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Couple endows Institute for Church Life

| Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Notre Dame alumnus Robert McGrath and his wife, Joan, made a $15 million gift to endow the University’s Institute for Church Life, according to a University press release Friday.

The Institute organizes and supports a number of the resources, projects and programs offered by the University to advance its mission to provide direct service to the Catholic Church, according to the release.

“For more than 25 years, our Institute for Church Life has served as the cornerstone for Notre Dame’s service to the Church and society through outreach in theological education, research, faith formation and leadership development, and the McGraths have been integrally involved in its development and direction,” University president Fr. John Jenkins said in the release. “Their transformative gift gives the institute the resources to teach, train and serve in even more powerful ways.”

According to the release, the Institute reaches out to all types of Church leaders — from bishops to lay members — to provide opportunities for training, service and personal growth.

“The Institute is poised to become the pre-eminent source of creative Catholic content and programming for the new evangelization,” John Cavadini, McGrath-Cavadini director of the Institute, said in the release. “Building on our legacy of connecting the Catholic intellectual life at Notre Dame to the life of the Church, the McGrath Institute for Church Life will continue to be a collaborative partner with Church leaders at all levels by providing the theological tools they need to address pressing pastoral problems.”

Programs affiliated with the institute include STEP and Camino, which provide online theology courses to adults throughout the country in English and Spanish; Notre Dame Vision, a summer program for high school students and young adults;  Echo, a two-year graduate program that allows participants to serve as theology teachers in schools and parishes across the country; Notre Dame Center for Liturgy; the Office of Human Dignity and Life Initiatives, which incorporates Catholic teachings into different areas and departments within the University, and the Science and Religion Initiative, which addresses the “often-perceived myth of conflict between science and religion” in high schools.

The Institute works with the different academic department and colleges to integrate discussion about the Church into the University’s curriculum and promote the development of the Church’s “intellectual and pastoral life,” according to the release.

Robert McGrath graduated from Notre Dame in 1955 and founded McGrath RentCorp, a company which manages a portfolio of business-to-business rental companies, in 1979. Joan McGrath graduated from Marymount College with a degree in English literature and earned a master’s degree in theology at the University of San Francisco, according to the release. She also completed doctoral coursework in theology at Fordham University. The couple resides in San Francisco.

The institute will serve as a bridge between the University and the Church, linking campus theological leaders with others throughout the world, according to the release.

“Professor Cavadini and his team have built up an outstanding relationship with the thought leaders of the Catholic Church, which is the basis for our firm belief that the McGrath Institute for Church Life will become the pre-eminent, ‘go-to’ place for creative Catholic content and for what is known as the ‘new evangelization,’” Robert McGrath said. “This belief is buttressed by the dedication of the institute’s hand-selected team. They are all poised and ready to go.”

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