Claire Kenney
Freelance Writer
November 1, 2017 // Diocese

Social justice is the heartbeat of Notre Dame parish

Claire Kenney
Freelance Writer

Well-known for its commitment to social justice and located on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, Sacred Heart Parish is steeped in history. In fact, the parish website notes, it “is the oldest continuous parish founded and staffed by the Congregation of Holy Cross.” 

The parish church has been housed in various structures on Notre Dame’s campus since the parish’s founding. Today it rests underneath the university’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which was deemed a minor basilica by St. John Paul II in 1992, in a structure known as the “Crypt.” The Crypt is much simpler than the ornate and decorative basilica upstairs, and its smaller and simpler decor provides an intimate setting for prayer.

The Crypt at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame, is the worship area used by those who claim Sacred Heart Parish as their home parish. It is in this intimate space that parishioners discerned their mission to advocate for social justice in the South Bend area.

Father David Scheidler, CSC, is the current pastor of Sacred Heart Parish. Before the appointment, Father Scheidler worked in various other capacities for the university, including as associate rector of the basilica, chaplain for the university’s Folk Choir and its Alliance for Catholic Education, and as rector of one of the institution’s residence halls, St. Edward. He has also served elsewhere and in places such as Niles, Illinois; Goodyear, Arizona; and Monterrey, Mexico.

Due to the church’s location, Sacred Heart parishioners tend to be those associated with the university or the basilica itself. Father Scheidler said that as Notre Dame’s campus and surrounding area “grow and evolve, we seem to be attracting younger families.” He enjoys having these families included in the community, and also likes that Notre Dame students get involved in parish life as well.

“We have graduate students in the Sacred Music department who help out with our choir, which adds such a wonderful and professional element to our liturgical celebration,” he said. “We have Notre Dame students who volunteer with our religious education and who participate in our daily Masses.”

Father Scheidler collaborates with Sacred Heart’s Pastoral Council, which consists of 10 members and five committee and commission members. Paul Thornton is the president of the Pastoral Council. For Thornton, his work on the council is an avenue for giving back.

“Being president of the Pastoral Council for me, is an act of love for our pastor and the parishioners of this great par   ish,” Thornton said.

Parish members put their faith into action by serving the larger South Bend and surrounding community. The Social Justice Ministry Commission offers many activities to give back, from adopting a family for Christmas to working at a local food pantry to the Dismas House ministry, which helps people who are returning to society from incarceration make positive contributions as citizens. “This parish is full of faithful Catholics with a passion for social justice and peace initiatives,” Father Scheidler said.

Steve Good, chairman of the Social Justice Ministry and a 1964 graduate of Notre Dame, says that the opportunities for volunteering through social justice activities are popular among a wide array of age groups. Some volunteer their time and talent, others choose to give to the parish’s social justice initiatives monetarily.

Thornton believes that the parish’s social justice work is important and that the space designated for the community’s prayer is integral to the work.

“From the Crypt church in the lower level of the basilica at Notre Dame, Sacred Heart parishioners get the spiritual strength to perform many of their services to the needy in our community,” he said. “Faithful service is what we’re all about.”

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