Lecture starts weeklong program
By ANDREW THAGARD
Notre Dame students should be involved in service, asserted Lou Nanni and Roger Allee as they reminisced about their volunteer experiences and the times they received help from others in the Sunday night lecture entitled "The Call to Fellowship and Service."
"A blessing is certainly not anything that comes to us easily. A blessing comes to us with time and pain," Nanni said to 20 students in the keynote address of the "Blessing Unto Others," a week-long Student Union program promoting awareness about Chilean orphanages.
"I used to think that you had to go through the crucifixion to get to the resurrection. Over the years I've come to think that the resurrection is in the crucifixion," said Nanni, the executive assistant to the University president.
He asserted that the key to achieving a blessing is transforming pain into good. Nanni has first hand experience in this field. He has lived in shantytowns in Chile for five years and has helped run the South Bend Center for the Homeless.
Several years ago at the homeless center, Nanni was coordinating a TV program showcasing rehabilitated guests when one of the men at the shelter stole a donated van, starting a seven car police chase. The experience was especially trying for Nanni who had to deal with the media and assist the now imprisoned man.
"All of a sudden I started to sob and I was just praying to God, `please don't let me be bitter and cynical, don't let me lose hope,'" Nanni said.
"I can tell you in retrospect that I consider moments like that absolute blessings, they are never easy to go through — I thank God for allowing me to be in a spot where I can confront my limitations," he said.
Nanni charged Notre Dame students to ask themselves how much they need to be working together and to ask for God's help when more assistance is needed.
"It's a good thing to be in a position where we get the need for prayer on a daily basis … We're on the right track," Nanni said.
He also explored the concept of "others" in the program's title "Blessing unto Others."
"We're called as Christians to be part of a bigger circle. Christ's love for us was very powerful … a love that went well beyond His inner circle of friends," Nanni said.
He challenged students to help the world's most needy. He cited the 27,000 children who die each day from malnutrition, the 55 percent of the world's population who live on an annual income of less than $800, and earth's many illiterate people as examples of those in great need.
Roger Allee, head of maintenance in Washington Hall, also spoke of his personal experiences during the lecture.
"I was really screwed up and I still am. Everything just kept going wrong," he said.
Several years ago Allee had to cope with the deaths of his mother and three brothers, two of whom committed suicide. As a result, Allee was homeless for 1 1/2 years and contemplated suicide.
"I was losing my mind. God got me to the homeless center and when I got there God took over," he said.
Allee has since been diagnosed with three mental illnesses including agoraphobia, the fear of people. Despite these setbacks, Roger now holds a steady job and volunteers monthly at the South Bend Homeless Shelter. Last Mother's Day he received the seven sacraments, becoming a member of the Catholic Church. Nani served as his sponsor.
"It comes down to names and faces and intimate relationships," said Nanni after Roger's story.
He called the student body to serve their communities but also not to lose track of their academic work.
"You're education shouldn't be put on the shelf so you can volunteer for 60 hours a week. We need educated people. The important thing is that you want to develop your God-given talents so you can serve to your potential," he said.
"Blessing Unto Others," sponsored by Student Government, will continue to host events and lectures throughout the week. This year, the program's emphasis is on two Chilean orphanages which house over 100 abused, neglected and abandoned children.
All News Stories for Monday, February 5, 2001