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Midnight march and prayer service honor Martin Luther King Jr.

| Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Hundreds of candles shined through a cold winter night as Notre Dame students, faculty and staff congregated at midnight to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. early Monday morning.

The midnight march and prayer service was the kickoff event for the inaugural Walk the Walk Week at Notre Dame, a series of events designed to reflect on King’s legacy and promote diversity and inclusion at Notre Dame.

IMG_0689Katie Galioto | The Observer

Students, faculty and staff process from the Main Building with candles to the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus following a prayer service reflecting on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

As attendees entered the Main Building, they were handed candles and directed towards the rotunda beneath the golden dome. Members of the Notre Dame community crowded on the main floor and in overlook areas on higher floors.

The march was originally scheduled to start outside of Hesburgh Library and finish with a prayer service at the Grotto. However, organizers modified the plan due to dangerous wind-chill conditions and expected snowfall, according to a University-wide email.

University President Fr. John Jenkins began the prayer service by encouraging students to strive for courage and determination to follow King’s example.

“It would have been nice to have a march outside, but there’s something special about being here, under the golden dome, the heart of campus, as we pray and as we start this celebration of Dr. King’s legacy,” he said.

Eric Love, director of staff diversity and inclusion, delivered a speech examining the importance of King’s legacy, both from a global perspective and in relation to Notre Dame.

“Arguably, the most profound reason we are here at midnight is because of King’s achievement of making the promise of the U.S. Constitution more true,” he said. “We claimed all men are created equal, but we didn’t practice that promise of our own Constitution.

“We talked the talk, but we did not walk the walk.”

Love said King’s legacy has a special meaning at Notre Dame because University President Emeritus Fr. Ted Hesburgh was an avid supporter of the Civil Rights Movement.

“King wanted to be a pastor in a Southern Baptist church and simply raise his family. Fr. Hesburgh said if he had to do it all over again, he would still choose to be a priest,” Love said. “But neither one could stand idly by and let the injustices of the time go unchallenged.”

Love encouraged members of the Notre Dame community to make others feel welcomed and comfortable on campus.

“It doesn’t matter where you are from, your religion, your ethnicity, sexual orientation or family income,” he said. “Whoever you are, if you are here, you are part of our family, and you should be expected to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Love concluded his speech by challenging students, staff and faculty at Notre Dame to make a difference in the world.

“I have no doubt that we have the brilliance and tenacity of Dr. King and the political savvy and compassion of Fr. Hesburgh among us this morning — among us in you,” he said. “My question for you is, what will you do to walk the walk?”

Following the prayer service, attendees were invited to place their candles by the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Hundreds of paper luminaries lined the walkways from the Main Building.

Sophomore Katie Hearn said she felt a strong sense of community and solidarity while standing and praying with her fellow Notre Dame students.

“Everyone had their own reasons and motivations for going,” she said. “But these different reasons brought us all together and created an atmosphere of prayer and togetherness that, to me, was something special.”

Junior Joe Etling said the only events he considers similar to the midnight prayer service during his time at Notre Dame were Fr. Hesburgh’s funeral and Holy Week.

“I think it’s important for us and for anyone to celebrate Martin Luther King Day because of what he stood for and what he did for this country,” he said.

Students, staff, faculty and other community members were invited to eat breakfast in South Dining Hall after the event.

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About Katie Galioto

Katie, the Observer's current Managing Editor, is a senior majoring in political science, with minors in Business Economics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She's a former Walsh Hall resident who now lives off campus and hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter @katiegalioto.

Contact Katie