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Moments of Notre Dame

Sarah Mervosh | Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Notre Dame experience, not unlike life itself, can be summed up by a series of individual moments.
The first moment comes on a Saturday afternoon in December. Around noon. I know the time because I had already been waiting for hours.
When the mail clanked through the slot, I bolted to the door, grabbed the pile and clambered up the stairs. In utter disbelief, I read my Notre Dame acceptance packet: “Welcome home.”
It was the first and only time in my life that I have cried of happiness.
I can still remember this moment perfectly. The moment my childhood obsession became a reality, the moment I started to fall in love with Notre Dame.
Eight months later, I arrived on campus wearing the rose-colored glasses that characterize the honeymoon phase of any new relationship. I pinched myself when walking past the Dome on the way to class. The Notre Dame monogrammed waffles in the dining hall were the best thing I’d ever tasted and certainly were not going to make me gain the Freshman 15. And by my first football game in the student section … forget about it, I was officially in love.
I coasted through the rest of freshman year and made it through my first “long-distance” summer. But I soon found the honeymoon phase fading until there were moments I felt disillusioned with my beloved Notre Dame.
I discovered a Notre Dame that maintained appearances to the outside world while ignoring the needs of its family. I discovered a Notre Dame that was a slave to Catholic doctrine instead of thinking for itself and leading by example. I discovered a Notre Dame that had inconsistent policies with inconsistent consequences.
Did these bureaucratic failings define the university I had fallen in love with?
Ultimately, I only needed one moment to answer that question. I found it when I was covering the memorial Mass for our classmate, Declan Sullivan, for The Observer.
Shortly after Communion, I slipped out the side door to find at least a thousand students – most of whom had never met Declan – huddled together on that chilly, autumn night.
In that moment, the sea of flickering candles seemed to go on forever. In that moment, strangers became family. In that moment, I swear I could feel Declan smiling.
Words fail to do it justice. It was the single most moving moment of my life. And it was also the moment I realized that it is the people – not the Catholic Church, the administration or even the University president – that truly define Notre Dame.
Since then, there have been many smaller moments that have allowed me to fall deeper in love with Notre Dame, flaws and all.
The nights when the Grotto absorbed my anxiety and grief, and gave me its serenity in exchange. When I was in a bad mood and someone held the door open for me going into LaFun. Late nights in The Observer office when we were all delirious, but Deb’s candy made it okay. The support of my rector when I lost faith in the administration. The magic of singing the alma mater.
Most of all, I have loved the countless moments I’ve spent with my friends here. Those moments spent laughing, dancing, “hoping,” making up nicknames for people we don’t know, seeing how loudly we can talk before Christina hears, eating, eating and more eating. The precious moments that helped a motley crew come together to make the perfect family.
Come Sunday, I’ll add one last moment to the list – the moment I receive my Notre Dame diploma. And in that moment, I expect I’ll have only one thought:
Faithfully and unequivocally, love thee Notre Dame.

Sarah Mervosh is graduating with a degree in Arabic, Psychology and
Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She would like to thank her parents for giving her the gift of a college education, Jeff for taking her to her first Notre Dame game and her grandparents for regularly sending cards with cute animals on them. She would also like to thank her business major friends in advance for remembering her when she is a poor journalist and needs beer money. Sarah can be reached at
[email protected]
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not
necessarily those of The Observer.