By Karen Clifford
NOTRE DAME — Sometimes, the best things in life are home grown.
The University of Notre Dame’s theology faculty, led by its chair Professor John Cavadini, conferred two awards upon four students on April 26. The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend was well represented with the selection of Caroline Murphy, a graduate from Saint Joseph’s High School and Justin Bartkus from Marian High School as two of the award recipients.
Msgr. Michael Heintz, director of the Master of Divinity Program in Theology at the University of Notre Dame and rector of St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend, was elated at the selection of Murphy and Bartkus.
“It is a really great honor to have two of the four undergraduate winners be graduates of our two Catholic high schools,” Msgr. Heintz says. “I could not be more proud of them both.”
Bartkus received the Rev. Joseph H. Cavanaugh, CSC, Award, which was established in 1960 and, “is given annually to a graduating senior(s) who has evidenced high qualities of personal character and academic achievement, particular in theological studies.”
Murphy received the Gertrude Austin Marti Award, which was established in 1987, and is given annually “to a senior who has given evidence of excellent qualities of personal character and academic achievement in theology.”
Robert Krieg, director of undergraduate studies in the Theology Department at the University of Notre Dame, described some of the criteria used in the selection of students for these awards.
“The recipients of these two awards are graduating seniors who have shown academic excellence in general and, in particular, in theological studies, that is, in Christian faith seeking understanding. Moreover, they have manifested outstanding personal character as evidenced in maturity, integrity, community service and a love of learning. The award winners are selected by the theology department’s chairperson in consultation with the department’s Collegiate Committee.”
Cavadini adds that with 200 theology majors within the department, the selection of local students is especially rewarding.
“Notre Dame draws qualified students from all over the country and internationally and it is gratifying to know that we have individuals from our own local community, and educated in our diocesan Catholic schools that have excelled in this way. They haven’t just achieved academically, they are both very faith-filled people who are formed in a Catholic way. And I think it is a great testimony to the local schools as well as our own department,” he says.
Both Murphy and Bartkus attended South Bend Catholic grade schools. Murphy attended Holy Cross School from kindergarten through eighth grade while Batkus moved into the South Bend area in 1987 and attended St. Anthony de Padua School from fourth to eighth grade.
Murphy credits her parochial education for her love of theology. “My theology experience at Notre Dame has helped to form me as a person. I saw from my teachers, their love for God and their subject, and realized it was something you can teach kids at a young age. I think back to my years at Holy Cross and how all my religion teachers were so enthusiastic and very genuine about their love for teaching and love for God.”
Bartkus recalls a theology class at Marian High School that inspired his decision to major in theology at Notre Dame. “I took a class on great Catholic thinkers from Father Dan Scheidt (currently the pastor of Queen of Peace Parish in Mishawaka). He is a hero and mentor of mine that I appreciate so much. The class got me to change my way of thinking about the world and awakened my sense of faith and the intellectual side of it.”
Both students had an opportunity to spend a summer studying in Rome. Each acknowledged the universality of the Catholic faith around the world.
“We lived just north of the Vatican so every day on our way to class we would walk by St. Peter’s Basilica and it was so profound,” said Murphy. Bartkus adds, “and then you come home and you go to your own suburban parish, and it is so rich because it is the Church Universal and it does bind us together.”
Murphy and Bartkus look forward to using the knowledge they have gained from their theological studies. Murphy will embark on two years of service-learning in the Alliance for Catholic Education as she teaches school at the San Xavier Indian Reservation outside of Tucson, Ariz. Bartkus will begin graduate studies at the University of Notre Dame, concentrating on historical theology in the Theology Department’s program for the Masters of Theological Studies.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.