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Are you even reading this?

Kate Barrett | Thursday, October 26, 2006

Are you between the ages of 18 and 22? Have you begun to read this column? If so, you might be the only undergraduate doing so. This may make you want to: a) stop here; who wants to be the only one doing anything? or b) forge ahead; you’ve always thought of yourself as a cutting-edge type.

The “Faithpoint” column runs on the Viewpoint page of The Observer every Thursday, written from Campus Ministry alternately by Father Dick Warner, our director, or me. It’s a chance to write and think about issues facing the campus community from the perspective of our Christian faith.

I have found that in the days following the appearance of a column, I receive some very lovely comments from readers (I am typically not a controversial person – although you could ask my husband about my recent run-in with the cell phone guy when we updated our plan – so I don’t get a lot of heated, angry responses to these columns).

I once had a “subway alum” who reads The Observer on-line send me an e-mail from his office at NASA in Houston. Students’ mothers who get the paper at home write to me. Sometimes people I pass on the quad will mention that they liked an article they read recently; other parents who work at Notre Dame will make kind comments as we pick up our kids from school at St. Joe grade school downtown. Even a few of my husband’s colleagues in the Law School have sent encouraging e-mails my way.

Why do I mention this? If you’ve read this far (and again, if you’re a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior at this fine university, you may be the only one who has read this far) I will let you in on my secret: I don’t think undergrads ever read the “Faithpoint” column. Father Warner disagrees with me, but I say, at least not when I write it. We have a little joke in our house: an informal running accumulation of months gone by since I started writing the column – without any tangible evidence that one single undergrad has made it beyond the headline.

Please don’t get me wrong; I’m not fishing for compliments or praise. Every day my husband and my kids tell me they love me, so I’m good. It’s not that I need to hear whether you (the hypothetical “you,” if you’re still hanging in there) liked it or not; my concern is simply this: I’d like to write about what you’d like to read. Actually, cancel that; I’d like to write what you need to read. What’s going on with you that you would like another faith perspective about? What topics would help you as you grow and explore your faith? What do you pray about? What questions do you have about Catholicism in particular or Christianity in general? How are you – or are you not – connecting the way you live each day to what our faith teaches us? What topics would spark a worthwhile conversation among your friends?

I’m not trying to abandon my new cyber-friends, most of whom I’ve never met, who have sent me often very moving e-mails after a column, or the assorted faculty members or friends (or the one grad student I heard from once) who out of the goodness of their hearts read what I write and take a minute to tell me so. I don’t mind just sending these reflections off onto Notre Dame’s little corner of the information superhighway every other week by Wednesday noon, but it does sometimes seem a bit like talking to myself. I walk across the quad from the parking lot by Lyons over to Co-Mo in the mornings and watch many of you tromping off to your 8 a.m. classes and wonder, what can I write that will touch your hearts? I may be hopelessly out of touch; after all, I was a student here before you all were even born, but I’m a quick learner.

So. My e-mail address is conveniently located right here after the next – and last – sentence.

I’d love to hear from you.

Kate Barrett is the director of resources and special projects in the Office of Campus Ministry. She can be reached at kbarrett@nd.edu

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