The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



‘Christ is ever young’: three Notre Dame seniors to enter religious life

| Friday, May 19, 2023

Every generation has had its fair share of challenges to hearing and answering God’s call, Fr. John DeRiso, vocations director for the Congregation of Holy Cross, said.

DeRiso said more men and women on Notre Dame’s campus are considering entering religious life than people would think.

“Christ is ever young. The message of the Gospel is ever fresh and ever new, and so it encounters people in fresh and new ways,” DeRiso said. “While the challenges might be unique to this generation, I think the call is one and the same.”

Two Notre Dame graduating seniors joined Moreau Seminary this year to complete their postulancy with the Congregation of Holy Cross. Next year, these men will spend their novitiate year at the Congregation of Holy Cross’ formation house in Colorado Springs.

Ben Nash, a senior living in Alumni Hall, will be entering a religious community called Miles Christi after graduation.

Growing up a huge Notre Dame football fan in San Diego, California, Nash said Notre Dame was the only college he applied to.

“I always wanted to come to Notre Dame. I come from a Notre Dame family,” Nash said. “My mom went here. My aunt and uncle went here. My grandfather went here.”

When deciding to study philosophy and theology, it didn’t take Nash long to realize the University’s programs were going to be phenomenal, he said.

“I think studying philosophy and theology here has been the best possible preparation for jumping into priestly formation,” Nash said. “The theology department especially is just so, so excellent.”

Nash said the two theology professors who had the largest impact on him were Cyril O’Regan and John Betz.

“John Betz’s ‘Mystery of God’ class that I took last semester was so eye-opening intellectually but also spiritually,” Nash said. “I would leave class and want to go pray with some of the stuff that he would say in class. He was just dropping truth bombs.”

Outside of the classroom, Nash interned with Campus Ministry his junior year, assisting with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program, he said.

“[I was] teaching the faith to people who are converting to Catholicism and seeking to come into the Church and getting to walk with them on their spiritual journey, help them to pray and be there for any questions that they might have about the faith,” Nash said.

As a junior, Nash was also the president of his dorm, Alumni Hall.

“I got to meet a lot of guys and focus on building community. The order that I’m joining, most of the apostolate is with young people, so with high school and college students,” Nash said. “It was a good opportunity to lean into that — to see how we can have Christ in our community amongst the guys in the dorm.”

Additionally, Nash served as student government’s inaugural department of faith director this past year, was involved with the praise and worship band Totus Tuus and was a Sorin Fellow with the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture.

Nash said DeRiso and the Congregation of Holy Cross did their best to recruit him to the religious community affiliated with Notre Dame.

“I absolutely adore Holy Cross. On paper, it would have even made sense for me to go Holy Cross, but I think Miles Christi was just kind of a God thing,” Nash said.

Miles Christi is an Argentinian religious order founded in 1994 that focuses on the spirituality of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Nash said.

“And their charism is the sanctification of the laity — particularly young people, as the apostolate primarily consists of spiritual direction, Ignatian retreats and intellectual formation for high school and college students,” Nash said.

Although Nash first encountered the order at his San Diego high school, he didn’t fall in love with the community until serendipitously spending his Thanksgiving at the Miles Christi house in South Lyon, Michigan as a Notre Dame first-year, he said.

“When I was a freshman, I didn’t have anywhere to spend my Thanksgiving, and they invited me up to their house in Michigan … it wasn’t intended to be a discernment visit. It was just something to do for me to get a break from campus, get some rest and pray,” he said.

Most of the men in order are Argentinian, Nash explained.

“So they kind of became my Argentinian adoptive family. I had such a good time. They loved me so well,” Nash said.

Originally, Nash said the only thing he knew for sure about his vocation was he would never join Miles Christi.

“More and more [Miles Christi] felt like home, even though it had initially felt like an impossibility,” Nash said. “I’ve gotten to know them more and more and gotten more excited about their work and their particular spirituality as the years have worn on.”

Upon officially entering Miles Christ, Nash will spend a year in Michigan for postulancy and then two years in Argentina as a novice. After that, Nash said he’ll work toward two licentiate degrees: one in philosophy in Argentina and one in theology at a pontifical university in Rome.

Nash credits three older friends from Notre Dame, who have already plunged into religious life, for inspiring his vocation, he said.

“I don’t think I would be in the position that I am now without … Maggie and her witness, being able to say yes to enter into religious life. To see her do it a year ahead of me and same with my Alumni buddies, Mike and Tim, to see them make that yes to God has shown me that I can do it,” Nash said. “I would not be here without my friends.”

Entering the priesthood carries all the fears and doubts one might except, but Nash said all the sacrifices are worth it because they are made for God, and God is the highest good.

“I can say right now, having just plowed through final papers and everything, I cannot wait to be a religious and just have time to pray,” he said. “That [Miles Christi] house [in Michigan] is like a fortress of peace. It’s like peace I’ve never experienced in my life.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About Peter Breen

Peter is an Associate News Editor for the 2023-2024 term. Feel welcome to contact him at [email protected] with feedback or story ideas.

Contact Peter