Catriona Shaughnessy, staff writer
“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”
Many of us are familiar with this iconic sentiment that Albus Dumbledore imparted on the students of Hogwarts in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Students on our equally enchanted snow-covered campus likewise feel a call to community. Iron Sharpens Iron, a student-run interdenominational Christian group on Notre Dame’s campus, typifies the response to that call.
Iron Sharpens Iron (ISI) is a community of students with members from a variety of Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox backgrounds. The mission of the group is articulated in its title that comes from Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
ISI officer Jasen Tjahjad further explained the attributes of the student group: “ISI builds community, forms spiritual friendships and helps us keep each other accountable.”
ISI meets Thursdays at 10 p.m. in Coleman-Morse room 329. The meetings have a routine format, typically consisting of praise and worship, testimonies and small group activities.
“For the first hour, we sing worship songs. Then, [a student member of ISI] gives a reflection or testimony about how God is working in their lives. In the second hour, we split into small groups, in which we meet and give each other prayer requests,” said Tjahjad.
ISI also offers weekly Bible studies for both young men and women. The men’s group meets on Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. on the first floor of Coleman-Morse, and the women meet on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. in the Coleman-Morse Meditation Room.
In addition to these activities, ISI offers retreats, one of which is coming up, from January 31-February 2.
According to ISI officer Regina Mauck, “The retreats help build greater community while offering smaller groups, providing a nice spiritual foundation for friendship.”
ISI provides for the vital incorporation of faith into the Notre Dame experience. It offers students an opportunity for spiritual friendships and an environment in which they can share their personal struggles while supporting their peers.
“ISI provides a good, open space for people of different denominations to come together to worship the same God,” Mauck continued.
“It is a place to develop your spiritual friendships,” Tjahjad said, explaining why he encourages membership. “We believe friendship across denominations, such as those between Catholics and Protestants, is beautiful. Also, it helps you understand each other’s stories and see past the façade of the person.”
He went on to say that ISI “also helps us with our goals…Reading scripture more often, being more dedicated to prayer, trying to overcome a certain sin.”
In light of ISI’s effect on the Notre Dame community, Tjahjad commented on how the members are a “pretty diverse group of people.” According to the officers’ estimates, the student group is about half Catholic, half Protestant. About one-third of the members are Saint Mary’s students. The dynamic makeup of the fellowship makes ISI an important element of Notre Dame’s Campus Ministry by providing a venue for both acceptance and diversity.
“It is important for students who may not be Catholic to have that place to go and to know that ‘they are not the only one.’ I think that they find comfort in that there are other people that share their faith background, and they can be open and free,” Mauck noted.
Participating in ISI is a transformative experience, trademarked by friendship and newfound strength in one’s faith identity. When describing their personal experiences, the officers, both clearly moved by their participation in ISI, emphasized this unique opportunity for community and personal growth.
“The friendships I have made in the group have been so awesome. They are deep and long-lasting. Through ISI, I have learned that everyone has a story. I’ve learned to be more intentional and to really understand the person,” Tjahjad said.
Mauck added that ISI offers students a sense of solidarity in one’s faith identity and the immense support that each member receives from Christian fellowship.
“I have made a lot of lasting friendships that have really helped me deepen the faith. ISI has helped me be more intentional with my faith—to not be as much of a floater. Here, I can rely on my friends,” Mauck explained.
As Notre Dame students, our strength stems from our appreciation for the unique and precious individuality of ourselves and our neighbors. Our weaknesses arise from our lack of understanding of the views and beliefs of fellow students, shortcomings which can be overcome through dialogue and interactive worship. Iron Sharpens Iron provides this necessary venue on campus, empowering the students as a pillar of the Notre Dame community.
To learn more about ISI, visit their website: http://www3.nd.edu/~isi/.
Catriona Shaughnessy is a freshman living in Farley Hall. She plans to major in Psychology, and she spends an absurd amount of Flex Points on coffee and wraps.You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.