Spotlight: Summer on campus a time for relaxation, preparation, inspiration

by Michael O. Garvey

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| High school students visit campus for NDVI religious retreat ||
p. Father Sorin and his companions founded Notre Dame in late November 1842; the fire that nearly destroyed the place in 1879 was ignited on an April morning; the 1904 visit of William Butler Yeats was in January; the 1940 premiere of the film ?Knute Rockne: All American? was in early October; and the first of Notre Dame’s anti-Vietnam War ?teach-ins? in 1965 was, like the 1972 arrival of undergraduate women, a fall event.p. One could almost be forgiven for assuming that nothing happens at Notre Dame during the summer. There was one hot July day in 1863 when Father William Corby became nationally famous for his general absolution of a repentant Union brigade, but even that memorable outdoor liturgy was held on the Gettysburg battlefield in distant Pennsylvania.p. For those who remain here after the May Commencement exercises, Notre Dame’s least acknowledged season is, undeniably, an idyllic time, but hardly an uneventful one. The variegated foliage, lavishly watered by a prodigal campus irrigation system, takes on a nearly tropical luxuriance, and an agreeable playfulness suffuses the place. The grounds attract numerous tourists and picnickers whose feasts embolden the already persistent local squirrels, sparrows and waterfowl, and pedestrians on the South Quad routinely yield right-of-way to entire families mounted on roller blades in comical formations of maladroit parents and nimble small fry.p. Many of these families are guests at Notre Dame Family Hall, which is Walsh Hall’s name from June 1-Aug. 3. For the last 25 years, this popular service of the Notre Dame Alumni Association has annually attracted some 2,000 alumni families and friends to the campus for directionless strolls and bicycle rides; swims and voyages by paddlewheel or sail on St. Joseph Lake; family reunions, cookouts, prayer meetings and spiritual retreats.p. Notre Dame’s summertime campus also serves as a memorable setting for the numerous weddings held in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and the Log Chapel (16 were scheduled this July) and the overflowing joy of those celebrations stimulates and magnifies the native charm of the place.p. Along with the internationally reputable Shakespearean actors performing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Washington Hall, the Summer Shakespeare at Notre Dame program brings young local actors to the Fieldhouse Mall in July and August to entertain passersby with samples from the Bard’s works.p. The residence halls are well used during the summer. According to the Residence Life office, the University becomes landlord for some 20,000 visitors between Commencement and the beginning of the fall semester. The athletic department sponsors 45 sports camps during the summer, and these bring some 7,000 young visitors, from first-grade day-campers to high school seniors, to learn and compete in nearly all the sports for which Notre Dame fields varsity teams. There also are some 80 Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) students engaged in teacher-training projects, working toward a master of education degree and awaiting assignment to understaffed Catholic schools in some 30 cities in 14 states in the fall. In addition, there are 1,000 high school students from across the nation who visit for a series of weeklong religious retreats sponsored by the Notre Dame Vocation Initiative (NDVI), a project of Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life designed to help young people recognize their life’s work as a response to a call from God.p. Despite these conspicuous familial, social and recreational uses to which Notre Dame’s summertime campus is put, this is not a season of academic default. From June 16-Aug. 1, Summer Session, the University’s third academic term, enrolls some 2,650 students in 300 courses. Undergraduates work in the humanities, social sciences and business administration; recent high school graduates enroll in introductory chemistry, physics and mathematics classes; graduate students continue in ancient languages, the arts, medieval studies and theology.p. Nor is the Main Building idle. As it does throughout the year, the Undergraduate Admissions office conducts information sessions and campus tours, and the staff of the Financial Aid office is as busy as ever, reviewing aid decisions for returning students, reconciling tax documents with applications data, assisting with loan applications and student employment, and compiling statistical summaries for the use of University officers.p. The landscaping, maintenance and housekeeping crews are busy year round as well, but during the summer their workload seems to swell. With almost hallucinatory speed, scaffolding appears and disappears on the older buildings, leaving behind freshly tuck-pointed brick surfaces, and this year Holy Cross Drive, which encircles most of the campus, is being milled and repaved.p. But even the exertions of the most ambitious students and busiest administrators become less burdensome when the University’s business is conducted in warm weather, shaded by lovingly cultivated trees, accompanied by the whir of cicadas, regulated by the tolling of the Basilica bells, and subject, as in every season, to the gentle interruptions of Catholic liturgy.p. Summer in a temperate zone illuminates an article of faith. In powerfully asserting its splendor, it tragically reveals its transience, much as we ourselves do. Reminded by blazoned days how the inbred goodness that surrounds them cannot be possessed but only given, the people of Notre Dame prepare its long-descending blessing for the 161st time.

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