Rev. Frank Murphy, C.S.C., faculty chaplain, had been pondering a simple truth: South Bend is a very family-oriented community. While a welcome situation for faculty and staff who come to Notre Dame with families, or who start families once here, it can prove to be challenging for young single faculty and professional staff members who want to find and build community, a deeply-held value of Notre Dame.
At a faculty gathering in the spring of 2019, Father Frank asked colleagues if a young singles community would be a good idea. He found plenty of interest and an advocate in biochemistry faculty member Jessica Brown. From those discussions, the Young Singles Community (YSC) for faculty and professional staff began to develop. A newly-formed planning team organized the inaugural event — a happy hour held at Seven on 9 in Corbett Family Hall, at the start of the fall 2019 semester.
Attendance was robust. Nearly 40 people ranging in age from 20 to 50 seemed glad to have found each other and the promise of future opportunities to socialize and build community. At the next social hour, at the Wind Family Fireside Terrace in the Morris Inn, new friends gathered with an even wider circle of newcomers for drinks, food and lawn games. They began making plans for a diverse range of activities: Ninja golf the next month, more happy hours and, with fall just around the corner, movie nights, apple picking and hayrides.
The end of the semester brought an off-campus Christmas dinner party that drew more than 30 people for good food, catered by Aladdin’s, and good company. In February, Tuesday Trivia and dinner at Taphouse on the Edge was a distinct success, with the YSC team taking first place and the jackpot. Eight months in, the group’s events were drawing strong attendance and an engaged, lively community had formed, just as Father Frank and the planning team had hoped.
In the face of the pandemic and the University’s move to remote learning in March, the YSC team yearned all the more to keep connecting and building this community, which meant pivoting to online gatherings. Virtual happy hours have been monthly events since April. On a Friday evening each month, “YSCers” catch up over drinks before moving to games. Trivia and Scattergories are in frequent rotation, but Pictionary has become the standout favorite and the cause of a lot of flat-out laughs; imagine trying to draw ‘lichen’ on a Zoom whiteboard!
With the return to campus, and wanting to take advantage of the outdoors, the group held a kickoff social at St. Patrick’s Park on the last Friday evening in August. A favorable break in the weather meant blue skies and a pleasant breeze for the first in-person gathering since spring, and the spaciousness of the Hurwich Shelter and its picnic tables made physical distancing easy. Music, food, drinks, laughter and seeing friends and meeting new ones refreshed minds, bodies and spirits and deepened group ties.
The planning team continues its work enthusiastically, whatever the semester may hold, and YSC members are looking forward to more gatherings, in person or virtually as safety and weather direct. We’re all glad to be here on the journey together, making and building friendships and feeling at home at Notre Dame and Michiana.
Anchored in the ministry of the Notre Dame Faculty and Staff Chaplaincies and promoting community life and connection, the YSC welcomes any young, single faculty or professional staff member at Notre Dame wishing to connect. If you’re interested in participating, contact Father Frank (574-631-5242; firstname.lastname@example.org) or any of the planning team: Jessica Brown (Chemistry & Biochemistry), Megan J. Hall (Medieval Institute), Jennifer Hames (Psychology), Liz Loughran (Graduate Career Services) and Joe Nugent (Research Librarian).