I have to confess, of all the varied ministries in which Holy Cross priests and brothers are engaged, the only one that made me nervous was university residence life. That is, being a rector or assistant rector on one of our campuses, serving 100-300 young men. Which isn't to say I thought parish priesthood, teaching, foreign missions, or hospitality to the poor would be easy in comparison. This would just be a ministry I didn't think I had the right gifts for.
When Fr. Pete Jarret, C.S.C., our seminary rector, assigned me to be assistant rector at Notre Dame's Fisher Hall this year, I was a bit worried. Would I be too tough on the students and give a mean face to Holy Cross and the Church? Or would I try too hard to be the students' friend and end up with chaos? Or would I just not have the energy and openness to staying up until 2am to attend their interhall games and activities?
Fortunately "a great band of men had passed this way" who had walked "side by side in their following of the Lord", as our Constitutions say. From these priests' and brothers' many stories of life in the dorms and helping young men come closer to Christ (and pass their classes!), I became more excited to try it out. One wise rector put it very simply: "Just love them." The "them" in this case would be 184 freshmen through seniors…
In the weeks I have been in Fisher Hall now I have already seen glimpses of how I am called to live out this love in daily life with the students. And it's definitely in a variety of ways! From the Sunday 10pm dorm Mass (packed and overflowing!) to helping the hall government organize events (I am currently researching how to rent a dunk-tank…) we stay connected every day and throughout it. There's been a lot of fun so far – and a couple of times when I have had to be there with students after mistakes were made. We made it through our first football home-game weekend with a big Irish victory and our first week of classes.
The experienced Holy Cross religious tell me there will be a time in mid-semester when the crush of academic work, disappointments over grades, homesickness or relationship trouble will cause the guys to feel pretty beaten down. And that's when, more than any other time, we get to be a pastor to our students and love them with the Heart of Jesus. It's a pretty intense ministry – but nothing compared to God's grace!
Mr. David Halm, C.S.C., is in his third year of Temporary Vows, and is the Assistant Rector of Fisher Hall at the University of Notre Dame. David is originally from Dublin, Ohio.