of those holy places where the whole environment shouts of God’s glory: from the liturgy of the hours being chanted in the chapel throughout the day and night, to the acres of farmland in the foothills of the mountains. It draws visitors into an utterly different rhythm of life, one in which the operations of God’s grace are brought forward from the background of life to be the center of focus.
What else is unique about the program?
The program really benefits from having a diverse group of students from many different majors and class years; it adds a richness to our conversations because of the different perspective each student brings. The readings we do for the seminars also contribute to that diversity. A lot of the authors we read — David Foster Wallace, Wendell Berry, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Day — were the most important writers I read when I was an undergraduate, but I never read them in any class, and they never appeared on a course syllabus. It seems to me that it’s a real poverty if you graduate from Notre Dame without reading these writers and letting them provoke you to re-examine your most fundamental beliefs.
Adriana Garcia is a senior sociology/theology major who hopes everyone who is anyone will join Integritas. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.