Fellowship is at the heart of nearly every activity in the Notre Dame community. The University of Notre Dame is unique from many other elite universities because we foster a supportive community. Not only do we want to achieve success but we want others to achieve success with us; we are constantly encouraged to do our best and also to encourage our peers to do their best.
As part of a community rooted in fellowship, we rejoice in each other’s successes and help each other when we falter. The beginning of this academic year may be off to a rocky start as the Notre Dame community received three email alerts in quick succession regarding sexual assaults on our campus. We failed as a community, not once but three times. A quick response to these emails came in the form of a prayer service at the Grotto. How fitting that at a time when mistakes are made we turn to Our Lady for assistance and guidance.
Last Sunday night, Notre Dame’s Student Government’s called us together as a community to reflect on our failings and to encourage us to seek a better future. Notre Dame students came together as a community in prayer to reflect on the importance of standing together, acknowledging our weaknesses and preparing to move forward in support of one another. We know we are not perfect, we know our brothers and sisters are not perfect, regardless, we seek to always be there for each other.
Through Jesus’ own example, we realize the need for fellowship within our community. One of Jesus’ first acts in his ministry was to gather together twelve apostles. These faithful disciples gathered together in support of one another. They raised their doubts as individuals to seek the support of the community. Jesus knew that following His teachings was going to be hard; as a fallen people, we no longer live in the safety of Eden. However, coming together in fellowship allows us to participate in the renewing community of a redeemed people.
Just as in the time of Jesus, being a Catholic is not always easy. We are often called to stand up for beliefs that go against the cultural or societal norms. The teachings of the Catholic Church do not change as society’s view changes; they remain grounded in the firm reality of truth as revealed through Christ to the Church on earth. This truth is oftentimes counter-cultural, making living out the values of a Catholic life very difficult. It is in striving to live our lives in a Christ-centered manner that we must form a community around us that we know will support us, even in our failings.
The Notre Dame community faltered in its recognition of the human dignity of others. We failed because we let our brothers and sisters fail. However, we must surround each other with the hope and support of the fellowship of Catholics. As much as our achievements define us, we must ensure that our failures do not define us.
Any time that we, as a student body, receive an email about a sexual assault, Student Government is committed to holding a prayer service immediately following. Through our turn to prayer as a community, we are reminded that we must rely on the Redeemer and find our hope in Him. Notre Dame is a unique university because we place our trust in God and encourage others to follow us on our journeys. We are a community, rooted in the truth of God’s teaching, attempting to live in a world that may not always support us, and so we must make sure that fellowship remains alive in our community.