Road Trip: "Aha Moments" at the University of Notre Dame

Just finished visiting six colleges in the Midwest.  Here are my “aha moments” from the University of Notre Dame.

We all know that Notre Dame is a Catholic University, but I assumed it was nominally Catholic – more equivalent to a secular school with an awesome football program. My “aha moment” was that religion is pervasive on campus

Eighty percent of students are Catholic, of which about 50% are “practicing Catholics”.  Our tour guide was Episcopalian.  Though he felt “totally comfortable” on campus as a non-Catholic, he went on to explain that most all students identify with a faith and that it is normal among students to talk about their beliefs, life philosophies, moral values. 

As our tour passed through Morse Center, home to various administrative offices including the Office of Campus Ministry, the First Year of Studies Program, and Academic Services for Student-Athletes, a hand written white-board sign in the hallway proclaimed: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

We also passed “Touchdown Jesus”, a massive mosaic on the exterior library wall – visible from the press box of Notre Dame’s football stadium it is familiar to millions of television viewers.  Less well-known is the Grotto, an outdoor shrine where candles are lit and a prayer said.  It is especially popular on football weekends and around finals time.

Main Building and its gold dome mark the center of campus; in front of the building is what is affectionately known as “God Quad”. Notre Dame’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart is not only a place of worship for students and faculty of Notre Dame; it serves as the mother church of the Congregation of Holy Cross in the United States.  Students can also attend chapel in their dorms (which are all single sex).  Every dorm includes a chapel and one or more resident priests. There is no requirement to attend, but the most popular time to for chapel in the dorms is the 10pm service.  Faith and religion is notable on campus.  

Football, mentioned a few times in this blog, looms large at Notre Dame.  Tailgates are ubiquitous on game days and the marching band parades through campus at 8am just to ensure all are awake and ready to go. 

US News ranks Notre Dame’s academic program #16 among national universities and its breadth of academic programs are perceived strong; Mendoza Business School is particularly well regarded (#11).  When applying to the university, students apply to the university as a whole with the exception of the Mendoza School where pre-approval is becoming more important to ensure a spot in the program.

Consider the University of Notre Dame if you are looking for a strong academic program plus the balance of serious sports (football) and are seeking out, or are at a minimum are comfortable with, faith in your daily life.