Friday, September 18, 2009

Olive branch?

So I've been thinking a bit about this letter, from Fr. Jenkins, which was emailed to Notre Dame students Wednesday. I appreciate the commitment to pro-life action, and I'm glad that Fr. Jenkins will be attending the March for Life. But I can't help thinking - why not last spring? Why not demonstrate this commitment when all eyes were on Notre Dame? Now that the cameras are gone, now that everyone has forgotten the commencement, now he wants to tell us that he's committed to the cause of life? It makes me kind of mad, because the greater public won't see this. They saw what they wanted to see last spring, when ND and its administration blew a giant raspberry at the bishops and the established teaching of the Church and honored the most pro-abortion president this country has ever had. It feels like he's closing the barn door after the horses have already run off.

I know I need to be charitable, and that I should just take it for granted that this is a sincere effort on the part of Fr. Jenkins to demonstrate ND's faithfulness to the teaching of Holy Mother Church. But the cynic in me wonders if it isn't an effort to attract donations from alumni which might have been lost last spring. (Did I also mention that I'm heartily sick of the hackneyed phrase "constructive dialogue?")

I sincerely hope this "task force" Jenkins proposes will be truly effective and not just a token. I know Prof. Cavadini has a reputation for orthodoxy - hopefully he can use his position to effect real change. And I'm delighted that the Women's Care Center was mentioned. They do great work and they really do give the lie to the notion that "pro-lifers don't care about women."

In short - I appreciate the conciliatory gesture and hope pro-life and orthodox organizations will respond in charity to this olive branch. But Fr. Jenkins can't undo what's already done.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


In moving forward with the book club, I emailed our club's contact at Campus Ministry, and he requested to meet with me. I was half expecting to be given a tour of CoMo and handed a sheet of guidelines for reserving rooms on campus, but he actually wanted to talk with me about my idea.

Basically the gist of the conversation is that most efforts to do something like this for grad students have fizzled out, because they don't attract enough interest and students who are interested get pressed for time and quit coming to meetings. It was more than a little discouraging. He was very nice about it but I was really surprised at some of the things he said to me. I mentioned that we are thinking about reading an encyclical and he just sort of smiled and said he didn't think too many people would be interested in that. Really? At a Catholic university nobody wants to study Catholic doctrine? (I guess I shouldn't be too surprised at that considering what the events of last spring revealed about Catholic identity at ND, but still.)

We did throw around some useful ideas but frankly, where he wants to go with it seems a bit far afield of my original thoughts. For example, he thought my group wouldn't be marketable if I put a "Catholic" label on it, and that I should publicize it as a "faith sharing" group for graduate students. Frankly that seems a little deceptive considering my intent for the group. Of course everyone would be welcomed, but I want a group that studies Catholic doctrine and thought, not some vague, nebulous spirituality. And I am not into "faith sharing"...ugh. I don't want to sit around in a circle talking about my personal image of God, I got enough of that in my pre-Cana.

I understand the need to cast a wider net...but I do feel a little discouraged right now. I do want our group to be unabashedly Catholic, and I do want the kind of people who are interested in going deeper with their faith and aren't afraid of an intellectual challenge. I don't want to cater to the lowest common denominator and water things down to make them inoffensive. Are there really so few graduate students on campus who would be interested in a group like that? It makes me a little sad. Time to go back to the drawing board...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Book club

Here on campus there really isn't much support for graduate student spirituality. In sharp contrast to the undergraduate student body which is 80% Catholic, only 54% of graduate students identify as Catholic, and I would guess that fewer are weekly Mass-goers. Most graduate students I've met are either not Catholic or rather apathetic about their faith. There are masses in the chapel at FOG, as well as a weekly rosary, but the majority of grad students are off-campus like me and there are few activities especially for us. There is one club, the Thomas Aquinas Society, that exists for the Catholic graduate students, but due to the demanding schedule of grad students it isn't always very active. The guys that run it are great - but busy just like the rest of us! It doesn't help that we don't get a whole lot of support from Campus Ministry - but I digress.

TAS had a happy hour at Legends two weeks ago to mark the beginning of the semester, and we were invited to share our ideas and thoughts for activities for the coming year. I suggested the idea of a book club for Catholic reading, which was enthusiastically received by a number of students. Since we have a pretty small group so far, I would like to invite my Domer readers to join up. This semester I will have the participants vote on the book they want to read. We will be choosing between a study of Pope Benedict's encyclical Spe Salvi and the book Life of Christ by Abp. Fulton Sheen.

I am trying to find a place for us to meet, either on or off campus. I'm going to try to contact Campus Ministry about meeting space in CoMo (a building I'm totally unfamiliar with) but eventually I'd like us to meet off-campus to make things a bit more relaxed. I'm in the process of checking out area cafes and coffee shops. This is going to be a busy semester for me - but I'm excited about the book club and hoping it will provide some intellectual and spiritual stimulation.