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ND Vision gets ready for summer

Nora Keeney | Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Each year, more than 60 Notre Dame, Holy Cross and Saint Mary’s students contribute their talents to the Notre Dame Vision program. Some are counselors, some are musicians, but all are what the program’s director, Leonard DeLorenzo, refers to as mentors-in-faith for the many high school students who attend ND Vision in the summer.

The program, which hosts different high school students on campus during four weeks in the summer, is dedicated to helping participants discern “what vocation is, and how God calls them to give their gifts to the life of the church,” DeLorenzo said.

To achieve this, the program focuses on the values of the Catholic Church and the ways in which these values can enhance and deepen spirituality. The hope of the ND Vision staff is that as participants grow more deeply in their spirituality, they discover how they are called to use their own unique gifts.

However, DeLorenzo said the program does not just benefit the high school students who attend. He said he is very dedicated to the development of the college mentors that he works with.

“I like to inspire and to help specifically the mentors to find their best selves in what they are doing, to unlock their own gifts and use them,” DeLorenzo said.

The undergraduate mentors grow through the spirit of communal living that the program fosters, according to DeLorenzo, who has worked with Vision since 2002.

“Year in and year out, seeing the impact the mentors can have and do have is always inspiring,” DeLorenzo said. “It just proves that we don’t live our lives as Christians alone. Community is important. When you create small communities, God is present in those.”

DeLorenzo has found that 80 percent of college students who work with the program go on to do some form of ministry work.

DeLorenzo himself has an impact on the lives of the college students who serve as ND Vision counselors.

“He’s obviously hilarious and incredible and I basically sit there amazed,” Notre Dame freshman Erica Vesnaner, who will serve as a counselor with ND Vision this summer, said. “He’s really creative and really knows what he’s doing. He always seems to have some really good insight.”

In preparation for the summer, Vesnaner attends class twice a week to study the Catholic Church’s theology on spirituality, as well as to explore the questions that will be asked of the high school students in the summer.

Mentors in faith like Vesnaner were chosen amongst applicants because of the “authenticity, openness, sense of faith, and willingness to grow” they showed in their interview and application essays, according to DeLorenzo.

“I think the message when you boil it down is that God has drawn near to us specifically in Jesus Christ and for each of us there is this invitation to this life-giving relationship and a call to become who we’re created to be,” DeLorenzo said. “ND Vision is about helping high school and college students to know that and experience it. At the end of the day is there anything more that Notre Dame is about?”