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Notre Dame Trail concludes with commemorative Mass

| Monday, August 28, 2017

175 years ago, on a snowy November day in 1842, Fr. Edward F. Sorin traveled more than 300 miles north from Vincennes, Indiana, to Notre Dame, where he developed his vision for the University. Over the course of 13 days, thousands of participants walked anywhere from 15-41 miles each day — some walking the full journey made by Father Sorin — to commemorate the founder’s journey, with the trek concluding Saturday morning.

In a Mass following the venture, University President Fr. John Jenkins said Sorin demonstrated resilience and showcased love in his determination to found the University. He said the original dream constantly expands to include more individuals interested in enhancing the mission of Notre Dame.

Members of the Notre Dame community gather to celebrate Mass after the conclusion of the Notre Dame Trail.Peter St. John

Members of the Notre Dame community gather to celebrate Mass after the conclusion of the Notre Dame Trail.

“That’s the way it’s always been with Notre Dame,” Jenkins said. “It began with a small group and a dream. And as they struggled to realize that dream, so many others joined them to be part of the Notre Dame family and to help. We celebrate and thank all those who made this University what it is today.”

According to Jenkins, troubling events around the world concern him, particularly recent expressions of white supremacism. He encountered an article arguing that universities should promote openness to debate, rather than offer moral clarity, he said.

“Perhaps, we here at Notre Dame, following in the footsteps of Father Sorin, can offer something more,” he said. “We are certainly committed to these epistemic virtues and the pursuit of truth, but at this Catholic university, we add to them other values, such as a commitment to the dignity of each and every person, a willingness to take responsibility for the common good and a special concern for those who are most vulnerable.”

One trail participant, Sara Klepper, joined her mother, a ’77 alumna for a five-day pilgrimage north.

“For us, it was important just to come out and pay tribute to Father Sorin and the original founding of the University 175 years ago,” she said. “So to get back to our roots, the University’s roots and to celebrate Our Lady with family, friends and classmates was really special.” 

Some walkers documented their experiences in an online journal that included the geographical trail description as well as the lessons learned throughout their journeys. In an August 27 entry, participant Timothy Deenihan said the trail aided in self-discovery.

“To go on this pilgrimage, I had to let go of who I was,” he said. “The same can be said for returning from it. … We mustn’t spend our days, not even our hours, holding on to what we were. We have to let go, we have to choose a direction, left or right, so that we may become what we will be.”

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