Gender Relations Center sponsors series promoting authentic identity in light of Notre Dame’s Catholic mission

“A few times each year, the same articles show up in the Observer lamenting the state of dating and relationships at ND.  There are a few common themes: ring by spring, the hookup culture, and the dreaded Intentionally Ambiguous Relationship where people are ‘just talking,’ or ‘just hanging out,’ or ‘just seeing where it goes.’  All of these relationship categories speak to a lack of communication and a lack of clear understanding.  What are you looking for? How will you find it?”

So said Ashley and Ryan Kreager to the Rover, describing the questions tormenting many a Notre Dame student—questions that the Gender Relations Center sought to address in the series “Strengthening Romantic Relationships.”

Geared towards undergraduate students, the three-event series took place the weeks of November 11 and 17 in Coleman Morse Center, with each event sharing and exploring the Catholic approach to the holistic development of authentic relationships.

Katie Whalen, a 2008 MA graduate of Notre Dame, initiated the series with “Understanding the Catholic View of Health & Procreation,” a talk informing attendees about the Catholic teaching on embodiment—or living in and through our bodies—as well as providing strategies to holistically address the intricacies and individuality of female cycles.

A woman can understand her cycle through the Creighton Model of FertilityCare System™, a method of family planning in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church.  For the purpose of the undergraduate-oriented series, Whalen’s talk focused on the gynecological health aspects of charting and the way in which it allows a woman to better understand how her overall health might affect a relationship.

The second session, “The Five Love Languages,” allowed attendees to determine the ways in which they give and receive appreciation, love, and support in any relationship, romantic or not.  Dave Younger, a Notre Dame faculty member, and Suzy Younger, Manager of Saint Joseph FertilityCare™ Center at Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center, led the discussion about healthy communication, and focused especially on familial relationships.

Suzy Younger is also one of the invited speakers to the 2015 Edith Stein Conference, “Radiant Image: Cultivating Authentic Identity in the Modern World.”

The final event in the series, “SPICE: A Holistic Look at the Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Communicative & Emotional Dimensions of Relationships” provided students—who spend most of their time surrounded by their own peers—the opportunity to hear from married Notre Dame alumni couples who have worked through the highs and lows of their relationships by conscientiously engaging in the five dimensions of holistic relationships.

Providing wisdom ranging from blunt (“The things you don’t work out become magnified in marriage”), to inspiring (“Love is a choice”), to romantic (“You say ‘I will’ every day of your marriage”), the panelists spoke generously from their own successes in and struggles with employing a dynamic approach to their relationships.  Dave and Suzy Younger shared insights from their own marriage, along with two other couples who value and implicate the SPICE view of holistic relationships.

Ashley and Ryan Kreager, quoted above, shared with the Rover their confidence that employing SPICE in one’s relationships can overcome the usual types of issues lamented by Notre Dame students and instead return to “what is essential—treating other people with respect, love, and a true desire for their good.  When you focus on the spiritual, physical, intellectual, communicative/creative, and emotional aspects of the other person, you see them as a complete person, not just a collection of physical or emotional desires.  SPICE is about seeing the whole person, getting to know the whole person, loving the whole person.”

Regina Gesicki, Assistant Director for Educational Initiatives at the Gender Relations Center, spoke with the Rover about the purpose of the series to foster authentic identity in individuals, providing “opportunities for the attendees to know themselves better, which is the prerequisite for a fulfilling and healthy relationship of any kind.

“Notre Dame’s mission calls us to form an authentic human community graced by the Spirit of Christ; if we enter into all relationships knowing our authentic selves and respecting the dignity inherent in self and the other, we draw closer to fulfilling that mission,” Gesicki concluded.


Victoria Velasquez is a sophomore majoring in English and FTT.  If you found this article interesting, she highly recommends registering for the Edith Stein Conference in February. Contact her at