2019 In Review: A Banner Year for the dCEC

Author: Kenneth Hallenius

2019 Year In Review

In 2019, the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture celebrated its twentieth year of sharing the richness of the Catholic moral and intellectual tradition both on campus and in the public square. It was truly a banner year, beginning with the announcement on January 8 that Tony and Christie de Nicola had made a transformative gift of $10 million to endow the dCEC's work forming and mentoring students, engaging in interdisciplinary programming and research, and promoting a culture of life worldwide through teaching, exchange, and service.

We're proud to offer this chronicle of some of the de Nicola Center's work from this past year.

Spring Semester

On the invitation of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the dCEC presented a special one-day version of our Notre Dame Vita Institute for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, gathering with nearly 200 educators, clergy, and pastoral ministers from throughout south Texas. The day featured presentations by Francis Beckwith (Baylor), Maureen Condic (University of Utah School of Medicine), Mary O'Callaghan (Notre Dame), Rev. Kevin Grove, C.S.C. (Notre Dame), and O. Carter Snead (Notre Dame), discussing philosophical, biological, theological, and pastoral issues at stake in building a culture of life.

March For Life

A joyful crowd of more than 1,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni, and families joined together in the 46th Annual March for Life at the end of January, continuing the university's decades-long public commitment to promoting the dignity of all human life. More than 500 guests joined together after the March at a reception for the Notre Dame family at the National Press Club, cosponsored by the dCEC and the Alumni Association. (Join us at the 2020 March for Life; learn more and register here.)

During Spring Break, the Center took 38 of our undergraduate Sorin Fellows on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. During their 10-day trip, the students walked in the footsteps of Jesus and the apostles, visiting the shrines and holy places and offering their prayers for the friends and benefactors of the dCEC. Highlights included making the Way of the Cross with Mass at the Holy Sepulchre, visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, praying Morning Prayer on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and joining in seder supper with Jewish families in Jerusalem.

Unplanned Panel Poster

In late March, the Center hosted a movie discussion with Abby Johnson and the directors/producers of the film "Unplanned," which tells the story of Abby's conversion from abortion clinic manager to passionate pro-life advocate. The discussion was filmed and broadcast on the EWTN worldwide television network. Abby and the filmmakers also recorded conversations for our podcast, Ethics and Culture Cast.

Late March also featured an important conversation about racism, eugenics, and abortion, with the dCEC hosting a panel discussion with Jacqueline Rivers (Harvard), Monique Chireau (Duke University Medical School, U.S.A.I.D.), and Rev. Eugene Rivers III (Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies). 

Our Sorin Fellows were treated to an engaging discussion about the literary legacy of Flannery O'Connor in April, as the dCEC welcomed Jessica Hooten Wilson (John Brown University) to speak about O'Connor's "Parker's Back" and her essay "Novelist & Believer."

In mid-April, Ethics and Culture Cast surpassed a milestone as we logged more than 1,000,000 minutes' worth of downloads. By the end of 2019, that number would balloon to 62,559,808 minutes, more than 43,444 days' worth of listening.

dCEC Dedication Blessing

On April 24, we celebrated the formal dedication of the de Nicola Center with Tony and Christie de Nicola and their family and friends, beginning with a blessing of our offices by University President Fr. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., followed by a special Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart celebrated by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York. In his homily, Cardinal Dolan noted that "this whole project of the de Nicola Center is very daring," praising the dCEC's strenuous work "at the forefront of creating and supporting a true and vigorous culture of life, both in the United States and beyond."

On behalf of the university, the dCEC presented the Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal to the Women's Care Center, the largest network of pregnancy resource centers in the United States, at a Mass and dinner on April 25. The first Women’s Care Center was established near the University of Notre Dame in 1984 by Dr. Janet E. Smith, then a young professor at the university. From its first location in a “little blue house” next to an abortion clinic, the Women's Care Center has grown to 32 pregnancy resource center locations in 11 states and serves more than 26,000 women annually. The Women’s Care Center provides free, confidential counseling and education to women facing unplanned pregnancies, as well as ongoing support in the form of parenting classes, referrals for mother and baby care, and tangible goods such as diapers and car seats.

