April 19, 2017

Happy Easter!  The Lord is truly risen!  Let us rejoice and be glad!

I am happy that we are back together after our Easter weekend.  This semester is quickly coming to an end which is a bittersweet time for us.  It is not that the seniors are graduating, but all of us will be leaving either at the end of finals or for life after Notre Dame. I know I will be missing everyone in Ryan.

I have been asking many of you to reflect on some of the significant experiences you have have had during this year.  There have been amazing things that people have talked about.  They include study abroad, service trips, making friends in Ryan and outside Ryan, joining clubs and discovering some of your values.  These things as well as many more have helped all of you grow in believing in yourselves and growing to love others. It is most important to spend quality time with people who are special and talk about some of the things that have been significant in your life.

What are you grateful for as you think about this year?  Think about the significant people who inspired or encouraged you this year.  Have you ever told them thank you for what they have done for you?  Let me tell you how much a note or letter of thanking someone can make you feel good about yourself. There is a scholarship in the name of my parents that is given to a student every year.  I received a letter a couple of weeks ago from a student who wanted to thank my family for the scholarship.  I have received many letters from students who were recipients, but this meant more because I know the person.  I guarantee you that a letter that thanks your parents, guardians, teachers, mentors, coaches or friends will make them feel good and you as well.

Write a letter to yourself in which you reflect on some of the things you have learned about yourself.  How has this year helped you to learn to love, grow up or gain confidence in yourself?  It is something that is important for everyone to learn while at Notre Dame because your life will find meaning when you feel the strength and have the confidence to face the ups and downs of life.  Write about the challenges you have faced this year and how you learned and grew from them.

The three things I am suggesting you do as this year comes to a close is to spend quality time with friends, write letters of gratitude to significant people in your life and write a letter to yourself in which you reflect on what you have learned about yourself during this year.  This is something you can keep and refer to every year.  Your life is a gift that is a blessing for all of us.

I am praying for you!

Love you!

FJ

April 12, 2017

We are in the midst of many different things as we celebrate the very special days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.  These are days that enable us as the Church to grow in our faith and our invitation to love God and our neighbor as ourselves.  I pray that everyone who is travelling has a safe journey.

Today is a special day for Theresa Finneran who is know as T-Finny and who is one of the most generous, selfless and loving of the many people I have known at Notre Dame.  She is helpful to anyone who needs help and goes out of her way for others.  T-Finny is celebrating her birthday and I invite everyone to wish her well. Shower her with messages and cards of love because she deserves it.  We have been blessed to have her living in Ryan.  Thank you Kay and Dan Finneran for bringing her into the world and teaching her how to love.

Today is one of the most important days in my life as this is the anniversary of my ordination as a priest 48 years ago.  It is hard to believe that it was that long ago.  Mary Carroll, Jenny Moore and MK Williams asked me what have been some of the significant moments of my life. That question is one that I think about often.  I come back to seeing that my vocation has been a call to minister and share life with young adults who are people between the age of 18 and 35.  Let me explain why this matters so much and how I have discovered joy. It is though all of you.

I can remember when I was a young priest that I saw the importance of serving people during college and the years after.  It is during this time of life that most people learn important lessons about life which lead people to grow in love of God and others. I love Notre Dame which calls me to work for ACE and live in Ryan Hall.  You are among the most special blessings of my life and I have to say thank you for letting me share life with you.

I met with some of the transfers last night.  We are blessed that we have so many who live in Ryan and they remind us how special this place is.  It is easy to take things for granted and there may be times when you wonder about all of the work that you have.  I suggest when you feel that way to take a walk, look at the beauty of campus and look at the golden dome.  It is amazing to look at and think about the fact that you have been given the opportunity to be here with great people.  I know that the friends that you make here will be your friends for life and you will continue to support each other in good times and challenging times.  It is good to appreciate what you have and thank God for it.

Your lives give my life as a priest meaning and I thank God for all of you.  You are special and I celebrate today with all of you in mind.  I am praying for you.

Happy Easter!  May the risen Lord bless you every day.

