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Saturday, April 20, 2024
The Observer

Saint Mary’s welcomes Jesuit as College’s new Catholic chaplain

Saint Mary’s welcomed Fr. Matt Cortese, a second-year doctoral student in liturgical studies at Notre Dame, as the College’s Catholic chaplain this year.

Originally from Long Island, New York, Cortese received his bachelor’s degree in religious studies and theology from the College of the Holy Cross. He then earned a master’s degree in religion from Yale Divinity School and a master’s degree in philosophy at Saint Louis University. Cortese would go on to teach college in upstate New York and attend theology seminary at the University of Toronto.

Cortese said he started to receive his calling to became a priest in high school, where he participated in student youth conferences and was actively involved in his youth group.

A year after graduating college, he spent a volunteer year as part of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps where he worked in hospice. Cortese said his year as a Jesuit volunteer was when he really received the call.

“I loved the work of directly ministering to the people who had a chronic or terminal illness, but then I also missed the classroom,” Cortese said. “That’s sort of what Jesuit’s focus on the academic life and the pastoral life.” 

Ordained in June 2022, Cortese has been a Jesuit for 11 years and a priest for 14 months. 

Although Cortese is a Jesuit priest serving and studying on a Congregation of Holy Cross campus, he said the Holy Cross priests are very welcoming to all orders and communities, including the Jesuits.

Acknowledging his new role serving at Saint Mary's, Cortese said he was looking forward to getting to know the Sisters of Holy and the “opportunities for collaboration.”

Junior Catherine Reynoso, a ministry assistant in McCandless Hall, said the goal for this year was to have five priests on campus.

“We just wanted to have opportunities for students to talk to priest chaplains whether it be about faith, any questions they have and also have a diverse group,” Reynoso said.

She added that having multiple priests on campus would allow Saint Mary’s students opportunities to form “a connection” with a priest on campus.

Reynoso described the process of getting a new priest in the residence halls and said that the College received a “pool of interviews” in response to their need for priests on campus.

“We found Fr. Matt to be one of the most fitting priests for Saint Mary’s,” Reynoso said.

Reynoso met Cortese for the first time 15 minutes before the first dorm mass in McCandless on Wednesday, Aug. 30. Said that she was “very excited to have someone who’s a bit younger” serving in ministry on campus.

“Fr. Matthew is very nice, he’s very kind, he’s very genuine and it’s awesome to have him with us,” Reynoso said.

Cortese underscored his excitement to “get to know more people” and to be able to meet students where they are and to preach the gospel in their own contexts.

In his final advice to students, Cortese kept it short and sweet.

“Number one: get enough sleep. Number two: be open to prayer in various forms and styles … number three is to enjoy it because it goes quickly,” Cortese said.