Four Holy Cross Religious to Serve as New Rectors
This year, four men’s halls welcome new rectors from the Congregation of Holy Cross: Fr. Chris Brennan in Stanford, Fr. Bill Dailey in Zahm, Mr. (soon-to-be Father) Robert Lisowski in Baumer, and Fr. Eric Schimmer in Dunne.
These men face unique challenges in their new roles as they work to make their halls safe, welcoming, and enriching places for students amid a global pandemic. Despite the major adjustments made to dorm life in light of Covid-19, these new rectors see opportunities for growth in fraternity and faith among residents.
Fr. Chris Brennan, rector of Stanford Hall, told the Rover he was grateful for the dedication of his hall staff, saying, “People are really resilient. Crises bind people together, so we grew to be closer [during hall staff training] than we would have in a normal situation.” He went on to credit them for the strong sense of community present in Stanford this year: “They’ve done a great job and morale is pretty good, mostly because of the hard work they’ve put in.”
Fr. Eric Schimmer, rector of Dunne Hall, spoke similarly, saying, “My predecessor did a fantastic job hiring a hall staff of men who obviously love Dunne and its residents, who sacrifice, and who also seem to enjoy being here. Being with them and ministering with them to the men of Dunne at Notre Dame is a true gift.”
Despite the challenges of this semester, opportunities for students to deepen their faith through liturgy and prayer remain strong. Fr. Chris remarked, “To see the deep faith of so many students here is really beautiful. We’ve been having 20-30 people at daily Mass. Since the announcement [of classes moving online], we’ve had a rosary novena and had a small gathering for that, too.” Fr. Chris has been deeply impressed by the commitment to spiritual growth shown by the men of Stanford, saying he often feels “subtly challenged in [his] own faith because they’re so faithful.”
Residence hall life is a crucial component of the holistic formation of the Notre Dame student. Upon entering these halls, first-year students must navigate the ups and downs of sharing a communal life with hundreds of strangers, while forming new friendships and growing in Christian charity along the way.
Fr. Eric emphasized the benefits of living in community on both an individual and societal level: “As Notre Dame prides itself in fostering habits of mind, body, and spirit with an eye towards solidarity, the common good, and the service of justice, we in Dunne try to cultivate a community where the men can learn together, help each other, and help those around us. ”He added that his mission as rector was “to educate the heart and help people focus on the fact that we are pilgrims following Christ heading to a heavenly homeland.”
Fr. Chris described his role as rector as part of the mission of the university and the Congregation of Holy Cross, saying that dorm life cultivates the heart alongside the mind. In particular, he said: “Part of our role is to take on that second part of tending to the heart, tending to the spirit, tending to the overall formation, the overall balance of our students, which is best done in a community setting where you know you can fail and still be loved.”
Stanford RA Brendon Armstead said that having Fr. Chris as a rector was “definitely a blessing” and expressed that the example set by Fr. Chris has helped the hall staff grow in their own capacity to serve: “As we have continued to serve the Stanford community together, Fr. Chris has not only led us but also served among us. Being able to go through this hard time with the guy who preaches on Sunday also walking through this semester with us has led to growth both in my faith and abilities as a leader.”
Notre Dame is grateful for the service of these men and we at the Rover look forward to seeing how their communities are strengthened under their leadership.
Elizabeth Zahorick is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering. She can usually be found eating dining hall pizza while engaged in heated theological debate with friends on one of Notre Dame’s beautiful quads. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.