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Maintaining identitity

Joe Trombello | Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Editor’s note: This is the third of a four part Holy Week series focusing on the religious of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross.

They live in small communities, in residence halls or alone. They work as teachers, scholars, rectors and in a wide variety of other ministries. They are the Dominicans, Jesuits, Franciscans and other religious orders on campus separate from the dominant community of the Congregation of Holy Cross.The members of other religious orders said they don’t feel uncomfortable or have difficulty maintaining a sense of community with such a large body of religious on campus from an order different than their own. Many members said they actually relish the opportunity to serve at a place where their order is not dominant, and all said that the Holy Cross order has made them feel accepted and welcome.According to the Office of Institutional Research’s 2003 Fact Book, 16 full-time instructional faculty in 2002 were members of the Holy Cross order. Only three full-time instructional faculty were noted as “other Catholic clergy,” with one faculty member noted as “non-Catholic clergy.” Among hall rectors, 12 are members of Holy Cross, while non Holy Cross rectors include one Carmelite, two Franciscans, three Dominicans and two members of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.Despite their relative minority status, members of other orders said they have flourished on campus. Their individual stories help to form a more composite image of the religious life diversity existing at Notre Dame.Notre Dame’s Dominican communitySister Mary Catherine Hilkert, professor of theology, said that Dominicans cannot easily be classified into a particular mold.”[The expression,] ‘when you’ve met one Dominican you’ve met them all’ [isn’t true],” she said. “[It’s] not like a cookie-cutter mold.”Hilkert said she was drawn to the order by the people she’s met, including the Dominican sisters who taught her in high school.”Later, in my order, [I was attracted to] the love of the word of God,” she said.Hilkert said the Dominican emphasis on scholarship, study and preaching resonated with her own interests. She has written a book on one of her favorite Dominicans, Saint Catherine of Sienna, and teaches undergraduate courses titled “Jesus and Salvation” and “Feminist and Multicultural Theologies.”Hilkert said she does not feel threatened by the majority presence of Holy Cross religious and believes the divergence of orders is positive. “It’s a gift to Notre Dame – the more diversity and the more orders,” she said. “I personally feel very welcome … I don’t even think of myself as non-Holy Cross.”Hilkert said that she doesn’t see any competition among religious orders, and she believes each order brings its own unique gifts to campus. At the same time, however, she said that she would like to see more opportunities provided to women within the Church and said a link to Notre Dame religious life on the University web site could be more descriptive and inclusive of other orders. “There are many ways in which women’s gifts to the Church need to be more recognized. That’s not just an issue here,” she said. “It will be a much fuller Church when we treasure the gifts of everyone.”Hilkert said she feels a “sense of shared family spirit” with Dominicans no matter where she finds them and noted that she and the seven other Dominicans on campus meet often to re-connect. “We’re trying to find creative ways to make time and get together,” she said.Hilkert said she considers Dominican sisters at Saint Mary’s to be “an extended community” and gathers each Sunday with a group of Dominicans, as well as other religious and lay people, to attend Mass at Saint Mary’s and converse over coffee.Religious in the residence hallsIn addition to scholarship and teaching, religious at Notre Dame also participate in campus life by serving as rectors in residence halls. Many of these rectors of other religious orders said they fulfill their ministry by interacting with students in a residential setting.”We try to proclaim God’s word through our presence in the hall, in the way we talk to residents,” said Sister Susan Dunn, a Dominican and rector of Lyons Hall. “It’s a wonderful privilege to be in the hall, to be a pastoral presence in a day-to-day sense, and I think my colleagues feel the same.”Dunn said she and other rectors gather every Tuesday night and take turns hosting each other in their respective halls. Since the rectors comprise religious of a variety of orders, as well as lay people, the gatherings provide an opportunity for conversation with fellow Dominicans as well as members of other orders.”You get the sense that there are communities that are like circles that interact at certain times,” she said.Dunn said that in addition to the rector meetings, she and other Dominicans gather together on feast days for “prayer and community.” Dunn also participates in meetings with women religious who meet to “talk about leadership … [and other issues] that would be of similar interests in all congregations.”Dunn said she feels very comfortable with her Holy Cross colleagues.”I feel that I have been welcomed and affirmed,” she said. “I think we all consider it a gift to minister with Holy Cross.”Jesuits on campusAs one of three Jesuits on campus, not including graduate students, Father Brian Daley, a professor of theology, said he has never felt uncomfortable being surrounded by a majority of Holy Cross members. In contrast, he said he feels that his minority status helps him in his ministry.”It seems to give me a great opportunity to do characteristically Jesuit ministry in a way that wouldn’t be as easy as in an institution where there are a lot of Jesuits,” he said. “As somebody whose [order] is … not in the power structure, I feel I can be helpful to people pastorally in a way that might be more difficult [for a Holy Cross member].”Fellow Jesuit Father Joseph Weiss, administrative director of the Institute for Church Life, agreed.”It’s good for Jesuits to have the experience of being a minority rater than a majority,” he said.Despite their agreement on this issue, both Weiss and Daley have different views with respect to a sense of Jesuit community. While Daley lives in a house with a fellow Jesuit, Weiss chooses to live alone.”We maintain our identity through companionship, not necessarily through living in the same place,” Weiss said. “It’s really the spiritual bonds that hold Jesuits together, not so much a place or a particular work.”Daley said that living in a community with other Jesuits is essential for maintaining his sense of community. It also improves his ability to minister.”I do feel that the practice side is good but the companionship … is essential to finding God,” he said. “If you live with other people … it makes demands on you. It calls you to live a religious life more seriously.”