Different parts of the university collaborate in Week’s eighth year

The eighth annual Notre Dame Walk the Walk Week (WTWW) ran from January 19–27, shortly following Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C., and the President’s Oversight Committee on Diversity and Inclusion launched the first WTWW in 2016. The week has traditionally begun on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and has included a prayer service (though it was a video in 2021 because of the pandemic). 

Moreover, four previous years have included at least one Mass. Previous years have also included programming at the Snite Museum of Art—this year, the Snite offered virtual content for WTWW. Five of the years, including this year, included a Unity Summit for university faculty and staff.

This year, the WWTW Prayer Service was held for the first time in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. An Ecumenical Prayer Service for WTWW was planned to be held there in 2022, but was postponed due to the pandemic and not rescheduled. Fr. John Jenkins, C.S.C. opened and closed the service with prayer; the Gospel passage read during the service was Luke 18:1-8, in which Jesus, through a parable, instructs his disciples to be tenacious in their prayer. 

Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church gave the sermon at the service. He said to those present, “For the God who made us, the God who created all that is, the Bible says this God is love … and our lives can be lived in the power of that love … until one day, that love shows us how to join hands as the fellow children of God.” After the service, those present were encouraged to light a candle and put it by the statue of Jesus outside the Basilica and go to a reception in the Main Building.

Ann Firth, Vice President and Chief of Staff to the President shared with the Rover that “The President’s Office plans and sponsors the keynote events—this year, the lecture by Natasha Tretheway, the campus-wide service project to assist the homeless, and the annual WTWW Prayer Service.” She explained that the office encourages other entities on campus to organize programming “that will advance the university-wide conversation as we seek to live out our ideals ever more fully as a community. We hope everyone—students, staff and faculty—will participate in this important work, not only during Walk the Walk Week but every day. As Fr. Jenkins has said, ‘either we are all Notre Dame or none of us are.’”

Connecting WTWW to Notre Dame’s Catholic identity, Firth quoted a paragraph from the USCCB’s Pastoral Letter Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love – A Pastoral Letter Against Racism. Firth expressed that “As the bishops articulate so beautifully, this conversion of heart is part of our commitment as people of faith, and particularly so at a Catholic university.”

Different parts of Notre Dame collaborated to put on WTWW, including Student Government. Senior Eliza Smith, Director of Diversity and Inclusion — Race and Ethnicity for Notre Dame Student Government told the Rover,This is the first year that the student government has held programming specifically tied to WTWW. We also had the honor and privilege to work with the President’s Office on their keynote events to engage better with the student body.” 

Besides the prayer service and service project, Student Government was involved with “A Panel Discussion on Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline;” “Black@ND Live: A Podcast Conversation on Black Excellence;” and the “Celebrating Black Excellence Dinner.” 

“This week is indispensable for both education and inspiration for every person on campus and beyond,” Smith said. “WTWW encourages individuals to self-reflect on the legacy they want to leave and continue after leaving ND.”

Graduate Student Life was also involved in WTWW. It organized “Research That Matters: Scholarship Advancing Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” in which nine students pursuing their doctoral degrees gave “lightning talks.” 

Dr. Julaine Zenkelberger, Recruitment Strategies Program Director for Notre Dame’s Graduate School, shared with the Rover why it was important for Graduate Student Life to be involved with WTWW: “The mission of Graduate Student Life is to make sure that our grad students, just like our undergrads, have the same feeling of the Notre Dame family and community.” She emphasized that the graduate school has many international students and believes that “even though Dr. King’s message and movement all started in the U.S., diversity is obviously beyond just domestic diversity, especially at a university like Notre Dame that has international students.” 

The Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies hosted “Walking in the Spirit of Truth: Charting the Pathways to Racial Justice.” Erin B. Corcoran, J.D., the Acting Director and Executive Director of the Institute, shared with the Rover how WTWW intersects with the Institute’s mission, saying that “human rights and social justice are among the Institute’s foundational pillars, making the study of racism—and progress made, or not—critical.” In terms of the event, Professor Corcoran shared that it “threw a spotlight on social justice and racism. Given this, the topic was aligned and congruent with all aspects of the Kroc Institute’s mission.”

Senior Connor Patrick shared with the Rover his belief that “WTWW serves as a university-wide examination of conscience, an opportunity to more deeply reflect on our responsibilities as children of God. When I think of WTWW, I think of Christ’s words in the Gospel of John: ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’”

Texas. That’s all you need to know about Kathryn Sofia Bowers. (She is currently missing home but usually doesn’t brag too much about being from the best state in America.)

Photo Credit: Kroc Institute