In 2010, the University of Notre Dame welcomed its first class of Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars to campus. According to the website, the program “seeks to attract, encourage and equip extraordinary students who will have a transformational effect on the Notre Dame community.” The students say their motto “Be Transformational” is how they approach their daily lives. The funding for the program came from a generous donation from the Yusko family, in honor of past university president Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C.
When Wei Lin, 18, walks into a room, he is greeted with a chorus of hello’s. He knows everyone, and everyone knows him. His wide smile is contagious. It is unclear whether he has ever had a bad day. When asked, Lin would say he is very blessed.
“The thing that made this weekend so beautiful was standing in front of the altar and seeing the many faces of all the great friends who were in the audience,” Lin said.
On Saturday, March 30, 2013, Lin was baptized, received the Holy Communion, and was confirmed into the Catholic Church with five others at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart Church at the University of Notre Dame.
He could not stop smiling. It was the first thing every churchgoer said as they offered their congratulations to Lin at the end of the service. He stood beaming in the center, the star of the show. Though he stands out in the crowd, his passion for his faith is no turn-off, even for a confirmed but questioning believer such as myself.
I watched Lin as he embarked on the last leg of his spiritual journey before becoming fully Catholic. At the Vigil, Lin professed his faith and the crowd, including myself, dutifully responded “I do” to the renewal of our own baptisms.
Lin, the product of two non-Christians from Queens, New York, knew the Catholic Church was his home the moment he set foot in it. It calls to him. He spent countless hours each week serving the Church in the liturgical choir while simultaneously undergoing the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults classes. Since the spring semester he has attended Mass twice every Sunday: the 10 a.m. for liturgical choir and the 11:45 a.m. for RCIA. Not to mention the 8:30 a.m. rehearsal and the classes in between.
“I went to a competitive high school and it was hard to find time to pursue a faith life,” Lin said. “I messed up a lot in high school. I felt Notre Dame would be a good escape from that environment.”
At the reception in the Coleman-Morse Center after his baptism, Lin hardly ate. He was busy hugging and thanking everyone at the RCIA reception for their support, and then repeated the gesture upstairs at the reception for the liturgical choir.
“I’m starving,” he said, looking at me as we headed back down to the RCIA reception once more. I looked at the clock. 1:12 a.m.
“You’re like someone who just got married!” I told him. “You haven’t stopped greeting people all night and you know everyone here.”
He smiled. “In a way, I did just get married,” he said. “I’ve finally married my faith and become closer in my relationship with God.”
It is enough to make every Catholic – heck, every Christian – who was baptized as a baby reconsider faith. If given the obstacles and the choice today, would you do what Lin did to become Catholic?
Click the first image to begin slideshow with captions. All photos by Clara Ritger.
I’m not about to make any predictions about Manti Te’o’s complicity in the hoax involving once-dead, now-fake girlfriend, Lennay Kekua. I, like many of you, have read the coverage, watched and listened to the interviews, and seen the comedy, woven out of his unsettling controversy.
So I have mixed feelings about sending more on this young linebacker into the ether presumably for the consumption of the Notre Dame haters. As former newspaperman – now Notre Dame faculty and staff member – Matt Storin (@MattStorin) tweeted on Jan. 17:
“It’s open season on Notre Dame, so get your gripes in now –new or old. True or false. The window will close soon. Don’t delay.”
He’s right. We made a laughingstock of ourselves in Miami and this is just the icing on the cake. True or false.
So when I’m looking at the coverage, I can’t help but notice three trends. First, Manti Te’o lied to his family and to the media, whether he knew about Lennay being fake or not. Second, this will hurt both Manti Te’o’s and the university’s football image, no matter who did and did not know what. Third, Manti Te’o must have a motive, and it might be his sexuality.
The story is not of the man who crafted a hoax to frame or potentially extort a Heisman candidate. It is of the victim who slipped up along the way.
I don’t know what Manti did and did not know. He shouldn’t have lied to the media and to his parents, but I understand his self-conscious reasoning that his relationship was abnormal. He has taken the fall for the hoax, but the university shouldn’t also be blamed. And his sexuality should not become a point of public debate. President Barack Obama prioritized protecting the rights of our “gay brothers and sisters” in his second inaugural address Monday. There’s no “but” to this one. No matter what Te’o did or did not know, on the point of tweeting and meme-ing his sexual orientation, the media is in the wrong.
The University of Notre Dame and civil rights groups are not unfamiliar entities, and their connection lies in their leaders.
Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., sang “We Shall Overcome” on June 21, 1964, while at a civil rights rally. The image was acquired by the Smithsonian and hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, though copies are also seen on campus at Notre Dame, most notably in the west archway of the LaFortune Student Center. Hesburgh was also the university president who allowed women to enroll as students in 1972, just forty years ago.
At the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Discussion and dinner, student leaders gathered to confer on topics including America’s role abroad, the use of social media, poverty and inequality and the Notre Dame Catholic identity. The chat was brief, and I hope students will continue the conversation beyond what was tossed around over delicate salads and exquisite cakes.
Spotting a student whom I had encountered (and interviewed) previously, I bundled up in my overcoat and scarf and accompanied him on the brisk walk to our dorms.
A pro-life advocate and previous participant in the March for Life, he speculated his invitation to partake in the dinner was a result of his involvement in the well-resourced Right to Life organization on campus. His first comment?
“I’m not going to the March for Life this year,” he said matter-of-factly. “Perhaps if there were more opposition. During the civil rights movement, people were hosed down with water from fire hydrants. We’re not. Our protest just doesn’t have any sort of visual imagery. At the end of the day, we have to persuade you with words. And everyone is pretty set in stone with their views on abortion. I just don’t see the point.”
The March for Life occurs annually as a protest in Washington, D.C., where pro-life advocates gather to raise awareness about their cause. Notre Dame offers an all-expenses-paid trip for students who want to attend. They also grant coveted university-excused absences for those missing class to attend. Though I did not apply for one for my trip to the inauguration, knowing full well the result, my colleagues did try their luck to no avail.
I entreated him to go into greater detail.
“We carry signs that say ‘Stop Abortion,'” he told me. “I find it more beneficial to talk with students who maintain different views than my own and figure out where we have common ground. If I can get my guys together and he can get his guys together and we can all find one policy option we agree on, then who is going to stop us from building a bipartisan coalition and getting something done about abortion?”
I was astounded. There remain people in the world who are willing to compromise?
“Too many conservative politicians in D.C. take the all or nothing approach,” he furthered. “Either they pass their entire bill, untouched, and parade their triumph, or they boycott everything until they get their way. Look at gun control. They could take a trick or two from the liberals who are taking a step by step approach to reform. First, background checks. Then they can try for limiting magazines and models.”
My peer wants to start with getting third trimester abortions banned, which account for less than one percent of all abortions performed in the U.S.. This rare and invasive procedure is tough for pro-choice supporters to defend and the photos are grotesque. Plus, there’s much scientific evidence out there that the procedure poses safety risks to the mother. And of course, the new Sundance film also explores the practice.
“We must act” came from the mouth of a leader oft compared with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the progressive thinkers of our past. But it never seemed more appropriate than when I spoke with a pro-life brother.