Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Around Campus: Getting to Know Fr. Lies!

Fr. Bill Lies is currently serving as the VP for Mission Engagement and Church Affairs at Notre Dame and a priest in residence at Alumni Hall. I have the had the great opportunity to get to know Fr. Lies during my past three years here at Notre Dame and am constantly inspired by his dedication to the Lord and to Notre Dame as well as his obvious love for his family, particularly his strikingly handsome, identical twin brother.

What is your favorite thing about Notre Dame?:

The Alma Mater at the end of the football games.  Indeed, the Alma Mater at the end of anything.  It’s really not about football, it’s about the way our community embraces each other in moments like that.  It’s not just a nice tradition; it touches the heart of who we are.

photo from: www. nd.edu

How did you come to your current position?

I was the Executive Director at the Center for Social Concerns and Fr. John [Jenkins] was thinking about ways in which we might be more intentional about reaching out to the U.S. Church, and not just the bishops but Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services and a zillion other organizations and ways in which we could more effectively support the Church in this country and beyond through scholarship and service. Through numerous conversations with other people and myself, Father John created this Office of Mission Engagement and Church Affairs. Notre Dame is a robustly Catholic place, so many of these things were already going on.  The hope is that they will be brought together in a more official, integrated ways through this office.

What is one of your favorite memories at Notre Dame?

I have a brother, Jim, who was at Notre Dame for some years; he’s a Holy Cross priest as well. He’s an identical twin… (and strikingly handsome I might add). He first came here for graduate school, and it’s how I came to know Notre Dame and Holy Cross in the first place. Many years later, when I was looking at religious life, Holy Cross became one of the obvious options, which we had both talked about; he joined as well a couple years after me. Jim is now the VP for Mission at Stonehill College doing essentially the same thing that I’m doing here, which is almost impossible for us to believe.  One of the great graces in my life is that Jim and I are both brothers in life as well as in Holy Cross. Regarding the funniest moments here at Notre Dame, they mostly revolve around Jim and I being confused for one another… and the examples through the years are endless.   For instance, when he comes for a visit to Corby Hall, our priests and brothers residence on campus, they put an envelope with his name on it on a board in the front entry. The second that envelope goes up on that board, several Holy Cross guys at Corby will call me Jim the next time they see me. And I just set them straight and tell them that he’s not coming for another couple days.

Can you talk a little about your calling to the priesthood?

I graduated from undergrad, spent a year as a lay volunteer with the Dominicans in Chicago, then I worked for two years. I was contemplating the seminary and priesthood. One day, in the middle of time in Chicago, someone asked me, “What are you going to do?” And I responded that maybe I would be a priest, unless I fell in love and got married.  Well, I thought to myself later, am I just going to let my whole life happen to me? If someone like me, who loves the Lord, doesn’t think seriously about ways to serve Him, then who will? From there, it was a relatively easy choice to choose religious life with Holy Cross. It helps too that I come from a long line of religious people by the way.  In my mom’s family, the first is a Franciscan sister, the next is a priest, the next a Christian Brother.  In fact, it was so much a part of our life and family culture, I used to joke that this wasn’t such a hard choice… I thought everyone was doing it!

Do you have any advice to students discerning their future?

Be open and prayerful. As I look back at different times when these questions weighed heavy, I sense that with a certain openness and prayer, grace always filled the spaces of doubt and the Lord ultimately led my discernment. And get someone to talk with, like a spiritual director or confidant, who can walk with you along the way.  

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