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Falling in Love with Service

Monday, February 03, 2020 by John T. McCarthy IV - ACE Intern and member of ACE 27

This post is authored by John T. McCarthy IV, an ACE Teaching Fellows Intern and member of ACE 27. A Science Pre-professional and Theology major at the University of Notre Dame, John will graduate in May of 2020. 

John McCarthy - Falling in Love with Service 

ACE first appeared on my radar the summer after my freshman year, when the well-known Father Joe Corpora found out that I was going to be on campus during the summer and asked me to work for him. 

During that summer, I took classes and helped Fr. Joe with all the miscellaneous things that have to be done to smoothly run conferences for ACE like the Latino Enrollment Institute and the School Pastors’ Institute. 

I interacted with hundreds of amazing people, including bishops, dozens of priests, teachers, and friends. As the summer unfolded and my days were filled with classes and work, I found myself attending the evening ACE Masses in Dillon Hall.

At first, I didn’t know anyone at these Masses, considering that I had just finished my freshman year and most of these individuals had graduated, but as I looked around, I began to recognize faces.

John McCarthy - ACE InternshipND Vision 2019: St. Martin de Porres small group I saw one of my Notre Dame Vision mentors from when I had participated in the program in high school, I saw some of the Keenan RAs who had served my dorm the previous year, I recognized people from campus ministry events and programs in which I had been involved, and, for the people I didn’t know, I felt comfortable sitting down next to them at Mass, meeting them, and engaging in a quality conversation. 

There was a comfortable feeling at those summer ACE Masses, and I could tell that every person in the room was passionate, hardworking, and committed to the flourishing of humanity.

After that summer, ACE became something that I was willing to consider. However, what ended up allowing me to fully say “yes” to ACE was teaching religious education at local parishes through Catechist Academy. After spending a semester teaching kindergarteners and third graders for a year, I found myself in love with the idea of serving with ACE for two years after graduating from Notre Dame.

This desire to teach reflects much of my high school and college career because I have always loved working with youth and growing deeper into my Catholic faith. In high school, I spent countless hours working with the youth ministry programs in my parish designing retreats. In college, I have gravitated toward similar opportunities. 

Keenan Hall RetreatKeenan Hall Retreat

I led Bible studies and faith-sharing groups, I worked with high school students for two summers as a Notre Dame Vision mentor, I became an RA in Keenan hall, and I participated in multiple mission trips in the Dominican Republic where our team served in a local school serving children who struggle abject poverty, abusive homes, and abandonment.

On the Folk Choir’s tour last summer to Africa, I witnessed similar struggles for the African people of Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. However, in working with children through youth ministry, Notre Dame Vision, mission trips, and having two little brothers, I have found that children have so much to teach me when it comes to joy in this life and the life to come. Jesus says in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

What better way to become like a child and learn to love God unreservedly than to spend time with them, to know them, and to open your heart to them? The joy of the children that I will be serving is the infallible sign of the presence of God.

John McCarthy - ACE InternshipHelping with soccer practice at a local school in the Dominican Republic

I have found being an ACE Intern extremely rewarding through my experience with people going through their own ACE discernment. I like to describe the internship as a year of getting to be excited about ACE and getting other people excited about ACE. 

Now, as the second semester is underway and the ACE application for this year has closed, the internship has shifted from accompanying others to preparing myself. This semester I am asking myself the question: What can I do that will make me a better teacher next year?

Reading in Remick Commons after a Right to Life MassReading in Remick Commons after a Right to Life MassTeaching with ACE will open my heart and create space to love others in ways that I haven’t even considered. Knowing this, it seems only fitting for my future plans as a physician to spend two years teaching children before pursuing medical school. 

Since both teaching and being a physician are considered helping professions, I know that ACE will train me in the virtue of loving others, and the way I will serve my future students will inform the way I treat my future patients. 

I am confident that the personal and professional growth that I will experience in ACE will make me a better physician. I have been more than blessed to serve as an ACE intern this year and to have the opportunity to teach next year. 

I pray that as I continue to journey through my final undergraduate semester at Notre Dame, and begin my walk as an ACE teacher, that I will be able to learn how to say thank you for the gift of life and better serve all those whom I encounter.


Interested in becoming an ACE Intern like John? Applications are open!

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