Monday, September 23, 2013

Report from an ND Home Game: Part I

I just came back from my first home football game at my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame since 2002.  It was a weekend I will never forget as I shared it with one of my closest friends and her wonderful, loving, enthusiastic, spirited and FUN family. Alumni who return to campus after an extended period of time are frequently overwhelmed with the amount of building and development. Dormitories, academic building, heck—entire quads exist where open space once loomed large.
"Friends are the jewel of life!" with the Davis & McGuire families
Occasionally, this change is met with suspicion. One friend quipped, the University (by the looks of the campus) seems to be rolling in cash these days.  Something bothered me about all of it.  Has ND sold its soul? I have been back to ND many times in the summer and on non-football weekends, so my experience of campus is less jarring than others who may have been away for ten, fifteen, even twenty years. And yet, I appreciated her question. In fact, it was one I took with me as I visited in both June and this past weekend. And for the purpose of this blog, I am happy to provide my all too biased report.
Great photo of this time period.  Notice the uneven bench and lack of shrubbery. No chance of that today
Notre Dame looks awesome. Make no mistake about it. There is no den of iniquity, no area of disorder to be found (remember that fountain behind Hayes Healy where Zahm's hazing, err "initiation" once took place? There stood weeds, uneven bricks, bad plaster. You won't find the likes of that anywhere today). Campus is alive and blooming.  Flowers, mulch, greenery, shrubs grow as they should in a place that gets that much rain. Life is about trade-offs, right?

The University has supported its claim of the importance of on-campus life with stay-halls (dormitories) that are beautiful and unique. In its Admissions report, it states

At Notre Dame we develop community in our every interaction. We come here to pursue truth and as we do so, we live in the process of building relationships.  Undergraduate students form strong bonds by sharing space within their residence hall communities, expressing themselves through an impressive network of student activities, playing together on a wide array of athletic teams and by supporting each other throughout the growth and change that occurs during their four years here.
One need not look far to see that each one seeks to promote community in invitational and creative ways. This is self-evident, even in a 48-hour visit when and where a football game is of the highest priority.
Carroll Hall: Home of the Vermin. One word: impressive.
Farley, Sorin, Duncan and Alumni. These places among others are where school spirit is alive and kicking. For example, Zahm hung a green and white banner that extended the entire length and height of the east side of the building. I marveled at how they were able to construct such a placard. And we thought we were talented when we used two bedsheets to promote Pop Farley. Indeed, I am not surprised that "80% of Notre Dame's 8,300 undergraduates choose to call the Notre Dame campus their home."  

On campus still stand a strong number of basketball courts above and beyond those at Stephan. I love to discover those that are tucked away in unlikely places (the half court next to St. Ed's and another close to Carroll Hall by the lake). There is an affordable a 9-hole golf course, a stone's throw from Pangborn and Fisher in addition to the championship Warren Golf course just a mile away. I smiled as I saw more sidewalk and trails for running than ever before. Variety is the spice of life! And in case you were worried, the fields for inter-hall football are still with us. Recreation at Notre Dame appears limitless as I gaped at the list of classes and intramural opportunities provided by RecSports.

And yet, the commitment to sport is matched by a commitment to spirituality.

Geddes is today's "Center for Social Concerns"
On Gameday, I attended a talk entitled "Saturdays with the Saints" with about 150 other people at Geddes Hall.  I learned ever more about the lives and significance of the four churchwomen who were martyred in El Salvador in 1980.  After the football game, I joined 200 others in Siegfried's chapel for Sunday mass.  Indeed, each hall has its own chapel dedicated to a different saint. Students serve as Eucharistic ministers, lectors, musicians and greeters.  It is a wonderful thing to pray with and for one's community.

And that is my report on the "stuff" that is easy to quantify. Tomorrow, I will conclude with the integration of sport and spirituality in an unlikely way—once again, as evidenced from an ND home game.  Go Irish.

Photo Credits
Carroll Hall
Outside Hayes Healy

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