Walk the Walk Week at Notre Dame: Let us march forward in love

Author: Sue Ryan

It was midnight, and the snow and wind chill made for formidable conditions, but that didn’t deter some 1,000 students, faculty, staff and guests from gathering in the University of Notre Dame’s Main Building Rotunda for a candlelight prayer service to begin the University’s Walk the Walk Week in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Luminaries light Main Quad before a midnight prayer service in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday Luminaries light Main Quad before the midnight prayer service

University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., led the gathering in prayer and reflection about King’s legacy and what it means today for members of the Notre Dame community.

Father Jenkins prayed: “Lord God, you led your chosen people from slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land. We ask that you lead us, the Notre Dame community, from any enslavement that hatred, ignorance, fear, racism, injustice or anything else that prevents us from being the community of love and respect that you want us to be. We remember with gratitude today the witness of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and we ask that we have the courage and determination to follow his example of battling injustice and living the gospel of the Lord. Help us, Lord, to make us evermore the community you want us to be.”

The service also included song and remarks by University students and administrators, including Eric Love, director of staff diversity and inclusion, who challenged “to truly be a community of love and respect, Notre Dame must not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.”

“As a Notre Dame family, we have much to contribute, and we can make a difference in the world through our service,” Love said. “It is a part of who we are, and it makes our ethic of care more true. We must not just learn and talk about the problems of our time, but we must contribute to the solutions and assist those in need.”

After praying the intercession “let us march forward in love,” the ceremony concluded and those in attendance departed the Main Building in silence, leaving their candles at the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue, reflecting on the words of Rev. Pete McCormick, C.S.C., director of Campus Ministry, “to commit to be people of passion, faith, of commitment to serving our fellow man.”

Later in the day, the University’s reflection, conversation and prayer continued with a luncheon and panel discussion at the Joyce Center. More than 2,500 gathered to hear Father Jenkins’ encouragement to continue to “walk the walk” of King.

“Marches suggest a journey of purpose we take together,” he said. “For the success we seek is not a destination, but a journey we must travel together. Let each member of this community commit ourselves to walking the walk on that journey. And, as Dr. King said, ‘If you can’t walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.’ And so … let us march together. Let’s each of us commit to walking the walk. Inspired by Dr. King, we invoke the power of God, the strength of Christ and the intercession of Notre Dame, Our Lady, as we walk the walk of this journey. Let us keep moving forward.”

Hugh Page, University vice president, associate provost and dean of the First Year of Studies, offered his reflections and served as master of ceremonies for the program, which included a video montage about diversity and inclusion at the University and a panel discussion, moderated by John McGreevy, I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and professor of history. To watch a video of the luncheon, click here.

Panelists included Katie Washington Cole, University Trustee and valedictorian from the class of 2010; Luis Fraga, the Arthur Foundation Endowed Professor of Transformative Latino Leadership and professor of political science; Jennifer Mason McAward, acting director of the Notre Dame Center for Civil and Human Rights and associate professor of law; and Steven Waller, a member of the class of 2017 and a mechanical engineering and economics major. The panel offered perspectives on the growth of diversity and inclusion at Notre Dame, its importance to the University’s mission and suggestions for continued progress.

Click here for Father Jenkins’ complete remarks from the luncheon.

Click here for the opening and closing prayers from the vigil.