The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined. (Isaiah 9.2)

During the next four weeks, read Holy Cross College Community’s gift of Hope to you and families as our students, faculty, staff, and alumni share their “HOPE is Real” stories.

Dear Holy Cross College Community, we are grateful for your reflections and the time taken to read them. This Advent has truly been a gift of accompaniment. We have become a “community of hope” that holds the reality of God’s presence in our lives as the treasure of this holy season.

“Are we there yet?”

During Fall Break this year, we packed up the College van, filled it with six students, and took off for the “Wandering with Saints” Pilgrimage to Montreal. As soon as we drove up the ramp to the toll road, a mocking voice from the back of van shouted, “are we there yet?”. It was a great start to what would become a solemn and holy journey. Totally dependent on Google Maps, we made our way through Ohio and New York until we reached Easton, MA where Holy Cross Family Ministries is located near the campus of Stonehill College. We hit the road again and traveled through New Hampshire and Vermont until we crossed the Canadian border and made our way to Montreal. We finally arrived at the Oratory of Saint Joseph, built at the request of Saint Andre Bessett, a Holy Cross Brother, known as the “Miracle Man of Montreal. We were focused, and as pilgrims, we journeyed until the question at the beginning of our trip was answered, we had arrived.

The next morning, we made our way to the Oratory and walked down to Crypt Church where we entered the “Votive Chapel” or “the Chapel of Ex-votos”. The Chapel of Ex-voto is a long corridor that is filled with flickering 3500 vigil candles. Ex-votos (canes and crutches) are suspended between the pillars of the Chapel. The discarded crutches and canes left behind by pilgrims during the life of Br. Andre Bessette are visible remainder of the powerful graces and healing through the intercession of Saint Joseph. As we walked in humbly silence through the chapel, the flames from the candles warmed our faces. We stopped, lit our candles, and knelt to offer the prayers deepest in our hearts. In that Chapel, surrounded by fellow pilgrims from all walks of life, the silent shedding of tears, the bent posture of prayer, and the humility of kneeling claimed us all as God’s holy people. The raising of our prayers like incense and our hands clasped in prayer (Psalm 141.2) was a sign of the invisibly reality of divine hope that rests within our hearts. It became clearer to me that hope is essential to our human nature. It comes with a promise that we are not alone in this world. The comfort that comes to us in our darkest moments comes from Emmanuel, God with us, made present in this Advent season.

On our last night, we returned to the Votive Chapel prayed Night Prayer at the tomb of St. Andre Bessette. After the prayer, we were all drawn to kneel as pilgrims at the end a of journey together. I knelt with my forehead on Br. Andre’s tomb and simply prayed, “Br. Andre, through the intercession of St. Joseph; heal me”. In that moment, it was revealed to me that hope is an invitation to walk into a new found openness in my heart to accept God’s healing love. It was freeing to now move toward God’s waiting compassion and mercy.

Pope Francis speaks of hope as the “certainty of being on a journey. …Hope is always journeying, and it makes us journey”.[1] We are accompanied by Christ who leads us to our loving God. Hope gives us confidence and assurance that while we are not there yet, we are well on our way to where God has destined us to arrive. During this Christmas season, we turn to the Nativity scenes in our homes and parishes, where our pilgrimage of hope began in the journeys of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the Magi, all seeking with willing hearts for the promise made real in the birth of a small infant in Bethlehem. Hope is not only real. It is God’s promise to us that we are not alone on our way, and we are not there yet. There is much love and hope needed in this world. We are called to be signs of God’s hope to others.

Dianne Barlas, D.Min.
Associate Professor of Theology
Vice President for Mission and Ministry

[1] Pope Francis, On Hope. Chicago: Loyola Press: 2017, p. 16-17

“Oh, he has trouble with the snap! And the ball is free! It’s picked up by Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson, and he scores! On the last play of the game! Unbelievable!” It looked like Michigan was finally re-asserting itself in the in-state rivalry that they had dominated for most of the twentieth century. Really, all they would have had to do was get the punt off and they would have won the game. Watching a live stream of it on my computer, I thought it was over. I texted my college roommate in despair, saying that all we could hope for was that Michigan would be overrated and end up getting blown out by some SEC team in a bowl game. But Michigan’s punter mishandled a low snap, fumbled the ball almost straight up into the air, and the rest has been preserved for history in commentator Sean McDonough’s perfect call.

