In high school, everyone knew me as the girl with the Notre Dame jacket. The navy jacket with gold stitching from 1984. The jacket that got me through the limitless walks home from school, kicking rocks like the moody teen I was, just wondering about the future that once felt so distant. But alas, here I am, in Notre Dame, Indiana, the last place I would have expected, fighting for a spot at the university whose namesake, whose letters on the back of my jacket, got me through everything.
I’ll admit it, I watched the 1993 film “Rudy” for the first time this past summer. To say my Notre Dame journey and Rudy’s are similar would be an understatement — Rudy got his start at Holy Cross College, and I am too.
When I received my Holy Cross College-Notre Dame Gateway offer in late March, 2021, I was devastated. I suppose it isn’t the greatest feeling to be told, “Thanks, but no thanks. P.S. We’re sending you to a different school,” but that isn’t what Gateway is. Gateway is so much more than spending a year at Holy Cross and transferring credits; Gateway is about the beauty in the journey. The beauty of being at Holy Cross College.
It was only after the “Rudy” screening last Friday, August 27, in the Notre Dame Stadium that I began to feel the magnitude of the decision I made. My fellow Saints and I met at the arch at Holy Cross at 8:15, providing ample time to make the infamous "Holy Hike" to Notre Dame. We trekked across North Dixie Way, past Burke Golf Course and through South Quad until we reached the stadium. Getting comfortable on our picnic blankets, chugging water in the heat of the night, taking in the half-empty stadium and the energy of being surrounded by freshmen across the tri-campus — it was a truly religious experience. It was an experience I never knew I needed, in a place I never knew I was longing for.
The glimpses of Saint Joseph Chapel at Holy Cross and the images of iconic buildings at Notre Dame throughout the film gave me more appreciation of the two campuses I have grown to love this past week-and-a-half.
But what made the screening special wasn’t that we were watching a good movie; it was that we were watching ourselves. Every single person in that stadium saw themselves in Rudy — not just the Gateways. Every single person in that stadium identified with some facet of who Rudy is, whether it be his love for Notre Dame football from his childhood or the loss he experienced after his friend’s passing.
We all know what it feels like to be Rudy. We know what it feels like to be the underdog, to have to rise to the occasion, to be misunderstood or mistreated and, perhaps most importantly, we know what it feels like to be in that stadium together on a sweaty summer night in late August with the first week of college classes under our belts.
When the movie ended, my friends and I ran around campus, panting, dripping in sweat, taking in the stillness and the chaos of Notre Dame on a Friday night. To be across the street, strolling on God Quad or studying in Hesburgh Library is not to abandon Holy Cross — Holy Cross is just as much a part of the Gateway identity as Notre Dame is.