Fr. Grove inspires Freshman
This fall, Fr. Kevin Grove, C.S.C., is teaching a 240-person section of the university-required Foundations of Theology. Unlike the common experience in large, required courses, freshmen excitedly claim to have deepened relationships with fellow students and inspired a passion for a thorough comprehension of foundational theology through this course.
Last spring, Fr. Grove was given an opportunity by the Department of Theology to teach a larger section of introductory theology to 159 students. Fr. Grove, who joined the department in 2016, appreciated the difficulties inherent in large courses: “I worried that in a large lecture hall, people could feel lost or anonymous,” Fr. Grove said. “In order to make a very large room feel small, I divided the room up to be a map of campus so the freshmen were able to sit with people from their dormitories.”
The campus was projected onto Room 101 of DeBartolo Hall and then Grove assigned students’ seats based on their dorm’s location. Fr. Grove slightly altered the map in order to allow the residents of Carroll Hall to sit inside the classroom. This arrangement created an interactive atmosphere in which all students could become involved, as Drew Balster, a sophomore from Pangborn Hall who took the pilot course last spring, told the Rover: “In lectures of that size, you can often feel insignificant or like the instructor doesn’t want to get to know you on a personal level. Somehow, Fr. Kevin seemed to get to know almost each and every one of us.”
Fr. Grove’s initial “super-section” of Foundations of Theology also had an unconventional impact outside the classroom. Through a program called “Conversations of Purpose,” students gathered once a week for peer-led conversations with a mentor in their respective dormitories. The mentor, an undergraduate student who took Foundations with Fr. Kevin in a previous semester, led a 30-minute conversation that applied topics covered in the class during the previous week to their freshman experience.
Balster, a current mentor for freshmen in Pangborn Hall, said, “It’s like a theology lab. We put in so much work with the readings in class and take diligent notes; finally being able to actually understand these topics and apply them to our own lives through ‘Conversations of Purpose’ is eye-opening.”
Attendance of all weekly Conversation of Purpose meetings is incentivized through a one-letter grade bump, but the freshmen students often come seeking answers to pressing questions. Recalling his experiences in last spring’s course, Balster said, “It was a relief knowing that some people are going through the same thing that you are—from the transition to college, to figuring out how to apply these principles to a non-theology field. I was really grateful talking with kids my age and figuring out how to use this information.”
“Conversations of Purpose” not only carries theological discussion from the classroom into dorm communities; it also helps Fr. Grove plan his future lectures. After each meeting, group mentors compose reflections that help Fr. Grove determine which topics ought to be reviewed in class. This fall, there are too many students to keep track of, and Fr. Grove required assistance. Farley Hall’s rector Tricia McCarthy is taking over this role for Fr. Grove. She told the Rover: “I make sure that the questions that Father Kevin is asking line up with what the students’ needs are. I also check in with the mentors to see how conversations are going and provide any follow-up support that they might need.”
“The questions that the introductory course in theology asks about what it means to be God, what it means to be human, and how it is that God’s self-communication might reshape a world to love of God and neighbor, are some of the most important questions that people will have to grapple with in this life,” Fr. Grove told the Rover. “Our theology requirement puts those questions before students and gives them the intellectual skills and theological reasoning to address their own predicaments.”
Serving as Dunne Hall’s Priest in Residence as well as chaplain to the Notre Dame cheer team, the assistant faculty, and the Master of Divinity program, Fr. Grove is a busy man. Nevertheless, he is driven by “Notre Dame’s mission to place a special emphasis on those requirements because they are an important part of what makes up a Catholic liberal arts core.”
Fr. Grove will teach another super-section of Foundations of Theology in Spring 2023.
Bryce McDonnell is pursuing a Mechanical Engineering major and, thanks to Fr. Kevin’s class, a Theology Minor. Out of 350 theology minors, Bryce is the only one to have beaten his 3rd-grade teacher in a times table test. If you would like to reach him or want to try beating him in a times-table test, please reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: Fr. Kevin Groves C.S.C