A few years later I had a conversation with an old friend and his wife. His wife was in a state of discouragement about many aspects of her faith and the Church. She seemed agitated even talking about it. I felt very bad for her, but I knew that she was a football fan and, like most Notre Dame alums my age, loved seeing Michigan lose. So, a few days later I sent that YouTube clip to her.

That YouTube clip had gotten me through some dark times, myself. Sometimes it is hard to hope—it does not feel psychologically safe. But one of the functions of sports is to let us explore emotions and thought patterns that might otherwise be psychologically or socially unsafe. Maybe as an outlet, but maybe to make them a little safer, a little more manageable. Maybe if we can learn to hope in sports, we can learn to hope in life.

John Biddle, Assistant Professor of Physics

Hope: A Decalogue*

Hope is the version of expectation that is founded on a clear understanding of past patterns, so it is the opposite of “wishful thinking.”

1.      Hope is coming to a four-way stop, watching people take their turns and, when it’s your turn, pressing the accelerator.
2.      Hope is knowing during some difficulty that you can make a phone call and your best friend will have your back.
3.      Hope is what you possess when someone, who has always delivered before, has promised you something, and you’re now waiting for it patiently.
4.      Hope is expecting the sound of the garage door when it’s time for your father to come home from work.
5.      Hope is watching a troubled young person about to make progress when you’ve seen so many others make progress before.
6.      Hope is knowing in your guts you can get a hot meal after a rainy day on the street.
7.      Hope is seeing after months of cold and silence a red-bud tree in the front yard break again into blossom, as if to say, “you see? You too can try again.”
8.      Hope is not a beauty filter: it can be as dull as the sky behind a line of barren trees before dawn.
9.      As Despair looks at a pile of dirty dishes, Hope is already humming at the sink.
10.   Hope is what you feel when you know that your past suffering has been shared by someone who has suffered the same or worse and is now extending arms to protect you.
In my life, hope has always increased the more deeply I have looked: it is the promise of spring built into the very structure of winter, the confidence of faith as it looks at what is to come.

* A ‘decalogo’ is a common form in Italian folk literature.

Anthony Monta
Associate Professor in English, Dean of the College

Nothing is easy about school: maintaining focus for extended periods of time, asking and answering hard questions, balancing freedom and responsibilities. The list goes on. Like anything worth doing, learning costs something, yet we willingly spend our time and energy studying because we believe that it will bear good fruit in due time. Hope is the virtue that animates this belief and leads us onward.

Hope reminds us to play the long game, to keep our eyes on the prize. It strengthens us to face the difficult present and to travel the path that lies ahead even if it is arduous, uncomfortable, demanding, or uncertain because we believe, as St. Paul wrote, that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.

Hope always points us to something greater than the tangible present and sets our eyes on a horizon that exceeds our present reach. One of my many desires for my students is that they can approach their studies with an eternal horizon in mind. This ethos is built into a cheerful phrase we share here at Holy Cross: Saints today. Saints for all eternity. This phrase is a shorthand for communicating a common hope that our little efforts, our little sacrifices, and our little acts of faith and love today will bear good fruit in due time—and also in eternity.


Stephen Barany
Faculty Fellow in Art and Design

Hope in my life is very, very real. So real that our youngest daughter’s name is Hope. Our fourth child Hope Mary was born on August 15th. My husband and I honestly had no clue what we were going to name her. It was the Feast of the Assumption of Mary and in the back of my mind, we might use Mary in her name. My middle name is Mary and so is my grandma’s name. And guess what? My nurse’s name was Mary. I could feel her presence that day even through all the contractions, the screaming, and the pain. We gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and finally settled on a name, Hope Mary. I did not know it at the time; how much my sweet little Hope reminds me of hope. I have four children Gregory 5, Barbara 3, Grace 2, and Hope 4 months old. We have our days, and my patience runs thin but when I hit my head on the pillow at the end of the day, I thank you Lord for my 4 babies and I hope I am doing this right.

During this Advent season I am reminded to look to Mary our Mother for her patience and gentleness to give to my children. I take the days for granted as sometimes I just want bedtime to come sooner than later. My kids give me hope and joy every day and I am so thankful for them.

Katie (Fetters) Emery, 2010 Alumnus

When I was six years old, my dad was diagnosed with MS. Over the course of my life, I have watched my dad lose physical mobility slowly and painfully. In middle school and high school, I had great hope for his miraculous healing. I knew God had the power to restore my dad to help him to walk again and restore him to full health. As the years passed, my hope started to dwindle as every new medicine or surgery failed to work and often accelerated his immobility.

