As we begin to celebrate Thanksgiving and the upcoming Advent season, and with the end of the semester quickly approaching, I write simply to offer a few reflections and words of encouragement in the midst of this busy season.
This is an exciting and joy-filled time of year. While many of you are preparing to travel home to spend Thanksgiving with family and loved ones, others may be looking forward to a few days on campus with a slower change of pace. The first signs of the holidays are starting to show, and we are already looking ahead to how we will enjoy the Christmas Break and next semester’s classes. At the same time, we are seeing the weather become colder and the skies turning mostly gray. We are aware of the ways others in the world and in our communities may be hurting, and are perhaps experiencing challenges or suffering ourselves. It is important to name and acknowledge these kinds of apparent contradictions because in doing so we are also invited to recognize where we might find—and where we might bring—sources of light and hope.
Thanksgiving and the start of the Advent season allows us to step back and reflect on the places where we find this light and hope in our daily lives. For those who are Christian, we are preparing to celebrate, as a community, the drawing near of God to human beings in the person of Jesus Christ. Whether or not we consider ourselves religious, this is an important message for us because it reminds us that none of us walk alone in the darkness no matter how encompassing it may sometimes seem. God has chosen to draw near to us, and we are similarly invited to draw closer to God and to one another. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.” Even as your days become consumed with wrapping up activities and programs and preparing for final exams and assignments, I encourage you to find some time to reflect on this important truth and what it might mean for our lives.
My friends, as we enter these final weeks of the semester, I pray we can all find hope in this image of a God who draws near and similarly bring this hope to those around us. If nothing else, know there are many staff and faculty members, resources, opportunities, and avenues available to support you at Notre Dame. Whether it’s caring for your spiritual, mental, and physical well-being; finding sources of community and belonging; growing personally or professionally; integrating your academic and co-curricular experiences; or pursuing your personal formation and development, if I or my colleagues in Student Affairs can ever help you identify and access these opportunities, do not hesitate to reach out.
Please know of my personal gratitude for the diverse set of gifts, perspectives, and experiences each of you bring to our University community, my prayers as you wrap up the semester, and my excitement for our continued work and conversations in the months ahead.
In Notre Dame,
Fr. Gerry Olinger, C.S.C.
Vice President for Student Affairs