Love you!

FJ

April 5, 2017

Congratulations to our new Hall Government as they continue the tradition of building community in Ryan Hall.  I hope that we can all contribute to building a home where all feel loved and safe.  Everyone is valued who lives and visits Ryan Hall.

There was a lot of discussion about a man who came to speak and was critical about Notre Dame and various  groups of people.  I was not at the talk, but I want to emphasize the fundamental belief that all people are created in the image and likeness of God.  Everyone is created by love and called to love their neighbor as themselves.  We are not in any position to pass judgment on another person.  We can learn how to treat others by reading the gospel and seeing how Jesus treated people on the margin.  He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery, but encourages her to go and avoid sin.  He loved Mary Magdalene and forgave her and she became the first person to witness the resurrection.  Mary was given the mission to go and tell the disciples that Jesus has risen.

I have been reading the Encyclical, Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis.  He says the following to us:

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. (Jeremiah 1:5). We were conceived

in the heart of God, and for this reason, each of us is the result of a thought

of God.  Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.

I read these thoughts and I think of everyone in Ryan Hall.  I have seen tremendous expressions of love among you.  I am inspired every day by the woman of Ryan

We love Tuesday nights in Ryan Hall and I think of the amazing women who contributed to this.  We have the solid foundation of senior bakers who have passed on the tradition that they learned from those who went before them.  I can remember Shawn Hall and Erin Hanahoe coming into my room the second week of their freshman year and wanted to bake.  They became regular bakers.  T Finny was directed by her older sister, Megan, to come and bake.  I think about them and how they have grown into great women who have contributed to Ryan Hall for four years.  There have been many others from each class who have followed and through many people we have a great event that is building community in Ryan and among friends from other dorms. There are many other Ryan women who are following the example set by those who came before.  They include the most generous Mary Carroll who goes above and beyond the call of duty.

I hope that we can all notice the love and friendship that is all around us.  We are blessed and we love one another.  This is is what it means to be in community.

I am praying for all of you and want you to know you are loved.

Love you!

FJ

March 29, 2017

This is the beginning of the end of the academic year.  There are several things going on that you are probably  aware of.  Last night was the final Hall Council meeting under the leadership of Emily Casey, Vanessa Acosta, Jenny Moore and Grace Seibert.  Room Picks will be next week.  This is the time that we experience many bittersweet moments.

Thank you to the many commissioners who have worked to build community.  You may not get the headlines, but your work has built community for Ryan Hall.

Let me thank each of the officers.

Emily Casey has led by being steady and delegating responsibilities.  She never seems to be flustered which is a quality that good leaders have.

Vanessa Acosta served this semester as Vice-President.  She took over after Grace Weisend left in December to study abroad.  Vanessa brought excitement to the team and is a great ambassador for all things having to do with Ryan Hall.

Jenny Moore is the treasurer who kept us solvent.  She is interesting in this role because she does not like the study of Accounting.  She is a good PR person for all things Ryan because she loves living here and tells everyone about how this is our home where people love one another.

Grace Seibert is the secretary and I depend on her in getting this blog posted every week.  She is dependable and very calm.  I love everyone, but Grace has a special place in my heart.

Let us think about the other big thing going on next week.  It is time for Room Picks.  Many friends ask me if there is a lot of drama during Room Picks in a woman’s hall.  I tell them I saw much more during 20 years of being in Dillon.  I have seen kindness and good communication here during this time.  I hope that everyone realizes that you will get a room and they are all nice in Ryan Hall.  I was talking to a student from another hall who has been accepted to move in who is doing this because she feels that there is more community here than where she lives.

My message is to be good to each other and know that everything will work out.

I was in Florida last week for an ACE Retreat and will be going to South Texas for another this weekend. I love doing these retreats, but I do miss being here in Ryan because I love all of you.  I will especially miss being here for the Holy Half.  Good luck to everyone who plan to run and know that I am praying for you.

I hope your Lent is going well.  Remember that whatever you are doing is to help you grow closer to Christ and preparing to renew your Baptismal promises on Easter Sunday.  I am praying for you.

