Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Report from an ND Home Game Part II

Whether or not it's your first visit back to campus in ten years or your third in five years, what Notre Dame alumni and fans should know that what they see today, will not be here tomorrow. The University's "Campus and Development"report states 
Never a campus to be accused of “dreaming too small,” Notre Dame has $300 million to $400 million of campus development projects in progress or on the horizon. They include a center for executive education, a social sciences building, a student activities building, two residence halls, a multi-disciplinary research building, and an art museum.
My immediate reaction says "that's a lot of money." My friend was right—the University is rolling in money these days. But I also believe after my visit this past weekend for the Michigan State game that it's soul is not for sale; it will not be bought or sold. If they do it right, and I think they will, Notre Dame can and will only get better. 

And yet, I say that with humility. My basis for judgement is not scientific. I hope that my experience as the co-leader of the Catholic Identity Accreditation for WASC qualifies for something--anyone? anyone? But I'll also be the first to admit, I am not a professional consultant. I did not work for Arthur Andersen as many of my classmates did upon graduation (remember the full page ad in The Observer they had congratulating their new ND hires?).  But everywhere I go, I wear the lens of sport and spirituality.  And ND is rife with growth in both domains.
State of the Holy Family
It's easy to report just how many new buildings and structures have sprung up on campus. And the athletic department has benefitted as much, if not more than others.  Although I have often heard about the new softball, soccer, track and hockey facilities, no one has once commented on the increased amount of religious art on display throughout Notre Dame's 1,250 acres.  

A sculpture of the Holy Family stands at a central intersection. A replica of The Visitation by Holy Cross priest and sculptor, Anthony J. Lauck, CSC is appropriately placed next to the Eck Visitor's Center.  Outside of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart stands a statue of Our Lady in remembrance of the unborn.  And a beautiful Sant'Egidio Icon hangs inside as a reminder of our call to ecumenism. In 2009, Pope Benedict met with artists to affirm their talents as gift from God and the importance of their trade. He said "Sacred art is a living catechesis. The richness of religious art, shows that the Church has always been a source of inspiration." Notre Dame has affirmed this sentiment.

And yet, what I love about Notre Dame is the integration of the holy or sacred into the ordinary.  Every classroom, every dining room and yes, even every athletic facility has a cross that hangs to bless the space and to identify what we believe.  God, Country, Notre Dame aren't just words on the north door of the Basilica, it is echoed in the signs and symbols that hang in every athletic facility.

One dedication that I found particularly intriguing is the "Homage of Holy Cross" placard that hangs in the Compton Family Ice Arena. Everyone who has been to this state of the art facility for the ND hockey team has told me I have to see it.  Even though I'm not a big hockey fan, I am glad I did. WOW.  Perhaps the appropriate word here is—legion?! It may serve as a different take on Mother Teresa's maxim "something beautiful for God" and yet, it certainly is. In a small way, I think it was made even more beautiful by the message of gratitude to the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross to foster the community that is Notre Dame.

The changes and growth at Notre Dame aren't without oversight.  For example, when I saw the newly constructed towers on the football practice fields, I knew why they were there. In 2010, Declan Sullivan tragically died when the cherry picker the team had used for taping practice collapsed in a wind storm. I wish the University had placed words in memoriam to Declan Sullivan outside of the football gate. I hope they will...
I hope someday these fields will be dedicated to Declan Sullivan
T.S. Elliot wrote "home is where we start from" and returning to Notre Dame reminded me of what started there. No matter how many new building or statues rise and fall, the spirit of Notre Dame is constant. Why? because of its roots.  I think my experience and the words of theologian Ron Rolheiser affirm that belief. He writes "The pain of transience and impermanence in our lives also helps point us toward the things that don’t change, namely, faith, hope and love. These can never be bulldozed under, replaced by grain fields, burnt down by fire, expropriated and knocked down to make way for a new freeway, or rendered obsolete by newer software. In this world, Scripture tells us, we have no lasting city, but we are already inextricably bound up with things that do last forever. No wonder we sing "and our hearts forever, love thee Notre Dame!"

Photo Credits

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