Lilia Draime, Executive Editor
Club advocates synthesis between Catholicism, American culture
Ten years ago, a handful of students sought to create a forum of study, conversation and education about Catholicism and American politics. Thus the Orestes Brownson Council (OBC) was born, drawing inspiration from their namesake, who dedicated himself to seeking the truth and rejected existing political ideologies.
“Like [Orestes Brownson], we want to understand the issues of our day apart from the context of political parties and the interests they represent, especially as they are fed to us through modern media’s oversimplifications,” explained senior OBC member Tim Kirchoff, who serves as the club’s vice president. “We want to train our heads and our hearts to see the world as it is, to develop our intellectual and moral faculties such that we can understand people as people and not as stereotypes. “
The OBC, led this year by senior Alfredo Guzman-Dominguez, engages students in weekly meetings and through sponsoring various debates, discussions and lectures on campus. Each event advances the year’s theme, which is drawn from major issues in politics and Catholicism. This year’s theme, “To the Outskirts of the World and of Existence: Evangelization and Modern Society,” will focus on the Gospel imperative to “go, and make disciples of all nations” by examining what it means to evangelize, how culture impacts evangelization and how to respond to Pope Francis’ call to go “to the outskirts of the world and existence.”
“To go along with this theme, I have a few things in mind: I want OBC to sponsor a campus-wide screening and discussion of Father Robert Barron’s new “Catholicism: The New Evangelization,” Guzman-Dominguez noted. “We will also be looking to get speakers for the spring semester to talk about evangelization in our modern American society.”
In previous years, OBC’s popular events have included a talk by Father Neil Roy, STL, focusing on the New English Translation of the Roman Missal, and a co-sponsored a talk by Roy Belgau, “On Being Gay and Catholic.”
Kirchoff explained: “The media, generally speaking, regards these identities [gay and Catholic] as incompatible, but a careful and conscientious examination makes it possible to envision a different approach to this sensitive political issue. Despite the impression we may get from the political environment, we don’t have to choose between Westboro and San Francisco. We can be Catholic instead.”
In addition to larger scale events, OBC meets for weekly discussion. Guzman-Dominguez explained that articles, essays, homilies and book excerpts pertaining to the year’s theme are used as impetuses for conversation. Professors, faculty and staff members will occasionally join in the dialogue when they can speak from experience on certain issues. OBC also looks forward to inviting guests from Campus Ministry and the Institute for Church Life to participate in and lead discussion this year.
The efforts of OBC to understand Catholicism and American politics is not limited to club events and meetings; course counseling helps to put students in classes that coincide with the mission of the OBC. Course counseling matches underclassmen with “experienced and intellectually motivated upperclassman on what sort of courses and professors in a particular discipline will help them attain a better Catholic education,” Guzman-Dominguez elaborated. Counseling transpires in the weeks leading up to class registration, with the dialogue between students taking place via email and in one-on-one meetings.
“I’ve personally had a great experience with course counseling, and have heard good things from others who’ve taken advantage of it,” Guzman-Dominguez assured. “The only issue has been advertising—not enough people know about it.”
Guzman-Dominguez got involved with OBC during his freshman year when his RA, the club’s president at the time, invited him to explore Catholicism’s role in American life: “I sought some place outside the classroom where I could educate myself together with my peers on the most important issues by engaging with the Western/Catholic tradition…. I welcomed the position [of president] because I hope to continue OBC’s important and unique mission in the University, and to develop its great potential to become once again a strong agent in building Notre Dame’s Catholic intellectual culture.”
OBC welcomes new members with interest in understanding the relationship between the Catholic faith, culture and American politics. Being Catholic is not requisite for membership; different traditions and points of view enrich conversation and expand the minds of other members. Interested students should contact the Orestes Brownson Council at email@example.com, or Guzman-Dominguez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lilia Draime is a junior history major with minors in constitutional studies and philosophy, religion, and literature. She’s not emotionally ready for the next season of Supernatural. Fangirl with her at email@example.com.