Love you!

FJ

March 22, 2017

Greetings and welcome back to Ryan Hall and the last quarter of this academic year.  Spring is here according to the calendar, but it is not quite here temperature wise. It is good that we are here and I hope everyone is doing well.

I know that seniors do not like to think about the “G” word, but we eventually have to face that it will be coming.  I think that it is important to say good bye to the members of the class of 2017 and to make sure that we spend quality time with one another. There are great women who will be going to the next phase of their life journey and we need to honor them for being such a positive presence in our lives.  Reach out to your friends and let them know how much you appreciate them.

Last night was a big night for five women in Ryan Hall and one who graduated last year as they learned about where they will be teaching as part of the ACE program.  It is amazing that six Ryan women will be teachers in Catholic Schools next year.

Anna Bourbonais will be teaching high school English in Oakland, Ca.

Shawn Hall will be teaching middle school Science in Indianapolis, In.

Maddie Felts will be teaching high school History in Dallas, Texas.

MK Williams will be teaching high school Math in Los Angles, Ca.

Emily Tessitore will be teaching fifth grade in Los Angles, Ca.

Emma Flemming of the class of 2016 will teaching fourth grade in Stockton, Ca.

I am excited for our ACE teachers as well as everyone else who have many opportunities after graduation.  I also think about people who do not have a job offer or acceptance to graduate school.  I have had an experience this week that brings this home to me.  Let me explain by a personal story.

The Admissions Office sent out acceptance and rejection letters.  My great nephew applied and learned that he will not be a member of the Notre Dame class of 2021.  I was looking forward to him being on campus.  Everyone in my family who has applied to Notre Dame has received acceptance and this goes back to 1928 when my father came. This was followed by me and  then seven nieces and nephews.  It is disappointing for my family, but I think this is an opportunity to learn.  I believe that every disappointment is an opportunity to grow and learn something about ourselves.  Nothing is guaranteed in life and we are definitely called to learn from our challenges and even our failures.

Believe in yourselves and do your best and know that you can learn and grow.  I am praying for you and hope this week goes well.

Love you!

FJ

February 22, 2017

The beautiful and warm days of February continues.  I told Anna Murray yesterday that this is highly unusual and that all of the Ryan women from Florida and California are very lucky.  She said that it is a good way to move to the winter in the Midwest and be prepared for possible more challenging winters.  Let us take what we have and appreciate these good days.

Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday which begins Lent.  I wrote last week about fasting and want to bring up a second spiritual practice of Lent.  This is something that is important for us in our relationship with Christ.  It is our prayer life.  We will be reminded next week that we are called during Lent to examine three areas of life.  They are prayer, fasting and alms giving.  We looked at fasting and saw that it may be about more than giving up candy, sweets or chocolate.

Let us look at how we pray.

Prayer is something we do either alone or as part of a community. Most private prayer can be in the morning or at night.  These are times that we can examine our lives and thank God for the good things that have occurred during the day and the challenges we have faced.  We may remember that someone was kind or helped you prepared for a test or encouraged you when you were discouraged or worried about something. You may have done something that helped a friend. We look at two or three good things during the day and thank God for them.  Our personal prayer can help us to have a grateful heart which helps us love one another.

Some prayer is communal.  The simplest prayer is to say grace before meals.  Thanking God for the food we are about to receive is significant and it can enable you and your friends to be grateful and aware of the blessings you have.  Grace before meals is a simple communal prayer.

The most important communal prayer is Sunday Mass. I an inviting everyone in Ryan  to participate in Mass  because it is here that we realize that God loves us so much that he gives himself to us when we gather for Mass.  There are some people who say they get nothing out of Mass or they have to study.

What does it mean that you get nothing out of Mass?  What are you supposed to get?  I think what you get is God’s love and the love of the community.  Mass is a coming together and it is to hear the Word of God and share in the Eucharist.  We need this nourishment if we want to have the strength and inspiration to continue the work of Jesus when we leave our gathering for Mass. I want to encourage our Ryan Hall Community to attend Mass every Sunday during Lent.  It may help you to deepen your faith and to love your families and friends. Many already attend Mass on Sundays, how about going to Mass once or twice during the week.

