Former Notre Dame students reflect on their vocations

Many current Congregation of Holy Cross priests and religious attended the University of Notre Dame for undergraduate studies. But what about former Notre Dame students who have pursued religious vocations in orders outside of Holy Cross? A few stories are explored below.

Friendships and the Sacraments

Fr. Peter Gautsch, O.P., a Dominican in the Eastern Province who spoke at an Exalt Adoration night last semester, graduated from Notre Dame in 2011. As an undergraduate, he was involved with Campus Ministry, including a group named 4:7 that met every week for praise and worship and a talk. “I had a really strong group of friends who also loved the faith,” he shared. Studying at the Angelicum, a pontifical university run by the Dominican order in Rome, was critical for discerning his vocation. Fr. Peter joined the order soon after he graduated.

Fr. Tim Monahan, who graduated with a degree in finance from Notre Dame, has been a diocesan priest for approximately 13 years. Before he stepped into his role as the vocations director for the Archdiocese of Chicago, he served as an associate pastor in Iverness and Park Rigde, Illinois. When discussing Notre Dame’s role for discerning his vocation, he emphasized the “quality of friendships that [he] had.” He said, “It’s amazing when we’re able to share friendships with people at the deepest level.”

He also valued the opportunity Notre Dame provided to immerse himself in the sacramental life. He told the Rover, “the fact that I could go into the dorm chapel … at any time, night or day. Mass was available from early to late, all over campus. Priests were readily available for spiritual direction, for confession, for talks.”

After graduating, Fr. Tim did not race into the workforce. He said, “This question of vocation, of what the next step was, was weighing heavily on my heart, so I had decided to take some time away.” He continued, “I heard Him very clearly, and in a very loving and gentle way, inviting me to follow Him as a priest.”

“Jesus is everywhere”

Fr. Tim’s brother, Fr. Gabriel Emmanuel Monahan, C.F.R., graduated from Notre Dame and became a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal. He joined the community around a year after his graduation. In an interview with the Rover, he mentioned how in his time at Notre Dame, God worked through the friendships he made and the girl that he was dating. Additionally, he emphasized that when “you’re walking on campus—Jesus is everywhere.” He remarked that “only religious and students at Notre Dame live with the Blessed Sacrament. Priests and religious [in general]—and students at Notre Dame.”

“When I graduated, I knew I needed more time to discern, and pray, and just grow,” he said. He went on to work with the Missionaries of Christ in Honduras. Towards the end of 2008, he applied to the Franciscans and joined in September.

“Something even better in store”

Sr. Louis Marie is a member of the religious community of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She told the Rover, “I found the sisters … [at] the end of freshman year [when] they came to do a pro-life youth rally on campus. That’s when I saw them, and then it wasn’t until I was a sophomore [that] I went on a retreat with them. That’s when I realized that I had a vocation to our religious community.” Sr. Louis Marie invites women interested in discerning a religious vocation to a February 12-13 retreat hosted by her community.

Sr. Peter Thomas is a member of the same religious community, but unlike Sr. Louis Marie, she was first introduced to the community by accidentally coming upon their website before arriving at Notre Dame.

Sr. Peter Thomas said, “Even though I was putting off this idea of a vocation and trying to pretend that it wasn’t in my mind now, I wasn’t putting off my faith.” She emphasized the importance of attending Mass at the Basilica for her discernment and shared that she “would stop in at the dorm chapel to just pay our Lord a visit on [her] way out to classes.” She said, “What I found as I was doing all these things is that this idea in the back of my mind wouldn’t go away.”

Her current community visited Notre Dame, and while she considered avoiding them, she decided against it. Seeing the sisters as “living, breathing people” made a big impression on her, including meeting Sr. Louis Marie. Describing Sr. Louis Marie, Sr. Peter Thomas said, “Not only had she gone to Notre Dame and then entered the convent, but she had left Notre Dame to enter the convent—that really shocked me.”

For Sr. Louis Marie, after a retreat with the Dominican sisters the May after her freshman year, she heard God’s invitation to enter the community the next year, and she followed it.  “I loved Notre Dame,” Sr. Louis Marie said. “There was nothing about what I was doing that I didn’t love, it was just the Lord had something even better in store.”

Resources for discerning students include: the Beloved women’s group (email, Campus Ministry’s “Discernment Coffee Hour Series” and “Seeking God’s Path Small Groups,” and Corby Night.

Kathryn Bowers is a freshman at University of Notre Dame. Her field(s) of study will be decided by graduation. Email her at to get into an apologetics discussion.

Photo credit: Ordination of Father Gabriel Emmanuel, C.F.R., The Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal on Facebook