.- As President Barack Obama’s commencement address approaches this Sunday, protests have been heating up on the campus of the University of Notre Dame and the local bishop has joined pro-life students in prayer.
On Friday and Saturday, as pre-graduation festivities began, a number of protestors were arrested for acts of civil disobedience and “the abortion plane,” a plane hired by the Center for Bioethical Reform to display images of aborted fetuses, continued to fly above campus.
Yet, in the midst of the brewing storm, the prayerful and dignified aura of commencement was present at an informal prayer service held at the campus’s iconic Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Bishop John M. D’Arcy of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, led a crowd of approximately 350 people in praying the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. Many of the crowd members were graduates and their families and fellow undergraduates. Before the Rosary began, Michele Sagala, a graduating senior, announced the three intentions for which the Rosary would be offered and joined to more than 100,000 Rosaries had been prayed thus far for those same intentions.
The intentions included: for a greater respect for the dignity of all human life, for the Catholic identity of Notre Dame and all Catholic universities, and for the pro-life conversion of President Barack Obama.
Bishop D’Arcy, the local ordinary to whom Notre Dame is subject in matters of Catholic faith and teaching, has been vocal in his opposition to the University’s decision to invite and honor the president. Significantly, in his March 29th public statement regarding the controversy, he questioned Notre Dame’s motives, saying, “Notre Dame must ask itself if by this decision it has chosen prestige over truth.”
In his address to the graduates given early Saturday evening at the University’s Baccalaureate Mass, Bishop D’Arcy encouraged the crowd to abandon themselves unreservedly to Christ in their search for truth. Stating that faith and learning are in perfect harmony and cannot exist one without the other, he stressed the need for the search of truth in both one’s faith as well as one’s learning.
“Freedom is always subject to the truth,” the Bishop asserted.
In this same spirit, Bishop D’Arcy has been supportive of students involved in opposition to Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama. Particularly, he has stated openly his approval of the Notre Dame Response Student Coalition, a coalition of 12-student groups opposing the invitation and honor with “respectful and prayerful” action.
According to the ND Response website, D’Arcy has said “I am supportive of all efforts by ND Response or any other prayerful and dignified demonstrations by Notre Dame students.”
Though the Bishop does not intend to be present for the on-campus events being hosted by ND Response on Commencement Sunday, his leading students and their families and supporters in the Grotto Rosary has left an impression.
Echoing the sentiments of many seniors present, one graduate said, “Bishop D’Arcy has been an overwhelmingly inspiring leader through out all of this controversy. His Christian example is meaningful to so many. Knowing that the students have his prayerful support really reassures me that we are doing the right thing.”