A year and a half ago, my dad was in a serious car accident that left him bedridden. In these days when he is much less mobile than ever before, I find myself full of more hope than ever before. I have realized that my dad will likely never be physically healed on this side of heaven, but I have such a great hope for his healing in the resurrection. God does nothing but care for us and work for our good, and I have such hope that my dad’s prolonged suffering will be transformed into great glory.

In this season of Advent, we sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” asking the presence of God to dwell in our hearts. God’s presence does not mean that life will be free of suffering or go the way we imagine it will. We have hope because the little Infant in the manger will grow, die upon the Cross, rise to new life, and bring us into that new life with him. The hope of Christmas is the hope that God cares deeply about every wounded place within us. He comes to dwell in our suffering so that he can restore us and bring us everlasting joy, peace, and healing either in this life or in the next.

Aurelia Wishart
Office of Student Success

Hope is the continual looking forward to the eternal. Christians do not bury their dead thinking it is the end, but rather in the sure and certain hope of the Resurrection. One might think this could be misguided thinking, the constantly looking ahead. However, having hope and looking ahead is something we are meant to do. C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, “If you read history, you will find that Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.” When we begin to think less of the next world, we become less effective in this world.

The virtue of hope is rock-solid. It is not rooted in our feelings or merely the idea of wishing for something. It is meant to be an anchor for the lives of the faithful. A baby boy came into the world over 2000 years ago to be a light in the darkness. Christian hope is rooted in our Christmas joy. “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight”, we sing to the “little town of Bethlehem”, the “house of bread” from which our souls are fed. May this time of Adent be an opportunity for all of us to deepen our thirst and longing for the next world where we will be fully with our Lord, the fulfillment of our hope.

Andrew Polaniecki
Dean and Vice President of Student Life

Growing up, I did not belong to any religion. My mother was Greek Orthodox, and my father was Methodist. It was important to my father that I would not be baptized until I was able to choose which Church I wanted to belong to. So, this meant I would go back and forth between attending divine liturgies at the Greek Orthodox Church and a small Methodist chapel in my hometown. A week after returning from our holiday getaway my mother went back into the hospital, the cancer had returned. It was so bad that she had to be sent down to Indianapolis. She was there for 3 weeks and then was called home to God. I was angry, I was hurt. I would think, “How can a God who is supposed to love me and want the best for me, do this?!” With this anger, I shoved the teen bible to the way back of my closet and forgot about it for years.

I held onto this anger and disbelief in a God up until I was a 23-year-old bright eyed college graduate who was hiding her depression, experienced her first panic attack, and started counseling to hopefully heal from the grief I had been holding in all these years. At that point in my life the only time I would walk into a church was for a funeral or if I were trying to please my grandmother and take her to church on a Sunday. From a 13-year-old young girl to now a 23-year-old grown woman I had spent those years praying to my mom, not God. For I thought, “My mom will watch over me, I do not trust someone who can hurt me so easily.” But now that 23-year-old started praying and talking with God again. At the age of 25 I was invited to attend an 8 AM Mass by my current husband. The moment the choir started to sing I looked around and saw light shining through the windows, the most beautiful shadow of God on the Cross with Mary his mother and John a beloved disciple. I knew this was where I belonged. Throughout the entire Mass I remember being attentive to everything and everyone, at the sign of peace I was ready to throw my arms around all in attendance and give big hugs. In that hour long mass, it was the most connected I had felt to God and my mother since I was 13.

Six months later I found myself walking the Mishawaka River walk trying to discern whether to become Catholic. “Would my mother be upset with me for not joining the Orthodox Church?” “Am I just doing this to please Patrick?” “Am I ready to trust?” Then suddenly, a gust of wind flew all around me, and arms wrapped around me to give me a hug. That was my answer. I grew in hope and trust within those years, I knew I was ready, and I knew that all would be okay.

