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Alumni launch online faith program

Molly Madden | Thursday, March 18, 2010

In an effort to involve the entire Notre Dame community in the faith mission of the University, the Alumni Association has launched an online program they hope will reach out to Notre Dame family members that are no longer on campus, Alumni Association members said.

“Tender, Strong and True: Living the Gospel Daily” is a monthly online program that features live roundtable discussions with two panelists and a moderator. The participants talk about current issues and how faith and spirituality should play a role in how these questions are approached.

“The purpose of the program is to explore real challenges we face in life through a lens of faith,” Kathy Sullivan, the Alumni Association’s senior director of spirituality and service and founder of the program said. “We approach relevant issues as being infused with the wisdom and presence of Gospel values.”

Sullivan said the program is unique in that most of the questions on the show are submitted by the viewers in real time through social networking venues such as Facebook and Twitter.

“We wanted a technology that would enable people to participate with the questions in the program,” Sullivan said. “We wanted to create an online community of learners.”

Monsignor Michael Heintz, who served as moderator for two editions of the program, said he thinks the series serves a greater purpose for the Notre Dame community.

“This series is a way of utilizing technology to help members of the Notre Dame family stay connected,” he said. “We have a spiritual responsibility to the Notre Dame community and this program allows them to stay connected to that spiritual aspect.”

Sullivan said the idea for the program came from another online spiritual venture, the pray.nd.edu Web site she helped to create. Sullivan said in looking at prayer requests that were submitted to the site by alumni and others, she noticed a pattern of concerns over trying to figure out how to move forward in faith life during hard times.

“I began to ask what we could do to reach people and bring faith needs to our alumni,” she said. “Then the idea for ‘Tender, Strong and True’ began to form.”

The actual planning got underway in September. The Alumni Association set up an advisory group that included Sullivan, Chair of the Theology Department John Cavadini and Director of Campus Ministry Fr. Richard Warner. The pilot episode aired Feb. 7, featuring a discussion on prayer and the Lenten season, attracting 70 viewers to the live viewing and 238 watched the video after the viewing. The most recent edition, which aired on March 14 and featured the topic of job loss, has had over 700 views on the Alumni Association’s Web site.

Heintz said each show has only minimal planning with most of the content being left up to the questions submitted by viewers.

“We meet before so we have an idea of where we want to go,” he said. “But there’s not a script; we just try and engage in conversation.”

Sullivan said the response she has had from viewers has been one of gratitude and appreciation. She said she thinks the series touches people on a unique level.

“This isn’t intended to be an Oprah show or a psychology show,” she said. “It’s an effort to explore how we live our faith throughout our whole life and applying a faith perspective as an overlay to the challenges of life.”

Sullivan and Heintz both hope the series continues to be a service not only to Notre Dame alumni, but to the Notre Dame community as a whole.

“A life of faith for a member of the Notre Dame family doesn’t stop at graduation,” Heintz said. “This series will continue to provide a forum for the University to speak to the community beyond campus.”