Know I am praying for you every day.

Love you!

FJ

February 15, 2017

I hope everyone had a good celebration of Valentine Day. I have learned during 12 years of living with Notre Dame women that it is a good day for some of you and not so good for others. Whatever yesterday was like know that you are loved in the Ryan Hall Community.

I have had a little crisis today in that my phone is having a hard time charging.  It makes things difficult for some of my communication with ACE teachers.  This problem is not really a crisis, but more an inconvenience and it makes me think that it is not good to be dependent on things.  I think we need to see the most important way of connecting to others is by face to face contact.

I usually get up in the morning and check out the news on my phone.  There is nothing wrong  with this, but if I spend the time doing this, I am not praying or working out.  There is no reason why I have to find out news so early and besides most of it is not very good.

Have you ever thought what is most important for you?  Think about the things you have in your room and how much do you really need them? Take an inventory of what you have.

I have been trying to simplify things.  I look in my closet and see many things that I never wear.  I have decided that I am going to give some things to Goodwill because if I do not need something, why should it take up space?  I gave away some winter coats last fall because I only need one coat. I will continue to purge my room of things.

This is a good time of the year to do this because Lent is coming up.  We will hear on Ash Wednesday, March 1st this year, that we are called to change our lives by prayer, fasting and alms giving.  Let us look at fasting.  Most of us think this is to give something up like chocolate or sweets.  This is one approach, but fasting does not have to be from food that we enjoy.  We can fast from being judgmental, gossip or being unkind. It would be nice if we accepted others even if they are different from us.  Fasting can involve doing nice things for others.

I want to encourage you during the next couple of weeks to reflect on what would be good for you to fast from during Lent this year.  Be willing to look at Lent as a time where you can grow as a person and become your best self.  Here is one question to ask yourself.

How am I becoming a good person who loves God and my neighbor as myself?

I am praying for you and want you to know I love you.

Love you!

FJ

February 8, 2017

 

I hope you are all doing well. I appreciate all of you and being with you on this special journey through the ups and downs of academic life at Notre Dame. I hope you know how much I love all of you and that I pray that you are reaching your dreams and goals.

I have been sad recently because of a climate that has overcome our country in which people do not respect every person. I am alarmed by language that puts people down and fails to bring us to love one another. I believe we were created in the image and likeness of God. That is what directs my life and motivates me to love everyone.

I was sad last night in Ryan Hall because I heard that there are some people who do not feel this is a loving community. It has shown up in a specific way in that someone has been erasing what a person writes on her board outside her room. This is not acceptable to do. This is not respecting the dignity of another human being. You may disagree, but there is a way to do this and it is by having the courage to sit down with a person and have a conversation. We need to learn how to talk to someone we might disagree with. This is the way that Christians or other people of faith accept each other. It is about the person you are speaking with and that he or she is deserving of love and kindness.

I was also happy last night because the person who has been attacked told seniors about this and they told her she was loved. I know I love her and will support her. The seniors of Ryan have learned during their three and a half years how to love through many experiences at Notre Dame, studying abroad and from the good things and the challenging things they have faced. Our experiences, both good and bad, teach us how to live and they help us gain the most fundamental fact of life. We are all created in God’s image and likeness and our life is about loving God and our neighbor. You will be judged by God at the end of your life by how you loved and if you accepted Jesus in your life by welcoming the stranger, visiting the sick, clothing the naked and feeding the hungry.

I pray that none of us will feel isolated or alone and that they are not loved. Fr. John Jenkins said at a Prayer Service after the election these words:

We are Notre Dame if we walk together. We are not Notre Dame if we are not together. Thank you for being you and remembering our Ryan Hall Community is based on love of everyone in Ryan Hall. I pray that we will be united.

Love you!