It has been almost 4 years since I became Catholic. Years later, as a newlywed, moving my life from my parents’ house to now a house with my husband, I started to go through my old closet. In there I was amazed to find that teenage bible that I had thrown in there so many years ago. I sat and I started to turn to some marked pages. These marked pages held a prayer card for St. Theresa of Lisieux speaking of the Divine Presence and how it is everywhere and how it is connected to God’s love and care. It also had a prayer card for St. Michael the Archangel revoking to evil spirts who wish to ruin the souls of those who believe in God. Lastly, it had a guardian angel medallion with the word “faith” on the back. I am not sure if my mother put these here for me or if someone had given them to my mother to help her through her treatments but now more than ever, I believed and realized how all the pain was connected and how each message of trust, love and faith were always there. I realized that my mother’s Hope for me was to have a relationship with God and to be a part of something bigger than myself. This was something she was trying to have me see all along. Now I see.

Samantha Derksen, Assistant Director of Admissions

We all long for hope. As a graduate student in Boston, I lived alone, ate alone, and studied late nights so that, when the library was closed, I worked alone. You get the picture. It was an alienating experience. I prayed often during that time. I can’t say that my prayers were always good, or focused, or long…but they were prayers to a God that I knew was with me and had not left me alone. They brought me at least a measure of hope in a lonely season of life. Often, my prayer was “Lord, send me someone, and when I meet her, please don’t let me screw it up.”

In the spring of 2009, I travelled to my first academic conference, flying from Massachusetts to attend a theology gathering at Notre Dame. While at the conference, I met a graduate student from Indiana, who decided at the last minute that she should stay at the event in order to “be hospitable” to students, like me, who were from out of town. I shook hands with Katie Harmon (now my spouse) in a stairwell, talked her ear off in a parking lot, and sat next to her at Legends. Then, I wrote to her—incessantly—for weeks, until she gave me a chance! The time and presence, with which she graced me, renewed my hope in friendship, music, art, and joy. It gave me hope that my present and future were not marked by loneliness, but conversation and community.

The Holy Cross tradition involves a reliance on God’s providence, which is, for me, God’s gracious outpouring of love, community, care, and concern. His providence met me at a theology conference, and it restored my ability to hope.

Matthew Sherman, Director of Campus Ministry

In Matthew 18: 3, Jesus stated, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus encouraged us to see the world and everything in it through the eyes of a child; to see the world with amazement. As I reflect on my upbringing, I feel blessed to have had parents who taught my brother and me how to wonder, to dream, to believe, and to have hope…to see with eyes of faith!

I grew up on a farm in Maryland, just outside of Washington DC. Throughout the years, this farm had bred and raised horses and cattle, grew vegetables and tobacco, and was a centerpiece for community gatherings for the farmers in the region. When our family lived there, it was no longer an active farm, but rather, an investment property owned by my grandfather to eventually be used for commercial use. Those years of living on the farm were special…a lot of hard work to maintain, but truly special. They were a slice of heaven amidst the noise of the city; a place of peace, and a place I hold dear to my heart.
One of my favorite memories of this house was the annual hayride our family would take just before midnight on Christmas Eve. My father would spend weeks preparing the open wagon that he pulled with his tractor. He decorated it with lights and garland and filled the bed with hay. Just before midnight we would bundle up in our winter coats and hats, put them on over our pajamas, and climb onto the back of the wagon with our hot chocolate in hand. The smiles on everyone’s faces said it all—pure childlike joy. We would sing Christmas carols and look for Santa’s sleigh flying across the sky. And my mom would urge us to quiet down and listen closely at midnight because as legend had it, the animals could talk at midnight. My mother encouraged us to watch and listen with eyes and ears of faith.

In this Advent season, a season of wonder and hope, I pray that despite the difficulties and challenges that life has brought, the divisiveness of our world, and the lack of peace that millions of children and adults alike live with, that you may, with eyes of faith, wonder again, dream, believe, and have hope like that of a child. For, as the late Pope Benedict XVI stated, “One who has hope, lives differently.” Ave Crux, Spes Unica!

Dr. Clark, President
Holy Cross College

There have been many times in my life when hope has been a struggle, but the most difficult is when epilepsy was in itspeak. I was told, at 10 years old, that I could die at any moment of any day. That is the difficult and scariest thing to process at such a young age. I was mad at the world and furious that God would let this happen to me. but then I found hope. I found hope in reading the Bible and in praying every day. I was hopeful that God would let me live and someday help somebody with my story. And, here I am, God let me live. Hope got me through all of the hospital stays, all of the medications, and all of the horrible tests they had to run. Staying hopeful is so important; it can save a life!

Karli Vance, Psychology Major

Hope is the right hand of faith and the left hand of love, that allows me to always give God a thunderous applause of praise inspired by life’s difficulties.

