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Faith and identity

Steven Fisher | Tuesday, September 4, 2012

As a freshman and a Latino, I am compelled to respond to junior Johnny Wichard’s claim that the concept of “hosting retreats and/or Masses is by definition the most racist thing I [Wichard] have heard on this campus and a way to focus incoming freshmen on their race.” I believe these statements lack truth.

Two weeks ago, I registered for the Latino Freshman Retreat, scheduled for the weekend of September 14. While I first heard about the retreat through a Campus Ministry email, I merely checked it off in a list along with other possible interests and activities for my faith here at Notre Dame. In all honesty, I did not think much of it at the time.

But the smiles I have seen from Asian American and African American classmates who have shared their multicultural retreat experience inspired me to register for the retreat with excitement and anticipation. I even went up to several upperclassmen to ask, “Is the Latino Retreat a worth it?” only to receive firm nods and once again, smiles.

I cannot speak for everybody, but in my experience, no one pressured me to sign up for the retreat. No structure here locked me into any form of total segregation. No new friendship of mine was forged on the criteria of skin color. And while I will focus on my heritage on that weekend, and probably other times of the year, it will certainly not be the focus of my first year or those to follow.

It is worth asking, then, what the multicultural retreats and masses signify to those involved. Many reasons, feelings and thought can answer this question. In my case, it is an opportunity to combine identity with faith. The visits to see family in Mexico, all the holy water-sprinkled rituals my mom ministered, and all the silent prayers to Our Lady of Guadalupe? Well, I cannot wait to share that with classmates whose hearts identify with those experiences. I pray the retreat will help me understand what role my heritage and spirituality can play, especially within this community.

I try to do all this as best I can while still developing my whole self, which more than ever, will grow here at the University of Notre Dame, free from the bonds of racism and segregation.

Steven Fisher
Fisher Hall
Sept. 4