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Solidarity at Notre Dame is more than just a word

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, September 1, 2005

I am sure that for many of us the happiness of being back together for a new academic year at Notre Dame has been compromised by the death, suffering and destruction that is currently affecting so many people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The situation affecting the people of New Orleans is especially dramatic because of the many poor people who are probably most directly affected by this tragedy.

Foremost in our thoughts and prayers, of course, are the families of our students, their friends and many of our alumni. We are mindful, too, of the Alliance for Catholic Education teachers who live and teach in areas affected by hurricane Katrina, and the students, colleagues and families they work with in such a selfless way.

Our Notre Dame Community always finds ways not only to remember people affected by violence and loss in our prayers, but also by sharing our financial resources with them. In past years, we have assisted people affected by the tsunami in Asia, floods in Bangladesh and hurricanes in Haiti. We know that our gift is surely small, and even inadequate, in the face of such need, but we understand that to act with solidarity and compassion for those who suffer enables us to deepen our own sense of discipleship in imitation of Jesus, whose heart was always touched by anyone affected by illness or rejection – especially the poor.

This weekend, all monies collected in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and donations that have been made to the Basilica through the “poor box” will be sent in their entirety to Catholic Relief Services, the ACE communities, and to Holy Cross ministries in the south and southeast.

I have asked the rectors to take up a special collection at the residence hall Masses on Sunday night that will be used in the same way.

I know that you will pray for this special intention and be generous with your donation, and I thank you in advance for your assistance.

Finally, and on a different topic, I want to offer a word of welcome to the first year students who have joined us for the first time within the past few days. After a full week of class, it probably feels like you have already been here for a long time. But I know that for many of you it is the fulfillment of long held dreams, and for all of you it will be an opportunity to enter into the many-faceted and wonderful realities that makes Notre Dame a family and an outstanding Catholic educational institution. We really are a community of believers and a community of scholars.

When you get a chance, read the plaque that is in front of the statue of St. Joseph alongside the Old College by St. Mary’s Lake. The words contained there are from a letter of Father Edward Sorin, Notre Dame’s founder, to Father Basil Moreau, the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, shortly after his arrival here. Three things to note are that Notre Dame was placed under the patronage of Mary from the moments of its founding; the Eucharist has always played a special role in the lives of Notre Dame students; and because of these two realities, Notre Dame has been blessed by God and will continue to “be one of the most powerful means for good in this country.” Although Father Sorin did not know it at the time, the University of Notre Dame was then only the latest in a series of missionary efforts on these grounds for over two hundred years before he came with the Holy Cross brothers, and all of these efforts were dedicated to Mary.

Father Richard Warner is the director of campus ministry. He can be contacted at Warner.2@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.