On Feb 29, 2020, the same month our daughter Carmen, an active and hardworking college student turned 21, she suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. She was hospitalized in the ICU for over 3 months, followed by several weeks of total rehab: OT, PT, and counseling. She was all alone because Covid19 had shut the world down! We were kicked out of the hospital, indefinitely. As her parents, we were not allowed to touch or even see her.
Hope became my BFF.
Oh, to see her now!

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).”

Gloria Chambliss, College Facilites

During the season of Advent, I always return to Bethlehem. I walk among those fields with those shepherds, who met our Lord Jesus Christ on that faithful Christmas night. I often wonder what their lives were like before they met Christ. A few years ago, I watched a movie called “The Nativity Story.” In what I consider to be a pretty ingenious movie, the makers of the film imagine that Mary and Joseph encounter the shepherds as they are making their way to Bethlehem. During their conversation with one another, Mary asks one of the shepherds, “what is your gift?” He responds with a voice full of despair, “Nothing. Nothing but the hope of waiting upon one.” When I imagine this conversation between the Blessed Mother and the shepherd, my heart cannot but break at the desperation in his voice, to know that hope is real but the fact that he cannot find it. Later on in the movie, when the shepherd meets Christ in the flesh, he looks upon the face of the God who became human for him. He realizes the love which God has for him in that human face, and Mary says, “we are all given a gift.”

I often think about the shepherd on that night in Bethlehem, when all the world seemed to have stopped. I know that I have been him, desperately trying to understand how hope is real. And yet, I now know that we are all given a gift in the form of the love of Jesus Christ, in the human face of our God. Whenever a good friend or a family member smile at me, I cannot but think how the mystery of the love of the Resurrection is embodied in them. I cannot help but think that the smiles of our Holy Cross Saints help to reveal the hope of God’s unconditional love in small and hidden ways. 2,000 years ago, the shepherd looked upon the smiling human face of our God and saw our need for the unconditional love of God. We are the shepherd today, my friends, and we see the love of Christ in those who smile around us. The angels will continue to seek glory to God in the highest because hope is real, and the face of Christ is on every face.

Br. Bobby McFadden, CSC

My understanding of hope has evolved significantly over my life.

Hope can be a positive feeling that a desired outcome will happen. Hope can mean being optimistic. Looking for and finding the light in the dark. It has a cheerful connotation. Hope can also be a feeling of trust.

Our infant daughter, Darcy Celeste Dunne, died when she was five weeks old from a rare, uniformly fatal brain condition. The weight of such grief is soul crushing. It threatens to turn your heart to stone. All our hopes for her life are gone forever.
But hope is a feeling of trust…I throw myself upon that trust, especially during the Advent season.

In defiance of all suffering, I cling to trust, I hold on to believing that there is a purpose for everything within God’s divine composition regardless of my ability to comprehend it. My hope is intertwined with my fear and awe of God. In the fullness of time, I will find peace and understanding through union with the Creator.

Hope means that I am going to keep living; I choose life, I choose to participate, I keep moving forward…no matter what.

Jay Dunne, Class of 2007

What is hope?

Hope is a word we see more often in this season. Maybe, it’s a part of a Christmas lights display, on a festive coffee mug, or front and center on a holiday greeting card. The word is often decorated with holly, ivy, and a plop of good cheer — like this Hallmark ornament.

How does the life of Christ model hope?

We see the misunderstood, expectant couple, Mary and Joseph, traveling to Bethlehem, penniless, alone, knocking on doors, begging for housing, and having door after door slammed in their faces. As they continue through the dark, empty streets of Bethlehem, despite the great temptation to doubt the dream and the angel’s message, Jospeh chooses to softly whisper “Yahweh is faithful, Yahweh is good, and he will provide.” That is hope.

We see Jesus in the desert, weary and exhausted from his fasting and Satan’s ruthless taunting “if you are the Son of God…” Despite his growling stomach, chapped lips, and temptation to doubt is sonship, he musters the strength to yell: “Away from me, Satan! I will Worship my Father and serve him alone.” (Mathew 4: 10) That is hope.

We see Mary on the outskirts of the city on a smelly trash heap, watching precious blood drip down a wooden beam. Behold, my son – mocked, naked, beaten and crucified. Numbness and confusion consume her. Despite her temptation to doubt her whole life and that of her son’s, she recalls Simeon’s words from decades ago: “Behold, this child is destined to cause the fall and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign of contradiction, and a sword will pierce your own soul.” (Luke 2:34-35) And she believed. That is hope.

