Residents of residential hall comment on their priest in residence and new university president

Notre Dame announced its selection of Father Robert Dowd as its next president via press release on December 4, 2023. To most students on campus, Fr. Dowd is known as the Vice President and Associate Provost for Interdisciplinary Initiatives, but to the residents of Cavanaugh Hall, he is more affectionately referred to as Fr. Bob, their priest in residence. 

Upon hearing the news of Fr. Bob’s appointment, the women of Cavanaugh Hall were ecstatic. Cavanaugh resident Kate Garcia described to the Rover how she immediately wanted to extend a gesture of support for her priest in residence, and in the process she found another girl already busy decorating his door. Garcia commented, “It’s great having Fr. Bob in the dorm. It’s always a joy to see him around, and we are so honored to have him represent Cavanaugh!” 

Although many of the residents, such as sophomore Mary Elizabeth Balof, had “heard through the grape-vine” that he would be selected as president, they nonetheless felt a sense of solidarity within their community on the day of his appointment, joining together all members of the residence hall in celebration. Junior Sydney O’Malley attests to the unifying force of the news, stating that she “felt a sense of unity and strength within Cavanaugh Hall” upon the appointment. 

According to the women of Cavanaugh Hall, Fr. Bob is a skilled community builder who is committed to the students. O’Malley told the Rover, “Fr. Dowd prioritizes the Notre Dame community and everyone he encounters. I am confident that [he] will guide our community in harnessing our Catholic background and beliefs to contribute positively to those around us.” He has made efforts to get to know each of the residents personally, whether before interhall sports matches, or while drinking smoothies after Mass. 

Many of the women referenced his positive qualities such as “making everyone feel important and listened to.” The residents also commented on how Fr. Bob “takes the time to talk to everyone” and “truly is interested in hearing about our lives and activities.”

One resident remarked, “I value Father Dowd’s genuine concern for how Notre Dame students can leave a lasting, positive impact on their environment.” Other residents confirmed this sentiment, noting how Fr. Bob is a person who not only values the unique gifts the students can bring, but also seeks to have them cultivate those talents in meaningful ways. 

Father Bob also is an avid supporter of the Cavanaugh flag football team. Praying with and cheering on the players from the sidelines, he encouraged the team throughout the entirety of their championship match this past season. Due to his active involvement in residential life, it came as no surprise when Fr. Bob announced he would be continuing to reside in Cavanaugh even after he begins his role as president.  

Garcia told the Rover how she has seen Fr. Bob actively promote Catholicism within the dorm, as well as in the Holy Cross community at large. She shared, “I look forward to seeing him execute that same leadership on a larger scale.” 

Recently, Father Bob gave a talk at Sorin College, which O’Malley thinks demonstrates how Father Bob outwardly displays his Catholic faith. She said his words show “a profound connection to Catholicism,” as well as expressing faith as a “guiding force in his daily life.” She also commented, “I am confident that Father Dowd will do an impeccable job as president, prioritizing Notre Dame’s Catholic values, education, and the common good.” 

Elizabeth Mitchell is a freshman studying marketing, theology and constitutional studies. She is also “directionally challenged.” Any tips for helping her find her way (or lost water bottle) should be directed to Otherwise, she highly recommends St. Anthony.

Photo Credit: Marlyn Batista

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