Since it was established by the Institute for Church Life (ICL) in 2002, the Notre Dame Vision program has brought more than 10,000 high school students to the University’s campus for week-long summer sessions of prayer, theological reflection, and celebration of their vocations as members of the Catholic Church.
One of the most conspicuous instances of the University’s service to the Church, Notre Dame Vision owes much of its success to the work of its “mentors in faith,” the 65 Notre Dame undergraduate students who lead the high schoolers in the program’s reflections, discussions and liturgies. The undergraduate mentors, who prepare for their work in special theology courses, pastoral formation workshops and small retreats, are themselves a feature of Notre Dame Vision’s success.
The preparation Notre Dame these undergraduates undergo to become mentors in the Vision program and their subsequent ministry among the program’s adolescent participants can have life-changing consequences. As Brian Moscona, a mentor from Notre Dame Vision’s first year, put it, “The teenagers asked us questions which really forced us to wrestle with the most important questions in life.”
After graduation, many of the alumni mentors pursue further education in theology and ministry, serve in Catholic parishes and dioceses, and teach and minister in Catholic schools. The program also helps cultivate vocations to the priesthood and religious life, especially for Notre Dame’s founding religious order, the Congregation of Holy Cross.
Sarah Ruszkowski, a 2011 Notre Dame alumna who now works in a L’Arche community in Washington, D.C., believes that her experience as a Notre Dame Vision mentor has enabled her to her to enter more deeply into a shared community with developmentally disabled people. “At L’Arche, our mission is shared life,” she said. “It is to live life in such a way that everyone in our home—those with disabilities and those without disabilities—know that they are worth it. That they are worthy of God’s love. And that doesn’t come from grand gestures, big plans and meticulous schedules. It comes from the fact that you show up everyday. I have been reflecting a lot on what it means to be God’s love… There have been many moments when I have prayed for just a minute to catch my breath between things. But I have learned to be tougher. I have learned to be gentler. I have learned how to forgive and how to be forgiven. And as I continue to struggle through these things, I often find myself connecting them back to Vision.”
Other reflections of former Notre Dame Vision mentors may be found on the program’s blog, Full of Grace.
According to ICL director John Cavadini, a crucial purpose of the mentors’ training is to inspire and nurture a cadre of faithful, fervent and articulate young Catholic evangelists. “These students will go out from Notre Dame as leaders,” he said. “Some of them will serve as priests and religious, but just as importantly, some will serve as laypeople. The Second Vatican Council taught that ‘the laity are leaven in the world,’ and these young men and women are poised be leaven in the world.”
“If there were a secret to Notre Dame Vision it would probably be this,” said Leonard DeLorenzo, the program’s director. “Mentors spend so much time working on and thinking about how best serve to serve the high school students, but the surprise at the end is that it wasn’t just about the high school students. It was also about them, about their faith, about who they were becoming and how they will continue to use their gifts to change the world.”
Contact: Leonard DeLorenzo, 574-631-2915, firstname.lastname@example.org