Two and a half years ago I was confronted with a difficult decision, whether to remain at Providence College where I spent my freshman year or to transfer to Notre Dame, which had always been my dream school. After my first semester at Providence, I really did not even want to apply to transfer to Notre Dame. I loved it. I had great friends, professors who pushed me and a supportive atmosphere. After some encouragement from my parents, however, I decided to apply and was thrilled to be accepted. Even after I received the acceptance I was unsure of my decision. On the final day to send in my letter of acceptance, I was in the car driving through the Blue Mountain Ridge on my way to a family vacation and made my decision to dive in, challenging myself to leave my comfort zone and transfer to Notre Dame.
It wasn’t until I became involved in various activities on campus that I realized that what made Notre Dame so special was its true Catholic identity. Not to say that Providence wasn’t Catholic but that Notre Dame has really been challenged as an institution, constantly criticized and forced to stand strong to protect its Catholic mission.
Last week, the University of Notre Dame received a special blessing from Pope Francis I. Pope Francis’ remarks were one of accolade and a reminder to stay true to the true mission of Notre Dame – to the “missionary spirit” which inspired Fr. Sorin to found Notre Dame in 1842. As we celebrate the 200th birthday of Fr. Sorin, Pope Francis’ words are a reminder to stay true to our beliefs, “It is my hope that the University of Notre Dame will continue to offer unambiguous testimony to this aspect of its foundational Catholic identity, especially in the face of efforts, from whatever quarter, to dilute that indispensable witness. And this is important: its identity, as it was intended from the beginning. To defend it, to preserve it and to advance it!”.
The Catholic mission of Notre Dame is what makes me so proud when I tell people that I go to Notre Dame. This mission is constantly shown in various events and activities on campus from Appalachia trips sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns to various worship and leadership opportunities supported by Campus Ministry. This weekend, Notre Dame will host the Edith Stein conference on campus, showing once again that Notre Dame is not only dedicated to educating the mind but to feeding the spirit.
The Edith Stein conference is a yearly tradition centered on the life and teaching of St. Edith Stein who dedicated her life as a Carmelite sister and died in Auschwitz, unwilling to deny her faith. This year’s theme is “Relationships and the Call to Love”, based off of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s call to love as “the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being”. The conference, though open to all, is specifically geared toward Catholic women, highlighting Notre Dame’s dedication to advancing the understanding of the role of women in the Catholic Church. The various conference speakers will address the question of exploring how “the differences between men and women [can] beseen as gifts, and not limitations”.
Notre Dame is a special university not because it is Catholic but because it is committed to educating the mind and the heart, just as Congregation of Holy Cross founder, Basil Moreau intended. The Edith Stein conference is yet another example of Notre Dame’s dedication to its student body and a reminder of why I’m proud to say that I am now a member of the Irish community.
Registration for the conference is free to all ND/SMC/HCC participants, registration and an entire conference schedule can be found here.