Josh O’Brien, Staff Writer

Most Notre Dame students would admit that they are not as informed as they should be on Church teachings. To address this reality, a group of friends decided to create a club that would cultivate a deeper understanding and appreciation of Church teachings on campus.

The club was begun in 2003 and named after Orestes Brownson, the famous Catholic writer and preacher whose remains are buried in the crypt of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. A convert to Christianity, Brownson spent his entire life searching for the truth. He is the perfect namesake for this club as club members become inspired to a better understanding of the Catholic faith, spreading this spirit to the Notre Dame community.

The primary work of this club is accomplished in weekly meetings, during which members of the club discuss a reading for that week. The club draws its readings from perennial works of the Catholic tradition like St. Augustine, John Newman, John Paul II, Brownson and other great Catholic writers.

Each year the club has specific themes that serve to direct their inquiry. Last year the focus was on American Catholic higher education. The club worked with Notre Dame professors to compile a reading list of books that every Notre Dame student should read, and a list of books that could serve as an introduction to his or her discipline.

The club also began work on a course-consulting program, in which underclassmen consult upperclassmen about selecting courses that would contribute to a Catholic liberal education.

Club president Andrew Lynch said that this year’s theme is on religious liberty because of “the increasing attacks on religious liberty in the United States. Notre Dame’s lawsuit against the HHS mandate led the club to promote understanding of religious liberty and its importance for the Church and society.”

Junior club member Timothy Kirchoff said, “The discussions at the regular meetings are very open.” He went on to say that the openness of the club is largely due to the fact that club was formed to “discuss readings, not to push an agenda.” The readings that are chosen are very substantive and open to many interpretations, and no one should be afraid to come join in the discussion.

The council’s other primary function is sponsoring various lectures, films and conferences that enrich the intellectual atmosphere of the University of Notre Dame, in order to promote positive change. Last year the council hosted lectures on the new translation of the Mass and on religious liberty.

This fall the club sponsored the “My Alternative Lifestyle: On Being Gay and Catholic” lecture, given by Ron Belgau, a Ph.D candidate from Saint Louis University. In his lecture Ron talked about how he lives in accordance with the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality despite the fact that he is gay. The club is planning more lectures to be featured in the spring.

In past years the club has sponsored other lectures and meetings between faculty and students. In 2009, the club sponsored a talk given by Professor of Law Rick Garnett about the selection of President Barack Obama as that year’s commencement speaker. Also in 2009, the club sponsored a talk given by Father Hesburgh on the changing role of the Catholic laity.

Students who are interested in the Orestes Brownson Council or who want to know the weekly readings can contact president Andrew Lynch by email at
Josh O’Brien is a Freshman English and Russian double major who loves to wear pajamas to class. If you share this love, email him at