Structure and Content
The Vita Institute provides a unique opportunity for participants to spend a week on the beautiful Notre Dame campus in an environment of rigorous academic instruction, deep spiritual enrichment, and strong community building. Participants not only learn together but eat, drink, and pray together as well. The Vita Institute gives current and emerging pro-life leaders opportunities to deepen their intellectual and spiritual lives and to foster lasting personal and professional relationships with others who share their commitment to the cause for life.
Vita Institute participants delve into the fundamental questions surrounding life issues from an array of academic disciplines through rich and engaging instruction by a faculty of renowned experts in the relevant scholarly fields. The instruction made available at the Vita Institute presents a comprehensive and thorough introduction to a range of beginning-of-life issues designed to equip pro-life leaders with the necessary tools to articulate the truths in the cause for life, whether in the classroom, the public square, or a pregnancy center. Lecture topics include:
- The Personhood Debate in Contemporary Philosophy
- Abortion Jurisprudence
- Basic Human Embryology
- Church Teaching on Life Issues and the Problem of Proportionalism
- Dos and Don'ts of Public Policy on Human Life
- Pro-Life Success in the States: Legislative Strategies for the Current Decade and Beyond
- Helping the Abortion-Minded Woman Choose Life
Accepted applicants receive a course pack of materials in advance to read and prepare for the Vita Institute’s rich and rigorous academic experience. Readings are tailored to provide greater understanding of the various facets of the issues that will be covered in lectures and in discussions with faculty members.
Panel Discussions and Faculty Engagement
In addition to formal lectures, several panel discussions are held during the course of the week. Vita faculty members from various disciplines serve as panelists, fielding questions from participants, allowing for greater interdisciplinary integration and engagement. Faculty are also active members of the Vita Institute community, participating in group meals and social events.
An integral part of building a culture of life is creating and fostering communities where a respect for the sanctity of human life can flourish. Through panel discussions, community meals, and time for prayer, the Vita Institute helps participants build life-long relationships with colleagues and friends in the pro-life movement. There will also be time during the week when participants can briefly present to their fellow Vita Institute participants about the particular pro-life work in which they are engaged.
All meals are provided for participants and faculty in Notre Dame’s South Dining Hall, which provides a range of delicious options for all tastes and dietary parameters. Other meals—including an informal opening gathering, the Sunday barbecue, and the closing banquet—are hosted at other campus and off-site venues.
Participants are hosted in private rooms (with linens provided) in an air-conditioned dormitory on Notre Dame’s campus. Each floor of the dormitory has one communal bathroom for men and one communal bathroom for women that are located on separate wings of the floor, and most dormitories are equipped with a laundry room. During the summer, dormitories are operated by hall staff, who are available to assist with accommodation details.
The Sunday of the Vita Institute is dedicated to social time and prayer to help foster a community spirit among the participants. The day will include Mass, brunch, a campus tour, and a social dinner event.
On one of the days of the Vita Institute, participants are introduced to an array of pro-life outreach initiatives in the South Bend community through lectures and site visits, including visits to the Women’s Care Center and Hannah’s House. These visits and presentations provide participants with a unique opportunity to see firsthand the effective, compassionate, real-world applications of the principles discussed in the classroom.
It is our hope that Vita Institute alumni leave Notre Dame refreshed—intellectually, spiritually, and personally—and challenged to continue their important efforts to build a culture of life. To that end, daily Mass is offered for the Vita participants and faculty, and opportunities for confession and spiritual direction are available for those who wish to partake. The Notre Dame campus itself affords many opportunities for private reflection, whether through a visit to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart or grotto or a walk around the lakes.