When Emma Fleming was discerning her next steps as a senior at the University of Notre Dame, she listened for God’s direction. She found her answer in song—a Notre Dame Folk Choir song, to be exact.
Emma, ACE 24 - Stockton, spent her first year after graduation performing music ministry in Ireland with the House of Brigid. The program, a folk choir initiative, sent Emma and other recent graduates to Dublin, where she lived in a three-person community on Catholic parish grounds. There, she regularly lead the musical liturgy at Mass and taught catechetical classes in the parish school.
“That was my life,” says Emma. “It was teaching and it was singing and it was praying for a year.”
The “life-giving” program was a natural fit for Emma, who says that she encounters God in the act of singing. She began to develop this spirituality at Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago, her hometown parish.
“I’d always loved singing in church,” says Emma, “and I come from a family where we all sing.”
When she joined the folk choir as a Notre Dame student, Emma’s ability to connect to God through song only strengthened.
“I’m an emotional person, so when I’m moved, I’m moved to tears… that’s what music does for me,” says Emma. “The melodies and harmonies move us, and I find that so uplifting, to feel like that is God. That is beautiful.”
Not only has Emma felt a lifelong devotion to music, but she has felt a call to teach for many years. In fact, as a child, Emma used to hold imaginary classes in her home, complete with chalkboards and pointers. She even received teacher books for her birthday.
It was perhaps unsurprising, then, that Emma gravitated to the teaching aspects of her House of Brigid duties. When the program participants were encouraged to discern their next steps, Emma found that her work in the parish school “just sparked a greater love for teaching” than for parish ministry.
Emma speaks lovingly of her experience preparing Irish second graders for the sacrament of First Communion. She asked her students to share reflections on why Jesus ascended into heaven after His death, and their responses touched her deeply. One student speculated that Jesus’s father must have missed Him, and another explained Jesus had to leave so that He could be with all of His children instead of just a few.
“They might not know fully what the Trinity is—none of us do,” says Emma, “but they are so attuned to the importance of God, and how He represents and is love.”
Now that Emma has joined the ACE Teaching Fellows program, she plans to infuse her teaching practice with her great appreciation for music. Emma will teach songs as “a way to learn and understand” content, and she also anticipates regularly playing folk choir music for her students.
That way, Emma says, “I can bring [my students] to Ireland. I think music can do that.”
Want to learn more about ACE Teaching Fellows? Visit ace.nd.edu/teach and request more information.