Notre Dame's president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., speaks with an attendee at the midnight prayer service to kick off Walk the Walk Week.
The midnight prayer service held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2016 was just as much about the historic actions of the slain civil rights leader as it was about the prospective actions of the Notre Dame students, faculty, staff and guests who gathered together.
More than 1,000 people attended the service at 12 a.m. on Monday, January 18, the inaugural event of the campus-wide Walk the Walk Week observance. Dangerous wind-chill conditions led the University to cancel its plans for a march to the grotto and move the prayer service inside to the rotunda of the Main Building.
“It would’ve been nice to have a march, but there’s something special about being here – under the Golden Dome, the heart of campus – to pray as we start this celebration of Dr. King’s legacy,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame president.
As he led the crowd in prayer, Father Jenkins said, “Lord God you led your chosen people from slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land. We ask that you lead us, the Notre Dame community, from any enslavement to hatred, ignorance, fear, racism, injustice or anything else that prevents us from being the community of love and respect that you want us to be.”
To truly be a community of love and respect, Notre Dame must not just “talk the talk,” said Eric Love, director of staff diversity and inclusion, but “walk the walk.”
“As the Fighting Irish, we must first make sure every member of the Notre Dame family feels welcome and comfortable on campus,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you are from, your religion, your ethnicity, sexual orientation, family income. Whoever you are, if you are here you are part of our family. And you should be expected to be treated with dignity and respect.
“As a Notre Dame family, we have much to contribute, and we can make a difference in the world through our service. It is a part of who we are, and it makes our ethic of care more true. … We must not just learn and talk about the problems of our time, but we must contribute to the solutions and assist those in need.”
Throughout the week, the Notre Dame community is asked to reflect on the question “What is your next step?” Tweet your answer using #NDwalkthewalk.
“Five years from now, 25 years from now, 50 years from now, what will be said about the student body, staff, administrators, faculty of Notre Dame who graced the campus in 2016?” Love challenged. “What impact will you have, and what historical markers will you leave?”