Looking back at Notre Dame Vision

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

Each year, Notre Dame Vision provides teens and adult leaders an opportunity for fellowship and faith building on the University of Notre Dame campus in Indiana.

Contributed
Michelle Montgomery and youths from the Coralville area participate in a night prayer service during Notre Dame Vision earlier this summer.

This year, 31 youths and four adults from the Diocese of Davenport participated in one of four week-long programs.

Participants spent their week in the Notre Dame dormitories, taking part in fellowship with Catholic teens from across the country and working with more than 65 specially trained undergraduate mentors. These mentors gave witness from their own lives and listened to the teens talk about their challenges and struggles. The teens participated in faith formation activities, experienced music ministry, participated in Mass, prayer and reconciliation and attended seminars presented by nationally known speakers. Programs were available for adult leaders along with opportunities for fellowship and idea sharing.

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“The most positive thing I have seen from the youths who attend Vision is the impact on them long term,” said Pat Sheil, director of religious education for St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt. She has accompanied parish youths to Notre Dame Vision for several years. “The growth in their relationship with God and the desire to do more after they return home (is palpable).”

Speakers this year included Mike Patin, Roy Pettit, Katie Prejean and Robert Feduccia. Michelle Montgomery, director of youth ministry for St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville, said the speakers addressed many of the serious issues confronting teens, but also expressed great hope for the future of the church. Montgomery said the program places an emphasis on the saints. This year, participants watched three musicals by the Band of St. Cecelia which placed the parables in a modern context.

She noted that the beauty of the campus helps participants meditate on Scripture. “The various statues and art work really give you a place to go and mediate on Scripture by art. The campus flower gardens, the pond filled with water lilies and ducks and swans, and various trees just capture your eye in seeing God in creation.”

Here are reflections from some of the youths who attended Notre Dame Vision this summer:

Spencer Knight, St. Thomas More Parish-Coralville

Notre Dame Vision was an amazing experience. Just like NCYC, I really felt God’s love working through others. The (randomly-assigned) small-group settings really helped me open up and share with the other members. It really is a work of God that seven people who barely knew each others’ names on Monday ended up knowing each other better than some of my friends at home on Friday. I really hope I can keep in touch with my group; they were such amazing people.

The basilica was absolutely beautiful and I am blessed to have had the opportunity to go to Mass there daily, let alone go to reconciliation. … The adoration we did Thursday evening was also a special experience. I felt close to God. When I stood up afterwards, I felt shivers go up my spine and an interesting feeling of elation filled my heart. It really made me feel like God was with me. Friday morning, we had lots of fun. Just singing and dancing to celebrate our amazing experience and God’s love for us made me happier than I have been in a long time. I realized that it was God’s love filling the infinite hole in my heart, if only for a brief moment. I am excited to go back to my daily routine and see how much more I can incorporate God into my life.

Annalee Bartels, St. Thomas More – Coralville

This trip has been an amazing experience and one I will remember for a lifetime. Through going to Mass every day, reconciliation and adoration, Vision has drawn me closer to God. Vision has also blessed me with new friends that I will have even after this trip….this trip has made me find the gifts inside myself that I didn’t know I had. Such a blessing.

Ava Ferrel, St. Thomas More – Coralville

I had so much fun! I really grew in my faith and this was where I felt God for the first time! My favorite things we did were reconciliation in the beautiful basilica, because it was so beautiful, and adoration, because I felt really close to God. I can’t wait to do this next year. It is funny how we all bonded so fast with everyone!

Luke Aschenbrenner, St. Patrick – Iowa City

I enjoyed my experience at ND Vision. We participated in singing, dancing and faith sharing in small and large groups. The atmosphere was so energetic! Everyone had fun but also had time to attend daily Mass, daily prayer and even adoration as a large group. With the keynote speakers there was a perfect balance between interactive activities, fun stories and some lessons crucial to the development of faith in teens. Small-group times were a great experience to talk about what we saw as a large group and expand together on what we learned. I met new friends from all around the U.S. and learned about their unique stories. As you get to know your group better, you’re practically like a family as you enter that last day. The campus itself was an amazing part of the experience…. Overall, I would highly recommend that all teenagers come (to Vision) to grow stronger in their faith. It can be a life-changing experience.

Hope Petersen, St. Joseph Parish-DeWitt

The most memorable part of my return trip to Notre Dame was probably praying before a relic of the true cross in the basilica. It was such a moving experience I don’t think I will ever forget. Another highlight of Vision was meeting new friends throughout the week as well as catching up with old friends (from last year). My small group was awesome — from the first discussion, the openness in my group really helped us get to know each other quite fast and we had a lot of fun.

By keeping notes during the keynote sessions and journaling about the week as I went along, I feel that it helped me capture the feeling of the week and the journal will help me to look back and remember. At Vision, going up and initiating conversation with strangers was so normal that it has encouraged me to be more bold when it comes to meeting new people and to be the one to reach out to others.


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