The Cardinal Newman Society thanks Michael Bradley, editor-in-chief of the Irish Rover student publication at the University of Notre Dame, for taking the time to discuss what it’s like for Catholic students to live out their Faith at Notre Dame and how the Rover contributes to the faithful Catholic presence on campus.
Late nights during production week and hours spent in editing, layout and mailing sessions are all too familiar to the staff of the Irish Rover, a Catholic student publication at the University of Notre Dame.
But the process is enjoyable and worthwhile, according to the paper’s editor-in-chief.
“The coordinated efforts we pour into the paper organically turn into a rather inimitable bond, one that only friends who are really committed to a shared project can experience,” Michael Bradley told The Cardinal Newman Society in correspondence on January 11th.
The staff members of the Rover often share the same circles of friends on campus, attend staff events like Christmas parties and breakfasts with faculty advisors, discuss important issues on campus, and grow in their faith together.
“[M]any of the editorial staff attend daily Mass together on campus, usually at the Law School’s beautiful Thomas More chapel, or at the Basilica,” Bradley said. “That, to me, is most meaningful.”
The staff of the Irish Rover is more than a news team—they’re a community growing in faith and friendship. And together, these friends are doing a work that is “essential” to the campus life at Notre Dame, according to Bradley.
Michael Bradley grew up in the “shadow of the Dome” as a South Bend, Ind., native, always knowing that he wanted to attend the University one day. His father, Gerard Bradley, is a prominent law professor at Notre Dame, and he has four older siblings who have graduated from the University. He also has a younger brother who is currently a Notre Dame sophomore.
Bradley’s parents taught and modeled the Catholic faith for him. He said that he was “raised to love the Church and to embrace her wisdom, especially where her wisdom reveals to me my own folly.”
In 2003, a group of students at Notre Dame saw a need and responded to it. The Rover was created to defend the Faith, articulate conservative principles and engage in collegial debate. It is an independent, non-profit student publication, according to its website.
Bradley, a senior theology and philosophy major, first became involved with the paper as a freshman when he was invited to write an article on a pro-life march that took place in California. Now as the leader of the community, he saysthat the Rover “completes what is otherwise missing from campus life.” He explains that an intellectual environment like a university needs a “healthy exchange of reasonable ideas.” He continues:
The Rover is without question the chief (and arguably only) medium through which students can advance an intelligent, informed Catholic, conservative outlook into the perennial discussions of campus life. Certainly, such a perspective is not being advanced by the University’s official student publications…
The Rover also acts as a “watchdog” and reveals issues that often go, he said, “‘under the radar’ of many members of the Notre Dame family; hence, the Rover’s tagline: ‘It Behooves a Watchdog to Bark. Good Rover.’” Bradley has seen positive changes result from their work, often in conjunction with other groups like the Sycamore Trust, an alumni group that works to promote strong Catholic identity at Notre Dame.
This spring semester, the Rover is planning a host of interesting events, including a panel on the traditional view of marriage, a presentation on the destructive effects of pornography, and the John Paul II Leadership Summit to gather faithful Catholic Notre Dame faculty and students to discuss student leadership, according to Bradley’s article “The Year Behind and the Year Ahead.”
When asked about living out his faith on campus, Bradley responded, “I have never once felt want in my own life of faith at Notre Dame.” He said that the “sacramental life at Notre Dame is thriving” and that there is a faithful “community,” but that this community is not in the mainstream of the University.
The reality of the environment at Notre Dame is so much more nuanced than most of its critics realize. There exists, unquestionably, a more vibrant, intellectually-informed, robust Catholic culture at Notre Dame for students who want to live faithfully than there exists at any other Catholic college or university in America. I absolutely believe that.
The problem is that this culture is a subculture, not in that it’s “difficult” to place one’s faith at the center of one’s identity (it isn’t, at all), nor in that faithful Catholics are ridiculed for their way of living and believing (they generally are not), but in that the niche in which one can find the community support that one always needs to really embrace the faith in a radical way is just that, a niche. That may not be true of other Catholic colleges or universities. But what I’m saying is that within that niche at Notre Dame, vis-à-vis anywhere else, are more opportunities, more resources, more intellectual formation and as much devotion as you can find anywhere.
Bradley praises the “‘local’ expressions of Catholic identity” that he observes on campus, which go beyond the administrative efforts of the University and are “most authentic” and “most life-giving.”
Responding to a question about the ways in which Notre Dame could improve, Bradley said that he would like to see “more integrated institutional witness, one that unites administrators, faculty and other staff in a vision of the Catholic Church’s mission as being truly normative for the life of the University…[E]ven a student can see that the Catholic ‘diamond in the rough’ vibrancy at Notre Dame should be not so in-the-rough.”
Bradley said that Notre Dame shouldn’t be compared indiscriminately to other smaller Catholic universities, which might have a different “institutional vocation.” However, he points out that there are “normative magisterial expressions that ought to govern and guide the life of the university, among which expressions Ex corde Ecclesiae is foremost. And undeniably, Notre Dame is falling short by [Ex corde Ecclesiae] standards; that much is obvious in a vacuum.”
And so Bradley carries on the work of editor-in-chief of the Rover—tackling logistical details and the challenges that result from managing a team of students—in pursuit of contributing to a better Notre Dame.
“I have always loved Notre Dame; precisely because I love it, I am sometimes (publicly) critical of it,” Bradley shared. “Notre Dame is really a beautiful institution, and beautiful things are always vulnerable, and fragile, especially where real power is involved. Thus, the University’s mission and character always stand on the edge of a knife, to borrow a phrase from Lord of the Rings. I’m glad to contribute what I can to the building of the Kingdom at Notre Dame.”
If you are interested in supporting or subscribing to the Rover,you can find Bradley’s contact information on the newspaper’s website.
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