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Serving our dual mission

Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dear Editor,

The tension between being Catholic and being a university is constant at the University of Notre Dame, as it should be. When either has too great a pull, we fail to live up to our unique mission. Finding a balance is a never-ending, often contentious challenge.

The current fulcrum on which Notre Dame is trying to balance itself is our invitation to President Obama. The virulent response to his upcoming visit has weighed down the scale on one side, but not the side that cradles Catholicism.

Through dramatic demonstrations and verbal protests, members of the Notre Dame community are questioning authority. People are disputing the president’s position on vital issues. They are speaking out, calling for change. Such is a defining role of universities in our society.

On the other hand, those vehemently opposed to Mr. Obama’s visit, who would have Notre Dame’s commencement exercises become a circus, are neglecting Notre Dame’s duty to its Catholic identity, as exemplified by Blessed Father Basil Moreau, whose Holy Cross priests founded Notre Dame. In the face of adversity, Father Moreau responded with love, always with love. No minds are persuaded by three-ring threats. No hearts are ever changed with angry insults shouted in frustration. If the goal is to uphold the dignity of life, perhaps the stronger strategy is to win hearts and minds with a display of intense confidence in that belief, and a welcome to join. Father Ted Hesburgh expressed this sentiment with his usual eloquence when he suggested that “quite often, the very fact of being here has changed the speaker.” Finding balance between being Catholic and being a university may be Notre Dame’s greatest challenge.

That dual mission, however, is what makes us who we are. It is in maintaining that delicate equilibrium that we can say with greatest pride, “We are Notre Dame.”

As ever,

Sarah Hamilton Magill


class of 1986

April 14

Sarah Hamilton Magill served as Editor-in-Chief of The Observer for the 1985-1986 term.