One by one, week‐by‐week, the team defeated each ranked team and every other team on its schedule. Some of the games were won as if by magic, as if by divine right. The Notre Dame mystique was back! The team shot through the national rankings all the way to the top. The sport writer did penance by shining the golden helmets of each player before the final home game. Notre Dame went undefeated for the entire 2012 season, and was headed to play for the National Championship in early 2013. Notre Dame was back!
The internet was full of excitement. Students and alums as well were planning on a great trip to Miami, the scene for the January 7 national championship game against Alabama. Top dollar—ridiculous amounts‐ was being paid for the inevitable crowning. It was pre‐destined. America’s team did not have the sort of season ND had without bringing it to completion. Movies would be made. Books would be written. Stories would be told for generations.
Seven Notre Dame students ( among others, I am sure) had no intention of attending the game and its accompanying festivities in Miami’s warm clime. The reasons were not financial (although I have no idea if any of them could have afforded to go or not). Nor was there a lack of school spirit or pride. They didn’t go because they had made a commitment. They were going to do an Urban Plunge in Portland, at St. André Bessette Catholic Church and the Old Town neighborhood.
All of them, covering each year from freshman through grad student, became very involved in the ministry of the parish and its neighborhood partners. They lived out the corporal works of mercy by feeding the hungry, clothing the unclothed, visiting those who rarely had young people taking any interest in their lives and circumstances—the poorest of the poor, by American standards. What could have been a time of great collegiate fun for them was, by their own choice, a time of service.
Monday night, January 7, the students joined the priests in the rectory to watch the Notre Dame game. They would excitedly cheer when one of their dorm or class mates appeared on the screen, moan when Alabama scored and cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame. Then the game was over. The students went back to the basement, where they were sleeping on the floor for seven nights. They resumed serving our guests in the morning, with a spirit of joy and pleasure. One might think Notre Dame had won. In fact, I think it did.