Campus Ministry and Catholic student groups collaborate to strengthen Notre Dame’s Catholic identity outside of the classroom

Residents of South Quad dorms witnessed something unique on August 26 as hundreds of students from Notre Dame, St. Mary’s College, and Holy Cross College lined up to order their dinners from one of several independently-owned food trucks.  There was, however, another reason for inviting the trucks onto Notre Dame’s campus: introducing both new and returning students to one of the many opportunities for faith development at Notre Dame.

In addition to visiting the food trucks, participating students were invited to explore a maze of tables operated by various faith-based organizations.  Amid the crowds were representatives from Campus Ministry-run groups such as Compass Freshman Fellowship as well as a host of independently-run student clubs, including the Identity Project of Notre Dame, the Children of Mary, and Notre Dame Right to Life.  There were even members of the Congregation of Holy Cross and the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration running a booth for students interested in discerning a religious vocation.

Dubbed the “Feed Your Faith Fair,” this event, hosted by Campus Ministry, was evidence of a trend of increased collaboration between Campus Ministry and student-led Catholic groups.

“Over the past year, the relationship between Notre Dame’s independent Catholic student groups and Campus Ministry has grown as a result of improved communication and mutual outreach attempts,” Robert Billups, co-president of the Theology Club, told the Rover.  “These friendly developments started roughly a year ago with the formation of the Catholic Identity Council (CIC), which is an informal representative body of Catholic student leaders.”

The festivities were reminiscent of a smaller-scale gathering in the fall of 2014, which was the CIC’s first concerted effort to reach the wider Notre Dame community.  Nearly a dozen independent, Catholic groups—many of which were present on the quad last month—assembled in the basement of the Knights of Columbus building for Notre Dame’s first Catholic Activities Night.

“The event was completely funded, staffed, and advertised by current Catholic club members,” Billups explained, “and we had about 150 people attend, which was enough to make the event successful, but not enough to provide outreach to all prospective members.”

According to Billups, outreach has been one of the greatest challenges facing the CIC.  Despite the significant turnout at the Catholic Activities Night in 2014, member organizations of the CIC recognize that this was only a fraction of the students who would have shown an interest if the event had been better-publicized, and an even smaller fraction of the  approximately 80 percent of students who checked the “Catholic” box on their Notre Dame applications.

However, the CIC’s recent interactions with Campus Ministry have borne fruit.  In addition to organizing the Feed Your Faith Fair, Campus Ministry has also begun listing many of the CIC’s independent Catholic organizations under the “Campus Partnerships” section of its website.

Expressing his appreciation for Campus Ministry’s efforts, Billups said, “Campus Ministry has already shown a willingness to help Catholic clubs advertise their events, and right now Campus Ministry and Catholic Identity Council members are exploring ways of collaborating on this issue.”

Much of what is essential to maintaining and strengthening Notre Dame’s Catholic identity must occur in the classroom and in the university’s administrative offices.  To foster pockets of faith—however vibrant—in the absence of a robust community of Catholic faculty will be insufficient if we seek to realize Fr. Sorin’s vision of being “one of the most powerful means for doing good in this country.”

Nevertheless, the presence of inquisitive, faith-filled students enlivened by the joy of the gospel can only serve to cultivate faith where academics fall short.  The CIC’s collaboration with Campus Ministry reflects the efforts of these students, who continually seek to follow Bl. Basil Moreau’s words to “place education side by side with instruction,” so that “the mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart.”

Nicole O’Leary is a sophomore theology and history major living in McGlinn Hall.  Contact her at