Institute for Church Life

Serving the Campus, the Community, and the Catholic Church



In “The Role of Theology at a Catholic University,” John C. Cavadini quotes a passage from Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Ex Corde Ecclesiae (49): “By its very nature, each Catholic university makes an important contribution to the Church’s work of evangelization. It is a living institutional witness to Christ and his message, so vitally important in cultures marked by secularism.” One of the many ways Notre Dame contributes to the Catholic Church and to its work of evangelization is through the Institute for Church Life (ICL). Cavadini serves as ICL’s director.

Established by Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., in 1976, the Institute for Church Life (ICL) connects the resources of the University with the Church through theological education, pastoral scholarship and research, faith formation, and leadership development. Currently, ICL is comprised of four departments, including:

  • Echo, which prepares tomorrow’s leaders in faith formation through a dynamic two-year service and master’s degree program
  • Notre Dame Center for Liturgy (NDCL), which renews the sacramental life of the Church through scholarship and teaching
  • Notre Dame Vision, which helps young people to recognize God’s call in their lives and to respond to that call with courage and faith
  • Satellite Theological Education Program (STEP), which provides quality theological education through online courses, designed by Notre Dame faculty

Additionally, through its Catholic Social and Pastoral Research Initiative and University Life Initiative, ICL conducts research that is theologically informed and pastorally relevant and strengthens the Notre Dame community’s witness to Catholic teaching on human dignity.

The Institute for Church Life also sponsors numerous seminars, conferences, and symposia. In the last year, ICL hosted the symposium on the Charism of Priestly Celibacy, Stories of Practical Holiness: An Exercise in Interreligious Understanding, God is Love: Explorations in the Theology of Benedict XVI, The Church & Islam, and What We Hold In Trust: A Seminar for Trustees and Presidents. And in the coming year, the institute will host Seeds of the Church: Remembering the Martyrs and Saturdays with the Blessed Mother, which, in 2013, will take the place of the highly successful Saturdays with the Saints.

And while evangelization will be the focus of programming over the next five years, ICL continues to expand its programs and initiatives to meet the unique needs of the Church in the 21st century.

The Study of God: An Educational Emergency.

Are we so sure we understand what Scripture is saying or even how it is saying it? What kind of God is it that creates supposedly precious human creatures and then loses track of them in the garden, having to walk around calling out and asking where they are? What was the “day” created before the sun and the moon which define our days, and what was the “light” that preceded these heavenly bodies? Do we understand fully what it means to be in the “image and likeness of God?” How can we square the texts of Genesis with what we understand from modern science?

Is the Christian message credible in our world today?

“One of the primary and most urgent intellectual tasks of the New Evangelization for teaching theologians,” Cavadini writes in A Brief Reflection on the Intellectual Tasks of the New Evangelization, “is to think of courses that invent, imagine, and execute the apologetics of love in introductions of students to the Catholic faith.” Notre Dame’s Department of Theology and Institute for Church Life are ensuring that these questions are not only asked in classes like On Human Dignity, but also that students can answer them. “As students come to understand the sophistication of the Catholic theological traditions,” Cavadini writes, “they see riches where before they simply saw old texts that seemed irrelevant … they discover a beauty they had not expected … discover a variety-within-unity where previously they had thought only of uniformity … they learn that, without being reducible to reason, faith has a reasonableness and a rationality about it that makes belief seem reasonable even if never provable … they learn some of the basic doctrines of the Catholic faith, not as doors which close off reflection, but as doors which open into lifelong reflection.”