A Distinctive Mission

Beginning with required classes in theology and philosophy, Catholicism serves as a foundation for all fields of study, from analyzing the consequences of poverty in an economics class to studying Dante to using graphic design for social good. No religious or intellectual question is bracketed at Notre Dame or off limits from critical reflection. In fact, students are challenged to ask the bigger questions: “What is a good life?” “How do we organize a just society?” “Does God exist?”

“We’re thinking about the impact, we’re trying to be compassionate, and we’re trying to do something that’s really worthwhile for the world.”

— Camille Suarez '13

Students are encouraged to explore traditions across time and around the world, promoting greater cultural understanding. They may focus intensively on language acquisition, a priority for the College, precisely because Catholicism is the world’s most multicultural and multilingual intellectual tradition. Through research opportunities such as the senior thesis, students can contribute to some dimension of the Catholic intellectual tradition, a tradition responsible for the founding of the first universities during the medieval period and an inexhaustible cultural resource from the earliest days of Christianity.


“Notre Dame has enduring commitments because of its Catholic intellectual character. It gives us an anchor, a core.”

— John McGreevy, I.A. O'Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters

Through the integration of reason and religious faith, a hallmark of Catholicism, the College seeks to nourish both the intellectual and the spiritual lives of its students and faculty. In response to Catholic social teaching in particular, the College of Arts and Letters fosters research and study that furthers social justice and serves the common good. Graduates from Notre Dame are empowered to be Catholic leaders, serving the Church, their communities, and the world.

“If one turns aside from Christ to go toward the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms.”

— French Catholic philosopher Simone Weil

Our distinctive intellectual mission is to be at once excellent—on par with the very best private research universities in the country—and authentically Catholic. Our Catholicism drives much of our research, from development economics to sacred music to the role of religion in literature.