The experience of living in a big family is not exactly new to me. Growing up as the fourth of seven boys, and then following God’s call to join Holy Cross in 2007, I thought I had learned all there was to know about being a brother to my family and friends. But since God is well-known for having a sense of humor, I soon found myself adopted by yet another family—the family of Corrado Hall.
When I went out to the University of Portland nine months ago to begin my pastoral year as an Assistant Hall Director and Pastoral Intern, I was ready to be surprised. Faced with a new culture, lots of new names to memorize, and a tenuous grasp on how to pronounce “Willamette,” I could not have asked for a more enthusiastic and genuine welcome to my new home in Corrado. Hospitality? Yep. Joy? Absolutely. Community? You bet. In short, I immediately felt right at home, since this place shared traits with every Holy Cross place I had ever lived in.
Yet it quickly became obvious to me that when my residents and fellow staff members spoke about “the Corrado Hall family,” it was more than just a catchy slogan. In true Holy Cross fashion, living and walking side-by-side with these young men and women every day has allowed me to celebrate their joys, accompany them through painful and frustrating times, and share everything that falls in between. One of the most powerful experiences I’ve had this year was standing in as a proxy godfather at the Easter Vigil for Koa, one of my residents. When Fr. Mark DeMott plunged Koa into the Baptismal waters and later poured chrism on Koa’s head in Confirmation, I felt just as proud of Koa as if he had been one of my younger brothers receiving these Sacraments. (Judging by the massive grin I have in every photo from the Vigil, it was kind of obvious.)
But with all this talk of family life, I would be sorely remiss if I didn’t mention our youngest resident. You see, when our staff told the new students in August, “Welcome to the Corrado Hall family,” we genuinely meant that we wanted this to be their new home—not just a place to sleep and do homework. And so it was that in early January 2015, Mike Wode (our hall director) and his wife, Jessica, adopted baby Gregory and brought him home. The effect was—and is—unbelievable. This little nugget has transformed the hearts of everyone living here, and he has melted away any doubts that this hall really is home to a family that is 160 brothers and sisters strong.
The most beautiful thing about this is that welcoming little Gregory into our everyday lives has felt completely natural. Whether he’s watching a movie with us, doing “desk duty,” or (in one memorable incident) hiccupping throughout our weekly hall Mass, Gregory has been a reflection of the familial love and care that we hope to cultivate in our residents. Just as he will learn to walk and talk within the halls of Corrado, so too will our residents be sent out into the world with their hearts and minds burnished by the Christian model of our life together at UP.
As the semester winds down and my time in Portland draws to a close, I have truly been blessed and humbled by my experience of Holy Cross in the heart of residence life—especially in the lives of those for whom the word “family” carries special significance. Our Holy Cross Constitutions tell us, “As disciples of Jesus, we stand side by side with all people…Thus, wherever we go as educators in the faith to those whose lot we share, we support men and women of grace and goodwill everywhere in their efforts to form communities of the coming Kingdom.” No matter where our ministry takes us or however many siblings we have, we can always find the Holy Cross family in the hearts of those who share our mission. Let us pray in this Easter season that God our Father may inflame in us the desire to draw each other to the heavenly Kingdom, so that one day we may all rejoice together as true sons and daughters of the Lord.
Mr. Mike Palmer, C.S.C. is in his third year of Temporary Vows with the Congregation of Holy Cross. He has been serving as a Assistant Hall Director and Pastoral Intern during his pastoral year at the University of Portland. Mike is originally from Berkley, Michigan.