In moments of great anguish, discouragement, loneliness, and doubt, when we are at the end of our rope, wayed down by our heaviest crosses, we can follow the Saints before us and despite our circumstances, choose to believe God is good, he is faithful, and he loves me. That is hope.

Catherine Ficker, Associate Director of the Office of Student Success

One of my favorite places in the tri-campus is the Holy Cross community cemetery.  It is the place where I go to pray and find God’s peace.  I’ve found that cemeteries help us meditate on life’s “big” questions—why are we here, who is God, what is death, where am I going, why be good?

My brother passed away suddenly when I was nine and, because of this, I spent a lot of time at his grave in the cemetery in my hometown.  Those early visits were very hard—watching one’s parents grieve is extraordinarily difficult.  I struggled to understand my brother’s death and my family’s suffering.  And these were spiritually formative years for me.  How was I to reconcile a good and loving God with this cross that seemed to be so heavy?

I don’t know that one ever receives the answers that we demand to the “big” questions that we often bring to God in prayer, the ones that drop us to our knees.  Not answers that one can articulate without falling into either sentimentality or legal-speak.  I do believe, however, that God can speak truths to one’s heart that point our suffering to someone greater and that tell us that we are here for something.  It takes time to see that, as the Constitutions of Holy Cross remind us, “even the cross can be born as a gift.”  It gives us the hope that God’s love can and will swallow up in victory all our humiliation, anger, failure, and suffering.

The faithful departed who reside in cemeteries—my father joined this body in March of this year—are witnesses to our belief that Jesus Christ is more powerful than death—that death, while unavoidable, does not get the last word. These places exist because of our belief in the resurrection and, in doing so, become places of hope.

Dre Polaniecki, Ph.D.

As I was in Bible Study reflecting on the Gospel for the First Sunday in Advent this year, my thoughts went to the words waiting and hope. The three themes of Advent all connect with the coming of Christ whether that is at his second coming, his continual coming into our hearts, and his first coming which we commemorate at Christmas. In each respect, the season of Advent gives us cause to wait as we call these to mind. In Spanish, “waiting” is “esperando” and “hope” is “esperanza.” The two are intrinsically linked etymologically. Each time we pray the Our Father, we say “thy kingdom come” such that Christ’s second coming be manifested in its glory. When his glory becomes manifested, this world is transformed. We, as a people, look forward to that day when suffering, illness, and violence will cease in the kingdom. For now though, we continue to live our lives waiting for this day in hope. Whenever we stop waiting, it is then that we cease to hope and can fall into despair. How can we hope if we’re not willing to be patient and allow God’s will to be done in his own time as 2 Peter 3 states “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day”? Let us continue to live in such a way that we actively wait for whatever good thing we are hoping for in our lives and in the lives of those we love.

Juan A. Maldonado, II, MTS
Academic Advisor – Office of Student Success

Take a minute to envision yourself surrounded by a community where there is unending joy and love present. A union of individuals of all ages, joining together at the same place, at the same time, all embarking on a journey to acquire such a fruition: hope. Pope Francis stated within his message for World Youth Day, 2023, “Youth is a time full of hopes and dreams, stirred by the many beautiful things that enrich our lives: the splendor of God’s creation, our relationships with friends and loved ones, our encounter with art and culture, science and technology, our efforts to work for peace, justices, and fraternity.” I believe that the greatest outreach for hope is visible through our youth. Being a part of World Youth Day, this belief became reality while witnessing the true hope that the Lord enriches into our lives.

It is through this narrative and faith-filled experience that I encourage others to look towards the youth when seeking hope. Striving towards great unthinkable dreams and aspirations to achieve throughout our lives, while also standing firm through the practice of our faith. Through the acts of unconditional love, expressing fervent care in the way that our heavenly Father has created us to do so, no matter one’s background or faith tradition. May we journey together through the divine season of Advent, rejoicing as one magnificent community in His image. May we never be afraid to love and to hope.


