A looming exodus
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, April 16, 2019
When I was a junior in high school, I watched as my brother was pushed out of our church, and as a result, became distant in his faith. I feel that it is necessary for me to provide a little bit of backstory.
The confirmation program at our church had recently changed. This was partially due to a change in administration, but primarily because my church felt that it was important for kids to take the program more seriously and become closer to the church. The church enforced strict rules for their confirmation and religion program including rules on attendance, late arrivals and service requirements. The ironic aspect was that it had an opposite effect on both young teenagers and families, resulting in an exodus of sorts. The church that I grew up knowing as a warm, welcoming family, had become a cold place with a locked door. This seemed to contradict the foundations of the Catholic faith. I struggled to put together how a religion that taught that we were all brothers and sisters, and everyone would be forgiven, would simultaneously expel a child from a confirmation program after one missed class and one late arrival. It simply did not add up.
I was lucky to attend Notre Dame and, in many ways, I once again found strength in both my faith and my community. In Ryan Hall, Fr. Joe welcomes the residents, both on and off campus, to his room each Tuesday to bake and enjoy desserts, company and conversation for the evening. Some weeks, residents excitedly bring friends and significant others to meet Fr. Joe and other residents. It is a place of friendship; it is a place of community; it is a place of accepting. To me, this warm welcome is the epitome of my Notre Dame and should continue to be for all students.
Once again, I fear an exodus from a place I love due to the stringent rules. I worry that the Ryan Hall that I grew to love and call home and family will cease to exist. I have never been as disappointed in the University as I was when I read “Residential Life Enhancements.” I do not think you can build a community by enforcing strict rules and implementing discontent and malice. Furthermore, in an institution where Catholic teaching and community rings strong from the moment one steps on campus, it seems like a major juxtaposition to exclude a huge part of the student body from the community. I fear that rather than encouraging students to contribute to this tyrannical “Residential Life,” off-campus communities and events will develop and strengthen. By instating this rule, the University severs significant existing relationships between on and off-campus students, losing friendships, role models and advice for underclassmen. Rather than trying to force students to stay on campus, I believe that Notre Dame should seek to try to find incentives and build an environment that will excite students to remain on campus and part of their community. I do believe that the Notre Dame community is something very special and rather fragile, so I think that it is important to maintain this special aspect of the University and continue to encourage this community in a positive way.
My youngest sibling will be making his college decision in two years. I hope that Notre Dame remains part of his application pool because it is our communities that sustain us years after life under the dome.
class of 2017
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.