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Notre Dame welcomes new rectors to campus

Tori Roeck | Friday, August 17, 2012

In some campus residence halls, freshmen and transfer students won’t be the only new residents this week.

New rectors will welcome students in Breen-Phillips Hall, Farley Hall, Keenan Hall, Stanford Hall and Zahm House as they transition into their jobs as dorm leaders.

Associate Vice President for Residential Life Heather Rakoczy Russell said rectors have four important roles within their dorms: pastoral leader, chief administrator, community builder and university resource. Backgrounds in each of these areas are the criteria the University uses to hire new rectors, she said.

“We’re looking for people who are trained in theology, ministry, education – specifically higher education – and that they have a sense of themselves and their work and mission in ministry, education, student development and formation of the whole person,” Russell said.

Scott Opperman, rector of Zahm House and a former Notre Dame graduate student, said the intersection of all these areas influenced his decision to apply to be a rector at the University.

“I will try to integrate academics and spirituality into residence life, and Notre Dame does that very well already,” Opperman said. “I believe in the Holy Cross charism and mission that the University of Notre Dame has … I love Notre Dame so much so it’s just a perfect fit for me.”

Stephan Johnson, rector of Stanford Hall, said working with young people is one of the best parts of his job.

“I feel really fortunate to be here, and I think it’s a tremendous calling to have an opportunity to affect so many of God’s great children,” Johnson said. “Every time I see them, they inspire me, and they give me personally a sense of hope about the world.”

Sr. Mary Catherine McNamara, rector of Breen-Phillips Hall, is a Sister of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, and she said in a statement that being a rector has great religious significance for her.

“Simply put, it is a ‘God-thing,'” she said. “I believe God is inviting me to accept the challenge and embrace the opportunity to carry on the rich tradition of serving as Rector of Breen-Phillips Hall. It seems to be a natural next step on my journey of ministry.”

Although previous ties to Notre Dame are not required, some rectors have a long history with the University. Elizabeth Moriarty, rector of Farley Hall, lived in Farley as an undergraduate and also received a master’s degree in divinity from the University.

“I am humbled to be returning to Notre Dame, yet again, to be the next rector of Farley Hall, which I believe is the result of the divine intervention of my dear friend and confirmation sponsor, Sr. Jean Lenz,” she said in a statement. Lenz passed away in January.

Noel Terranova, rector of Keenan Hall, is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in theology at Notre Dame. He said in a statement he hopes his faith will guide him to be a good leader in his dorm.

“I feel it is a noble calling to guide young people through a transitional period in their adult development that will have a deep and formative impact on how they live the rest of their lives,” Terranova said. “I pray that Spirit will guide me so that the men of Keenan will know me as a strong leader, with firm convictions and a gentle heart.”

Opperman said he looks forward to promoting a welcoming culture in Zahm House and celebrating the dorm’s 75th anniversary this year.

“We’re going to strive to be the most inclusive and welcoming Notre Dame residential community,” Opperman said. “Another fundamental thing is we have to respect, care for and love ourselves and others, and we’re going to do that in an exceptional way.”

Johnson said building community is also important for him in Stanford Hall, and he is working to institute a big brother program within the dorm. But his first goal is to emphasize service, he said.

“My primary goal is that we become known all over campus as the hall that dedicates itself to serving others,” Johnson said. “One of the themes of our year is ‘Fend for Others.’ We’re going to get the guys out of the dorm and into some of the impoverished areas in our community and even challenge them to go beyond that.”

Russell said she is impressed with this year’s group of new rectors, and she is excited to see what they will accomplish.

“I am delighted,” she said. “What all of these rectors share in common is a deep connection to Notre Dame.”