Gianna Stump
Sophomore (Liberal Studies, Theology) 

Hope is Real

Some of those new to the College may not know this, but in Fall of 2017, just after Catherine and I had welcomed our third child, Miriam Therese, Catherine was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the bile duct. Those next 2+ years were hard, excruciating in fact. Most days I had the following literal feeling upon waking up: a 2 x 4 plank of wood swinging to smash me in the face. And for those I know, the usual narrartive is the way in which the sorrow of those days gave way to the hope of these days, with a blended family of parents who both lost spouses to cancer.

But that is not the narrative I want to share here. If hope is real, then it is present not just after sorrow but even – somehow, someway – within sorrow. I might even adapt a prophetic idea of Dr. Albarran here, that hidden within true sorrow are the seeds of hope. For me, Catherine brought those seeds to bloom. Even in the grip of cancer, we started each day with the Immaculate Heart morning offering, we looked for rays of light that would come from that natural and supernatural force of science and faith, we spoke honestly with our kids. We took hope seriously.

After her death, I looked for the last earthly time upon Catherine, prepared beautifully and lain in a cedar casket handmade by Holy Cross graduate Daniel Baker. That moment, the one in which hope has been most real in my entire life, I smiled upon her face and I spoke the truth, which I knew fully in my heart and mind: you are ready, ready for the Resurrection. Que así sea.

Michael Griffin, Ph.D.

When we were selecting measures for our research project with the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), I was insistent that we include the Hope Scale. I just knew that incarcerated students who had been in college longer would have more hope about their futures than first-year students. Turns out I was wrong! The new students at Westville Correctional Facility were not significantly different from the upperclassmen in our measure of hope. BOTH groups were very hopeful about their futures!

When you are in prison, getting into college generates as much hope as being in college for several years. For the first time in a long time—maybe ever—you can imagine a different future for yourself and your family. You have HOPE! This is the beauty of the Christ-child, is it not? The newborn Jesus gives as much hope to the world as the crucified Christ—maybe even more. In His birth we can see a future filled with endless possibilities, so many that even the Magi followed one star to honor him.

May this Christmas bring as much Hope to you as it has our students at Westville. Spes Unica.

Alesha D. Seroczynski, Ph.D

Some of those new to the College may not know this, but in Fall of 2017, just after Catherine and I had welcomed our third child, Miriam Therese, Catherine was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the bile duct.  Those next 2+ years were hard, excruciating in fact.  Most days I had the following literal feeling upon waking up: a 2 x 4 plank of wood swinging to smash me in the face.  And for those I know, the usual narrartive is the way in which the sorrow of those days gave way to the hope of these days, with a blended family of parents who both lost spouses to cancer. 

But that is not the narrative I want to share here.  If hope is real, then it is present not just after sorrow but even – somehow, someway – within sorrow. I might even adapt a prophetic idea of Dr. Albarran here, that hidden within true sorrow are the seeds of hope.  For me, Catherine brought those seeds to bloom.  Even in the grip of cancer, we started each day with the Immaculate Heart morning offering, we looked for rays of light that would come from that natural and supernatural force of science and faith, we spoke honestly with our kids.  We took hope seriously. 

After her death, I looked for the last earthly time upon Catherine, prepared beautifully and lain in a cedar casket handmade by Holy Cross graduate Daniel Baker.  That moment, the one in which hope has been most real in my entire life, I smiled upon her face and I spoke the truth, which I knew fully in my heart and mind: you are ready, ready for the Resurrection.  Que así sea.

Michael Griffin, Ph.D.

During this semester, I have been filled with wonder at the beautiful snowflakes that have fallen in the gleaming sun. In many ways, I have experienced peace on this campus. And yet, this calm seems in stark contrast to all the suffering which is occurring throughout the world. I find myself looking up at these falling snowflakes and praying for all those undergoing trials. In these moments, it leads me to wonder how God is taking care of us. And yet, St. Joseph, the patron of the brothers of Holy Cross, reveals God’s care for us.

St. Joseph never says a word in Scripture, but he remains a silent witness to God’s love. Although he endures trials like fleeing his country, Joseph witnesses silently to God’s providence by being attentive to Mary and Jesus. We like the shepherds at Bethlehem are waiting for Christmas, and the hope which God’s love offers to each one of us. The silence of God surrounds us, and it should not scare us, for we can go to Joseph. From Joseph, we can see that God is with us in the friend who will take time to study with us, the mentor who will sit with us, the one who will pray with us, or the stranger who will smile at us. In this season of gratitude, let us enter into the silence and strive to see all the ways which those around us express God’s unconditional love.

Br. Bobby McFadden, CSC