When I was about eight years old, I remember coming across a pamphlet with a very provocative title. It said, “Did you know that you could actually miss heaven by 18 inches?” It went on to say that the distance between the head and the heart in most people is about 18 inches and that God was more than a concept to understand intellectually but first of all a relationship to enter into in the depths of one’s being.
When I had my first sense of vocation in my heart, those 18 inches seems like a long way to travel. And taking my first steps to the Office of Vocations seemed like a long trek. But somehow I knew that no adventure, deep down, could compare with the journey of faith. How grateful I am that God led me into Holy Cross, which has opened up so many surprises.
If I had to summarize my life as a Holy Cross priest, I would say it has all been about both an inner and outer migration, one that has taken me from the head to the heart and back to the head again – and around the world as well. As a human being it has been about coming to know the depths of my heart. As a theologian it has been about coming to understand the depths of my faith. And as a religious priest it has been about trying to put both of these at the service of the call of the Church and the needs of the world.
My life as a Holy Cross priest has shaped me into what may be called, “A Border Theologian”. From my earliest years I have worked with migrants in various ways. In different assignments and a diverse set of institutions in Holy Cross, I have come to work not only at geographical borders where migrants try to make their way into different countries but also at spiritual borders where we seek to probe our relationship with God and each other, particularly among those who are vulnerable in the world.
It has led me from initial formation to the parish to doctoral studies to teaching at Notre Dame. Each has formed me in different ways. It has led me from the borders between Chile and Peru to those between Mexico and the United States. Now it sends me to the borders between Slovakia and Ukraine, Malta and Libya, Morocco and Spain, and Egypt and the other Arab States.
It has drawn me into the personal struggles of migrants along these borders and into work with universities, the World Council of Churches and the Vatican on issues of migration, theology and justice. I am currently working with the United States Catholic Bishops Conference to understand more of the situation of Syrian refugees, which will take us into refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt.
The Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross remind us, “Our mission sends us across borders of every sort. Often we must make ourselves at home among more than one people or culture, reminding us again that the farther we go in giving the more we stand to receive. Our broader experience allows both the appreciation and the critique of every culture and the disclosure that no culture of this world can be our abiding home” (2:17).
In crossing over these borders, I have become somebody different in the process. Some work takes me into the field, and some takes me back in the classroom. Some involves research and writing, and some calls me to lecture around the globe. At its core all of it is related to who I am as a human being, a Holy Cross religious, and a Catholic priest.
The Congregation has shaped me every step of the way in understanding what it means to be an educator of the faith. Our mission is about proclaiming good news to the poor, sight to the blind, liberty to captives, and the knowledge of God’s love for us. At its core my vocation has been about discovering how to respond to the God who first loved us. And about helping make visible the invisible heart of God.
Fr. Daniel G. Groody, C.S.C., took Final Vows in the Congregation of Holy Cross on August 29, 1992, and was ordained a priest on April 17, 1993. Recently tenured, he is an Associate Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. He also is the Director of the Center for Latino Spirituality and Culture. His scholarly work on migration has earned him several honors, including two recent awards from the Catholic Press Association. Watch a video on his pioneering work. This post continues our series for the Spes Unica Blog in which we hear from some of our Holy Cross scholars who work in education. Learn more about the work of Holy Cross in the field of education, as well as our men in advanced studies preparing for such work in the future.