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Love thee, Notre Dame

Sara Felsenstein | Monday, November 15, 2010

“Let’s drive down Notre Dame Ave.,” my mom said when we arrived on campus for Frosh-O a little over two years ago. “I want you to see it.”

It was the end of August, and it was hot. We had just driven the long 12 hours from my home in New Jersey, and I was not in the mood to sappily gaze at the Dome and listen to the fight song that my mom had set off from her Notre Dame keychain.

“It’s beautiful,” I said.

It really was beautiful: the way the sun glinted off the curves of the Golden Dome, the way the trees framed Main Building, making it seem like we were driving right into a painting.

“That’s all you have to say?” my mom asked. “Don’t you feel something? Don’t you feel at home?”

My uncle had gone to Notre Dame, so my mom has always felt a connection here, but I did not grow up living and breathing the school. I never wore a Notre Dame cheerleader costume for Halloween, and the only game I had been to before coming here was the ‘07 Navy loss.

I had never experienced that “feeling” before.

This became even more evident in my First Year University seminar, when our professor asked us to write a reflection on the meaning of home. Other classmates talked about Notre Dame as their second home, a place that felt comfortable the moment they walked onto campus.

I did not read my reflection out loud. I wanted to love Notre Dame the same way my classmates did. But for me, Notre Dame was just a college — a place to meet new people and learn new things. I did not see Notre Dame as a family.

The more time I spent here, the more I came to love Notre Dame. It was not until my junior year, however, not until Declan Sullivan’s beautiful Mass of Remembrance and Saturday’s win against Utah, that I truly understood what it means to be part of the Notre Dame family.

Two weeks ago, we gathered at the Basilica to celebrate the life of Declan Sullivan. That night, as the campus community swayed together, finding strength even amidst deep mourning, the Alma Mater was not just the Alma Mater.

That night, I felt something more.

For more reasons than one, we needed Saturday to happen. As we rushed onto the field, Notre Dame fans everywhere got their boost of morale. The seniors got their long-awaited moments of glory. Declan’s spirit was embodied in the blissful faces of thousands of students. And again, we came together as a family, in a way that only happens at Notre Dame, in a way I am so grateful I can finally understand.

I was once skeptical, but will not be again. Going through the good and the bad, and always finding reasons to celebrate: Nothing more defines a family.


The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Sara Felsenstein at [email protected]