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Let Us Begin Building!

Monday, September 11, 2017 by Michael Zelenka

Michael Zelenka Let Us Begin Building

My daughters Elizabeth (age 6) and Catherine (age 4), constantly create. Whether coloring blackline pictures, drawing freehand, cutting things out, glueing, taping, dancing, or singing, they create incessantly.

At times, this creative spirit will inspire them to build —with blocks, Legos, cups, plastic containers, pillows, and just about anything else either my wife or I deem permissible. Prior to the mobility of their brother Gabriel (9 months), these structures would only crumble from a hastily placed object, over-ambitiousness in height or foundational stability, or a careless—albeit accidental—foot or elbow. Gabriel has brought an additional source of destruction.

Regardless of causality, though, their response to a tumbling tower has remained consistent: “That’s okay, we can build it again bigger and better.”

Their zeal for creating inspires them to boldly dream of something bigger and better, and then get to work bringing this vision into the reality of our home.

The Congregation of Holy Cross embodies the same bold and unwavering zeal for their work within the Catholic Church, at the University of Notre Dame, and across our world. In the words of Bl. Basil Moreau, the C.S.C.’s founder, “Zeal is the great desire to make God known, loved and served, and thus bring knowledge of salvation to others.” Bl. Moreau continues:

I am convinced that Providence, which has in the past done everything necessary for the development and perfection of its work, will continue to bestow on us most abundant blessings. To ensure this, we must be animated by the spirit of zeal and generosity which so holy an undertaking requires.1

"Let us, with zeal, begin building"

It is this spirit of zeal that saw the Congregation grow rapidly from its inception in 1837. It is this spirit of zeal that allowed Bl. Moreau to weather the financial and organizational challenges that this exponential growth caused and respond:

Therefore, even should persecution redouble rather than diminish as is the case now, there would be no reason to fear God’s work. All the malice in the world and hell cannot change the will of the Lord, nullify his sovereign rights, render useless the work of his power, or make foolish the designs of his wisdom (Moreau, 452).2

Similarly, upon hearing that the Dome had burned to the ground in the spring of 1879, it is this spirit of zeal that emboldened Fr. Edward Sorin, founder of the University of Notre Dame, to proclaim:

If it were ALL gone, I should not give up. The fire was my fault. I came here as a young man and founded a university which I named after the Mother of God. Now she had to burn it to the ground to show me that I dreamed too small a dream. Tomorrow we will begin again and build it bigger, and when it is built, we will put a gold dome on top with a golden statue of the Mother of God so that everyone who comes this way will know to whom we owe whatever great future this place has.3

As we begin this new academic year, let us dream dreams that are worthy of our Lord and His Mother, Notre Dame. Let us, despite any challenge we may encounter or any disaster that may level our work, shrug our shoulders and try again.

Let us, with zeal, begin building (Nehemiah 2:18)!



And more boldly than ever before. 

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1 Garwych, A., & Grove, K. (Eds.). (2008). The Cross, Our Only Hope: Daily Reflections in the Holy Cross Tradition. Consequences of growing up poor. Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press.

2 Moreau, B. (2014). Basil Moreau Essential Writings: An introduction to the life and thought of the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Garwych, A., & Grove, K. (Eds.). Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press.

3 From: 

About the Author

Michael Zelenka

Michael Zelenka

Michael Zelenka serves as a faculty member for the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program. He also works with Notre Dame ACE Academies and the Center for Transformational Educational Leadership. 
Zelenka earned his Master of Education degree as a member of the ACE Teaching Fellows program where he served in the Diocese of St. Petersburg. Upon completion of this program, Zelenka served as a founding faculty member of Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School, working as both a teacher and the school's first Athletic Director. From there, Zelenka entered the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program and earned his Master of Administration degree while acting as the Assistant Principal of Christ the King Catholic School. His research focused on professional development for coaches centered on Catholic spirituality for which he earned the Excellence in Action-Research Award.
Zelenka also served as a Catholic school principal at Incarnation Catholic School for 7 years prior to joining the Mary Ann Remick Leadership faculty. In that time, he energized the school community by implementing numerous programs and initiatives to help advance the school in instructional leadership, Catholic school culture and executive management. 
Zelenka earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Arts in the Program of Liberal Studies.