Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summer under the Dome

Campus is a really neat place to be in the summer, and unfortunately, most students never get to discover that. Some may think that when the students speed home in May, to summer jobs or research, campus life dies with their disappearance. But really, it gets busier than ever. Dozens of different groups come in for conferences, seminars, and camps involving sports, scholasticism, and spirituality. And as if you needed help to appreciate the beauty of campus when the trees are covered in leaves that nearly obscure the Dome, visitors help you see it with new eyes. There's something special about the way a person's face lights up the first time they set foot in the basilica.

Life at Notre Dame is as vibrant as ever. A half dozen of my friends are on campus for ACE classes. They are first- and second- year teachers in poor Catholic schools across the country, who are students themselves for June and July, trying to learn better how to serve their students. Others are here for ECHO, a similarly structured programme for graduates who want to work in parish ministry and religious education, run by Notre Dame's Center for Catechetical Initiatives. Another friend will arrive this weekend to help run a camp for high school students who are interested in studying architecture; he just got back from spending his junior year in Rome, as all Notre Dame arkies do, and now he wants to give something back to the program that helped him decide to attend Notre Dame. And I'll never forget NDVIsion, the week long retreat for high school students to engage the question of how they hear God's call in their immediate lives, which profoundly affected my own understanding of vocation and the way I lived out my life as a high school student after I went on it in the summer of 2002.

The thing I love about summer at Notre Dame is how so many people get to be part of Notre Dame's truly all-encompassing education, and how Notre Dame so dramatically takes its mission outside of the Academy for the summer months. You get to meet people from so many different age groups, cultures, and walks of life over the summer- families visiting the campus and living in St. Edwards Family Hall for a week, high school students attending sports camps here and maybe dreaming about coming to Notre Dame themselves one day, elderly people participating in classes or seminars. Last summer there was a conference on the growing Hispanic influence on the Church in America, and for a week, it suddenly seemed like there were more Spanish speakers on campus than English. Sunday night summer student Masses in the Basilica are the highlight of my week when I'm here, because I get to see all of my friends doing different programmes and the participants who come and go, getting a taste of a Notre Dame liturgy, with a summer edition of folk choir and people who hang around outside of the church to talk for nearly an hour after Mass. You really get to appreciate how universal Notre Dame's mission for Catholic education is, and the impact we can have on our culture and individuals from across the country far beyond South Bend city limits.

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