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Pacem in Notre Dame

Micah Burbanks-Ivey | Tuesday, September 11, 2012

When each and every Notre Dame student takes their first step on campus, they can’t help but notice the aesthetics that make the University of Notre Dame unique. From the golden statue of Our Lady, which stands erect overlooking our student body, to the outstretched armed mosaic of the iconic “Touchdown Jesus,” this campus harnesses and expands upon the ideal of serene architectural beauty. 
However, do our students fully reflect the peaceful nature of Notre Dame and the respect for all people which Catholic Social Teaching calls for? In 1963 Pope John XXIII published an encyclical entitled “Pacem In Terris,” meaning “peace on Earth.” In this encyclical, the Pope addresses all people, Catholic and non-Catholic, on methods to “establish with truth, justice, charity and liberty new methods of relationships in human society,” all in an effort to establish universal peace.
As students, we must critically analyze the social nature of Notre Dame’s campus, to see how we can create Pacem in Notre Dame. Peace on Notre Dame’s campus would require our student body to honor aspects that promote peace in the American society and Notre Dame’s social atmosphere to the highest standard.
This high standard is what we Domers demand in the academic world, and in my opinion, must demand in the social atmosphere of campus as well.
I am not implying that the Notre Dame social atmosphere is defying all aspects of peace, but I am asserting that some of our Catholic principles of peace are not being upheld or are being questioned. Emails in the midmorning hours notifying students of sexual assaults are too common in the past years.
Most of the students received one of these warnings in the first week of the academic school year that spoke of a sexual assault that occurred in one of our dormitories. Last year, the issues plaguing Notre Dame’s racial climate were accentuated when racist and disrespectful actions were performed on one of Notre Dame’s student organizations. The topic of racism has resurfaced in recent Observer Viewpoint articles.
We continue to witness the ongoing struggle of one of Notre Dame’s hopeful student organizations, a Gay-Straight Alliance, to gain recognition from the administration. Currently, student organizations are in the midst of a struggle with the University’s investment team concerning Notre Dame’s investments with HEI hotels and HEI’s unethical treatment of laborers. With this racial and social discourse, I asked myself, “Where is the strong reliance on Catholic Social Teaching that Notre Dame students pride themselves on?”
This summer, I had the great opportunity of serving a low-income community. There, I had a great revelation on the power of “service” compared to simply “helping.” Helping implies that the individual doing the helping is better off than the one being helped, that the helper is the only one contributing to the relationship. Service, however, is a symbiotic relationship where both parties are interdependent on one another. Through this interdependence both parties gain insight on ways they can improve their own personalities and spiritual attributes.
We as Notre Dame students must serve each other in this important time. We must serve each other in order to realize the issues that we can improve in Notre Dame’s social atmosphere. We must recognize and rebuke false evidence, injustice, uncharitable action and inhibition of liberty, as Pope John XXIII suggests. Noticing these negative societal problems will not be enough however. We must raise our voices and take action against them.
As students, we can demand these problems be brought forward by engaging each of them through passionate yet respectful conversation. These conversations will both highlight the issues that concern our student body and catalyze a sustainable change in our environment.
Students serving one another will also have another positive affect on the student body: Service builds a special bond between students. It will help strengthen the sense of camaraderie among our student body and help form a connection of solidarity between Catholic Social Teaching and our convictions.
So, this is a call to action. It’s a call to action asking for students to take a more active role in our social and moral atmosphere.
In the words of Pope John XXIII: “In order to imbue civilization with sound principles and enliven it with the spirit of the gospel, it is not enough to be illumined with the gift of faith and enkindled with the desire of forwarding a good cause. For this end, it is necessary to take an active part in the various organizations and influence them from within.”
If we follow these wise words and raise our voices and take action from within, together we can create Pacem in Notre Dame.
Micah Burbanks-Ivey is a sophomore majoring in political science and economics. He can be reached at mburbank@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.