Meghan - McNelis





Woven into Community

Over the course of my first semester on campus, I discover a new part of the University that I have not previously borne witness to each day. Here, I have become an integral player in a special community. 

As a first-year, I struggle with many self-doubts about my academic abilities and performance. In talking with my peers, especially those in Moreau, I realize I am not alone. In a Grotto article, Julia Hogan encourages shifting one’s outlook on life: “Instead of letting your life be ruled by the expectations of others or your own expectation that you have to be perfect, what if you just did your best?”  I try to tackle each day with this mentality. Perfection is not expected; all that is expected is that I try my best. Notre Dame continually reinforces this mindset. 

Reverend Jenkins articulates the importance of understanding the impacts of one’s actions in his address to Wesley Theological Seminary graduates, “We cannot pretend to stand outside this. We are woven into it.” The people I have encountered take up this call to action. At Notre Dame, the gifts and talents of each person are cherished and celebrated, and our community is richer because of it. In C.S. Lewis’ religious satire, “The Screwtape Letters” he writes from the devil’s view of God and says, “the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct.” Working with a group this semester to design a valve in my engineering class, I found that each member of my group had her own strengths and talents. We each used our gifts to encourage each other to think differently and push us to do our best work. I saw that by coming together and utilizing our specific talents, we were able to produce the best results. The Notre Dame community loves the individuality of each student, just as God loves the differences that make us who we are. 

In my early days on campus, I immediately sensed that I had entered a unique community, but as I conclude my first semester here, I realize that it is a community characterized by love for one another that sets it apart. Members support and care for each other–“Community begins not externally but in the recesses of the human heart.” (Palmer, Year).  I have witnessed this in my own dorm as my fellow residents come together to celebrate mass and mingle together in our lounge afterward–or when we rely upon our dorm community for support and care.  This is what makes Notre Dame home. 

As a first-year, I have experienced self-doubts, but I am confident that I will be okay. I will continue to open my heart to others. I will regularly check in on my friends. I will engage with the women I live with in the hallways and dorm masses. I will cheer on and support my friends at their activities and campus events. And I will seek help on campus when I need it, whether it be engaging tutors or seeking counsel from advisors. I have encountered new challenges at Notre Dame, but I am confident that I am a vital part of its very fabric.