She has graced the southern coast and the St. Joe; London and Paris (but not Tokyo); ever-ancient Waddicks and ever-renewed Walsh. What lady is this who has traveled far but now lies near in Geddes Hall? Why, Meg Mirshak, of course.
A graduate of the Notre Dame Class of 2010, Meg is the Communications Specialist at the McGrath Institute for Church Life. She was born in Augusta, Georgia, surrounded by her four older siblings and extended Catholic family. Her family line is so woven into the land that she attended the same grade school established by the Sisters of St. Joseph as her grandmother.
Being rather unaccustomed to many things (for example, the South), I asked Meg about the southern culture she grew up in as it related to the religious climate. She reflected on her childhood educational experience, “When I was little, Georgia was less than 2% Catholic. Hispanic immigrants have since contributed to the Catholic identity. My area in Augusta was predominantly Catholic, since the majority of Catholic families lived in together right outside our parish church.”
Living within two parallel communities, that of her immediate and parish family, contributed to her desire to weave family and faith more deeply into her vocation story. As a young adult, Meg volunteered with the Interfaith Hospitality Network, a non-profit organization designed to make the transition from temporary to permanent housing, employment, and independent living possible for homeless in the Augusta area.
Two figures within her parish community were especially formative, Meg recounts. “Missy and Michael were a young married couple who served as the parish’s youth ministers. They led such a vibrant life, and encouraged me to lead others in little ways as I moved on from grade school to high school.”
Meg’s leadership took the form of hosting bible study groups in her living room. “We all spread out on couches and the floor, discussed the week’s readings, and by God’s grace became good friends.”
Years later, two of these couch-chilling friends would enter the Church.
When asked about her favorite subject, Meg told the Rover, “English, definitely. My English teachers affirmed my knack for writing. I remember a 7th grade teacher was the first to notice that storytelling spark in me. My 10th grade English teacher who had been a journalist really became a reflection of what I wanted to be…I thought I should be a newspaper columnist, and I already loved reading the Augusta Chronicle.”
These talents first placed at the surface, Meg studied communications at Wake Forest University her freshman year of college. She transferred to Notre Dame, where she responded to John Paul II’s call to “place your talents and enthusiasm at the service of life.”
Meg said of her undergraduate approach, “I didn’t choose my major first; I chose the moral formation. I wanted a holistic college experience, which I believe Notre Dame provides. [Being an Arts and Letters student] did not hinder my journalism career… it actually let to its commencement, and drew me years later into writing for the Church.”
After Meg’s 4-year residency in Walsh Hall, she went on to report for the same newspaper she frequently read as a young girl, the Augusta Chronicle.
“Even though I went back to live in the same city that I had my whole life, I saw so much of the city that I hadn’t ever seen before through this reporting – neighborhoods, major employers, and governmental leaders alike. I saw education, poverty, race relations, and yes, the annual Master’s golf tournament, in whole new lights.”
After almost five years at Chronicle, she made “one of the most difficult decisions of my life.” Since there was not as promising a future as the days of her grandparents and parents in the journalism field, Meg chose to leave Augusta behind and look elsewhere to other worthwhile work.
“I took a job doing corporate communications for a software company for about a year. It was a real switch for me, from telling stories to local readers to marketing for a corporation.”
It was during this time that Meg found out about the Institute for Church Life. Meg told the Rover, “My work at the Institute combines creative content within the context of the Church. I am so blessed to be here!”
Meg reentered Notre Dame during an exciting phase in the Institute’s life. Since August 2016, the McGrath Institute for Church Life has been rebranding itself within the university setting and beyond, made possible by a generous donation by the McGrath family.
“It is significant that, throughout this process, we have made it our goal to nourish and sustain one message, and communicate it widely to our audience, whether an individual high school retreatant interested in Notre Dame Vision, catechist in ECHO, deacon, priest, or theologian in the Center for Liturgy, or entire family through the various events the Institute offers. Because the McGrath Institute is in its transition phase, we’ve had the opportunity to write a renewed story about the same story, and deliver that to the Church.”
Aside from this experience within the work environment, Meg’s favorite thing to do is be an aunt.
“Being the youngest in my family, I didn’t have the chance to change diapers, to see children interact and play with one another. Being the aunt of six nephews and one niece has made me more confident in my own calling. I feel more avowed that I will be a great mother.”
When asked about her role model, Meg gave a telling answer: “I have had many role models depending on where I’ve been in life. Right now, it’s my oldest sister, Anna, who lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children. She works full-time, but doesn’t let that hinder her relationship with her husband, children (one is on the way, by the way!), and her two sisters. At one point, my role models were my parents; at another, my youth ministers; after college, my co-workers motivated me when they put their incredible talents to work…even now, my female friends in South Bend are incredible – they are so wise and supportive like my living room bible study crew – although this time they are more willing to knock some sense into you.”
“Is there any one person whose message has knocked sense into you, or at least stuck with you?” I asked. I could tell Meg knew exactly who.
“Father Lou DelFra said Walsh dorm Mass on many Mondays. One time he said, ‘Could today’s yes be the beginning of your vocation story?’ This question has pervaded my life, and allowed me to examine myself on a deeper level each day.”
Tierney Vrdolyak is an-off campus senior studying PLS and Theology. She has dabbled in Business Economics. While on campus and aside from classes, she enjoys playing sand volleyball, running and biking of the non-Lime sort, singing in Liturgical Choir, attending BP dorm masses, and spending absurd amounts of time chatting in the Geddes Coffeehouse. If you’d care to swipe her in to your dining hall of choice using ND’s updated Irish1Card policy, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.