Faith and works at Notre Dame

Author: Michael O. Garvey


Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead,St. James wrote in his biblical letter.

Notre Dames president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., likely had St. Jamesadmonition in mind when he observed thatwhat gives purpose and direction to our intellectual endeavors and our academic life is our commitment as a Catholic university to a view of human life as grounded in love of God and of neighbors.That is why servicein the community, the nation and the worldis both preached and practiced at Notre Dame.

When some 160 Notre Dame graduating seniors embarking on a year or more of service in this country and abroad were honored during this years annual Senior Service Send-Off ceremony, they were exhorted to such service by the actor Martin Sheen, who would himself be honored with Notre Dames Laetare Medal the next day.

You will often remain uncompensated for your time and talent,Sheen reminded them,and your behavior may be acceptable only to a precious few.But your loyalty and values will never be subject to compromise.You may live a happy and even productive life, though you wont leave much of an inheritance, but you will leave a substantial legacy of social justice, and be a great source of spiritual nourishment for those who may choose to follow.

Many of the seniors Sheen was addressing became involved in service and social action through the programs and courses of the Center for Social Concerns.They were about to join a community of more than 3,500 Notre Dame alumni who have chosen postgraduate volunteer service since the center opened 25 years ago.

According to a recent report by Jay Brandenberger, the centers director of experiential learning and developmental research, 18.1 percent of Notre Dame seniors in 2007 spent three or more hours in some form of community service each week, compared with 15.3 percent of seniors nationwide.

Eighty percent of Notre Dame students perform some sort of voluntary community service at least a few times each year, and it is a habit woven through an active life.Notre Dame students are quite active,Brandenberger writes,and there is competition for the volunteer hour.Seniors in 2007 reported spending less time volunteering than studying, exercising, working on campus, watching television, surfing the internet, socializing and career planning, but more time in service than playing video games, working off campus, talking with faculty outside of class and commuting.

According to the report, entitledCommunity-Based Learning, Research and Service at Notre Dame,in the years since the center opened, 3,945 Notre Dame students have taken part in the domestic and international Summer Service Learning Programs, and 14,500 students have taken part in Social Concerns Seminars, which immerse them in the life and plight of the poorest communities of rural America and the nations inner cities.

In 1983, the fledgling center was housed in a building adjacent to Notre Dames Hesburgh Library, the former studios of what was in those days the Universitys television station, WNDU-TV.Having outgrown the small building over the last quarter of a century, it will move into a new home, now under construction on the same site in the fall of 2009.

Gifts from Notre Dame trustee and Institute for Church Life (ICL) advisory council member Michael Geddes and his wife, Sheila, and from fellow ICL advisory council member Thomas Cabot and his wife, Mary, are funding the construction of a building for the ICL programs: the Center for Social Concerns, Center for Catechetical Initiatives, Church Music Initiative, Center for Liturgy, Notre Dame Vision, the Satellite Theological Education Program, and theWhat We Hold in Trustseminar.The new Geddes Hall, approximately 64,000 square feet in size, will include a chapel named after the Cabot family.

According to Father Jenkins it alsowill provide the expanded and enhanced space which the institute and center need because of the growth in demand for their services and programs. In addition, it will help foster many synergistic opportunities for the two entities to work more closely together on programs involving students, alumni and other Notre Dame constituents in service to the Church and society.

_ Contact: Jay W. Brandenberger a 574-631-5293 or_ " "

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