At the commencement exercises on May 19, dCEC undergraduate Sorin Fellow Sofia Carozza was honored as the valedictorian of the Notre Dame Class of 2019. A neuroscience and behavior major with a supplemental major in theology and a minor in philosophy, the Center sponsored her theological studies in Jerusalem and her research with Dr. William Hurlbut at Stanford. In her valedictory address, the much-accomplished Carozza reminded her fellow graduates that "our worth cannot be measured by our productivity, nor our dignity by the quality of our resume"; she continued, "Who we are is not measured by the number of the opportunities in front of us, but by how we respond to what has been given to us."


In May, and for the third summer in a row, the dCEC collaborated with the Law School of the Université Paris Descartes-Sorbonne Paris Cité and the Centre d'études du Saulchoir to cosponsor a pair of colloquia discussing the interrelationship of politics and Christianity. In the words of Notre Dame professor Patrick Deneen, "The de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture has established a profound colloquy that brings together Europe and America’s most esteemed thinkers, as well as rising scholars, to explore Christian contributions to modern life."

2019 Vita Institute Group Shot

The 10th annual Notre Dame Vita Institute took place on campus June 9–15, gathering 58 pro-life leaders from around the world for an intensive week of education and discussion aimed to further enhance their expertise and prepare them to be even more effective advocates on behalf of the unborn. Faculty included Rev. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P. (Providence College), Farr Curlin, M.D. (Duke Divinity School), Suzy Younger (FertilityCare practicioner), Richard Doerflinger (de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture Public Policy Fellow), and Helen Alvaré (Antonin Scalia Law School, George Mason University).

In July, the Center cosponsored, with the Centre for Contemporary Aristotelian Studies in Ethics and Politics (CASEP) at the London Metropolitan University, a conference entitled "To What End? Narratives, Institutions, and Practices." Keynote addresses from Alasdair MacIntyre and Jonathan Lear addressed the resources of neo-Aristotelian thought, especially as they might be brought to bear on reframing moral discourse in a world increasingly shaped by the market, the state, bureaucracy, and technology.

Fall Semester

George Weigel

The Center hosted two tailgates during the Fall 2019 Irish Football season, before home games against New Mexico and USC (both victories for the Irish!). We also welcomed author and economist Arthur Brooks to campus to speak about his vision for healing America's fractured political discourse in a talk entitled, "Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt." George Weigel visited campus to speak about his newest book, The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform, and Dale Ahlquist, author and president of the Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton, joined us to speak about Chesterton's work as a literary critic and armchair theologian.

Our Sorin Fellows program cosponsored a panel discussion for students interested in pursuing a professional career in medicine entitled, "To Console, to Raise, to Give Hope: The Vocation of the Catholic Physician Today." Panelists Jeanne Farnan ND'17, Kate Callaghan ND'12, Mike Hawking ND'09, and Dr. Tom McGovern spoke about the process of becoming physicians, the work of navigating challenging bioethical and conscience issues, and how they sustain their ongoing enthusiasm for the art of medicine when faced with the grind of training and practice.

In collaboration with the Notre Dame Law School, in October the Center welcomed Attorney General William Barr to campus to speak about religious liberty. The recording of his talk quickly became the most-viewed video on the dCEC's YouTube channel, with more than 118,000 views in its first week after posting. The Attorney General's speech has continued to generate conversation and debate among thinkers across the political spectrum. The Wall Street Journal's Bill McGurn noted that, "America can count itself fortunate it still has a university where [a conversation like] this can happen."

2019fc Header

In November, the Center hosted our twentieth annual Fall Conference, "I Have Called You Friends," welcoming more than 850 registered guests and 110 speakers to discuss friendship as it was understood in the ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary world. Keynote speakers included the Most Rev. Borys Gudziak (Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia), philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre (dCEC senior distinguished research fellow), theologian Stanley Hauerwas (Duke Divinity School), and poet James Matthew Wilson (Villanova University) in conversation with filmmaker Whit Stillman.

Joy To The World

As we at the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture wrap up our twentieth year of work sharing the richness of the Catholic moral and intellectual tradition both at Notre Dame and in the wider public square, we are grateful for the many benefactors and friends who contribute to our mission through your prayers and your generous financial support. May you be richly blessed in this Advent and Christmas season!