FJ

February 1, 2017

 

Happy February! This is the shortest month of the year, but can seem like the longest. We are tempted to think that winter is over, but it hangs on and Spring Break seems far away. Try to make sure you are getting enough sleep, exercise and that you are eating good meals. This is a time to bring balance in your life and also remember to spend quality time with friends. This will help this month be a good one.

This Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday and we are having Mass at 4pm with our brother dorm at Duncan Hall. Please note the time change and that there will not be a 10pm Mass in Ryan. We hope that we will have a big turnout.

I want to tell you about a wonderful opportunity in August to spend nine days in Ireland by participating in the Inside Track Program. This is an immersion into the athletic, political, religious life and to learn about Ireland and the challenges they have face as a country. There are many Ryan women who have participated the last few years and I was able to go as the Chaplain. It was my first trip to Ireland and I absolutely loved the trip. I will be going again this summer and hope that we will have a nice group from Ryan who come this year. It is a one credit course which means you attend a lecture on Ireland during this semester, fly to Ireland on August 4 and participate in all of the events and return home on August 13 or do further traveling on your own. Let me know if you are interested.

I think that we all should be praying for our country in these challenging days. The Catholic Church has been speaking out about the importance of our being a welcoming people especially for refugees and other immigrants. We also need to look at how we accept each other. This comes about by practicing the virtue of charity. This enables us to see that if we call ourselves “Christian”, we need to imitate Jesus in many different ways. One might ask, how can I show my actions and words to be similar to Jesus? We need to read the gospels, pick out a few of your favorite stories and act in a similar way.

Let me give you an example. I love going to Starbucks and when I go, I buy a drink for people from Ryan and people I do not know. I will sometimes ask the person behind me, what drink are you getting? They often look at me in a strange way and then I say, “I am going to pay for your drink.” Some people say “no, you don’t have to.” I insist and some people say, “I will do the same thing when I come back. I will pay it forward.”

We will make a difference in the Notre Dame community by simple acts of kindness and this will lead us to kind and gentle and loving of others. This is how the world will become a better place. I hope all of us will show love and be accepting of each other. This is how we will be Christians. I am praying for you and I want you to know I love you!

Love you!

FJ

January 25, 2017

 

Congratulations! You survived syllabus week. You are now moving into the rhythm of the 2017 Spring Semester which means that the work will begin to pick up and the tests, quizzes, papers and research will be picking up. I hope that we can all learn to handle this semester. Live a balanced life so you can reduce stress, achieve your goals, have great relationships and get the most out of your Notre Dame experience.

Congratulations to Sophomores who learned yesterday where they will study abroad. I hope you were able to get your first choice and you will have an amazing experience. I know some of you did not get your first choice or may not have been accepted to any program. If that is your situation, know that you can apply through other schools. Saint Mary’s College has study abroad programs in Dublin and Rome as well as others.

There are summer programs which several Ryan women have studied at which has worked out well. There are opportunities for five or six weeks and a three week Creative Writing program in Ireland and a nine day immersion into Ireland. I went on Inside Track last year and will be returning to this August.

I do not know what you thought about the Women’s March last weekend or the Right to Life one this weekend. These marches are not just political, but they are an opportunity to witness to what we believe in. I like to look at them from the perspective of God’s creative love. God created everything based on love and looked at all of creation as good. God created man and woman and saw human life as very good. Love brings forth life and there is dignity and value to all life because it is a reflection of God who is love.

Let us take a look at the March that was held in Washington, DC and many cities around the country and world. There was even one in South Bend. I looked upon this as an expression what Notre Dame proclaims. All women are a reflection of God and are of value and really matter.

The Right to Life March is important because it is witnessing to the dignity and worth of all of life from the moment of conception to natural death. We are called to cherish and protect the most vulnerable among us and it is good that 700 students, faculty and staff from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross College are participating. Everyone is witnessing to our call to cherish and respect all life.

I hope those who marched last week and those going this week know of our love and support for them. Thank you for witnessing to God’s love that our world needs to see. Let us pray for one another and see that God’s love is the gift of everyone and we are called to share it.

Love you!

FJ