Thursday, November 3, 2005

Welcoming the Stranger

A sumptuous meal in the Notre Dame Stadium press box. One hundred Notre Dame students eager to talk about the Christian spiritual life. Rev. Mark Poorman, CSC, associate professor of theology and vice-president for student affairs.

Such were the ingredients for “Welcoming the Stranger,” the Fall 2005 edition of Breaking Bread, a dinner and evening of spiritual discussion shared by Notre Dame students, faculty and staff that took place on Wednesday, November 2, 2005. The theme of the evening’s discussion, the virtue of hospitality, was suggested by our special guest speaker, Fr. Poorman. And so, during the salad course, Fr. Poorman delivered some reflections meant to prompt discussion of this virtue. He talked of his experience in the novitiate with the Congregation of Holy Cross, and how his work with the poor challenged him to overcome complacency in order to better serve others in need. He also spoke of his sister’s decision to adopt two children from China, and how this act of generosity demanded that she lovingly upset the settled pattern of her life. In the remaining portion of the meal, each table—consisting of seven or so students and a member of the Notre Dame faculty or staff discussed how to live the virtue of hospitality and what changes one might have to undergo in order to live this virtue ever more generously.

Specific topics of discussion ranged from providing care to the homeless and poor, to asking whether Notre Dame was living up to its institutional call to welcome students from diverse backgrounds; from analyzing whether contemporary architecture, especially of the home, reflects hospitality, to questioning whether technology has had a negative impact on human relationships. Yet all conversations were inspired by Fr. Poorman’s stimulating reflections and centered on the Christian call to hospitality.

One participant’s reflections sum up the success of “Welcoming the Stranger”: “Not only was I moved by Fr. Poorman’s personal experiences and reflection, but it was so refreshing to hear the different perspectives from my peers. I participated in a summer service internship this summer, and it was the primary reason that I was interested in hearing Fr. Poorman. Not only did I find his speech relevant to my summer, but also to my overall experiences here at the University and out in the community. Additionally, I had the opportunity to speak with Fr. Poorman after the dinner, and found him to be so approachable, conversational, and genuinely interested in what I had to say. I would not only specifically recommend asking Fr. Poorman to speak again at this event, but to undoubtedly continue to promote this type of event and dialogue among faculty and students. I could not speak more highly about my Breaking Bread dinner experience.”

Breaking Bread is swiftly becoming a beloved Notre Dame tradition. The Center once again extends its profound gratitude to Mr. Fran McGowen,of Malvern, Pennsylvania, whose generosity makes possible this event.

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