Theology professor to head overhauled student formation program

The Office of Undergraduate Education and Division of Student Affairs announced changes to the Moreau First Year Experience (FYE) in an October 2nd article in ND Works, the newsletter for campus faculty and staff. Among the most prominent changes is the appointment of a faculty director to oversee the program. The structure of Moreau will also be changed: freshman students will no longer take a Moreau seminar both semesters of their first year. Other changes include a greater emphasis on academic standards, tailoring seminar curriculum to students’ various fields of study, and the incorporation of extracurricular formation opportunities for incoming students. 

The new “Moreau Program” will be led by William C. Mattison III, the Wisley Family Associate Professor of Theology at Notre Dame. Mattison, a respected scholar of the moral theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, received his PhD from Notre Dame in 2003. After holding positions at Mount St. Mary’s University and Georgetown University, Mattison served as Associate and subsequently Interim Dean of Theology at The Catholic University of America. In addition to teaching both graduate and undergraduate students at Notre Dame, Mattison serves as Senior Advisor for Theological Formation for the Alliance for Catholic Education.

Fr. Gerry Olinger, C.S.C., Vice President for Student Affairs, told the Rover: “Professor Mattison is exceptionally positioned to steward this important enterprise, both from his previous experiences at Notre Dame and other institutions as a beloved teacher, a previous faculty-in-residence, and administrator.”

Mattison told the Rover that a “working group” has already been formed to implement proposed changes to the Moreau Program. The group is especially tasked with “[bringing] the two one-credit seminars directly under the Provost’s Office so as to make them more academically robust.” 

The working group was preceded by a committee organized during the 2022–2023 academic year that reviewed and suggested changes to the former Moreau FYE. Among the changes recommended in their report was an alteration to the timeline of the program. In the nine years since Moreau FYE replaced Notre Dame’s physical education requirement in the fall of 2015, all incoming freshmen have taken one-credit Moreau courses each semester of their first year. 

According to Mattison, the recent report recommended that the university maintain two seminar courses, but that only one of these be taken in the fall of freshman year, with the second to be taken in a later semester after the first year of studies. Mattison told the Rover that, while plans are still being made, they are debating whether this second seminar may be taken “perhaps in fall of senior year.” This later seminar would be narrower in focus, tailored to “a life well-lived as relevant to a student’s course of study.”

When asked how his own academic background will inform his leadership of Moreau, Mattison said, “As a moral theologian my research has focused on virtue. Virtues are stable qualities we possess that incline us to act in ways that constitute flourishing. As a moral theologian I focus particularly on ways this occurs in common for people of various (or no) faith traditions, and also in a distinctive manner in the Christian life of discipleship. So yes, my work as a scholar is directly related to living a ‘life well-lived!’” 

Fr. Olinger also recognized the connection between Mattison’s academic background and his new position, telling the Rover,His particular academic expertise will also allow us to continue exploring how Moreau can weave character formation into the curriculum.”

The revamped Moreau Program will also place increased emphasis on extracurricular activities, per ND Works: “These experiential opportunities may include topical retreats, mentorship programs, peer-led discussion groups, skills-building workshops and exercises, cross-cultural events, service learning, pilgrimages, lectures, immersion experiences, discernment programs and research opportunities.” The article states that this will allow colleges, schools, and affiliate programs to “align respective interventions and learning experiences.”

Asked about his vision for the new Moreau Program, Mattison told the Rover, “There are so many amazing things that are crucial for a Notre Dame education: a major, internships, research, friendships, residence hall experiences, sports, etc. I am under no illusions that the Moreau Program will be the dominant part of students’ Notre Dame experience. But what we do foresee is how it can serve as an inflection point, situating and illuminating the various other dimensions of life at Notre Dame and beyond.”

He continued, “We hope it can help our students (along with instructors, who of course are also seeking a life well-lived) to become more wise. We hope it can foster habits of intellectually informed reflection.”

Fr. Olinger summarized his own aspirations for the Moreau Program, saying, “I hope [students] will remember the ways they were challenged to take the long and deep view of their education, and see the ways Notre Dame has prepared them, in the words of one Holy Cross religious, ‘to not only make a living, but to make a life—both here and in the hereafter.’”

The revised Moreau Program will launch in the Fall of 2024. Professor Mattison’s term as Faculty Director of the Moreau Program will last three years and may be renewed thereafter.

Paul Howard is a senior in medieval studies and classics. He hopes the revamped Moreau curriculum will include multiple class sessions aimed at teaching students the words and corresponding choreography for the Notre Dame Victory March. Cheer him onward to victory at

Photo Credit: Congregation of Holy Cross via Wikimedia Commons

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