From law chaplain to law student: Q&A with Father Pat Reidy

Author: Kevin Allen


For the past two academic years, Rev. Patrick E. Reidy, C.S.C., ’08, ’13 M.Div. served Notre Dame Law School as its chaplain. This fall, he will become a law student — at Yale Law School.

Father Pat recently sat down in St. Thomas More Chapel for a conversation about his calling to the priesthood and the law. His edited responses are below.

When did you know the priesthood was the path for you?

I don’t know that there was any one moment. As one of my mentors said, if I looked back as a senior at the arc of my undergrad experience at Notre Dame, I could point to any number of relationships and decisions and encounters that pointed to my having a heart for ministry.

I was a resident assistant to a mostly freshman section with a resident who had cancer, who ended up dying the next year. I was able to be present to him and his family, to be present to those residents.

I spent two summers in Uganda — the first teaching at a Holy Cross primary school and the second engaging in thesis research on primary education and political propaganda. I loved living in community with the guys at the parish rectory, and I loved the families. I wanted something for them that they wanted for themselves.

What inspired you to go to law school?

I came to Notre Dame thinking about law school. When I was majoring in political science, I thought I’d probably go to law school if I didn’t go into seminary. No Holy Cross priest is assigned to a school right out of seminary. Your first years are pastoral — you need to learn how to be a priest.

In 2016, I became the Law School’s chaplain. As I got to know the Notre Dame Law School community — and fell in love with this community — I saw much more clearly how law school could be really awesome.

At Notre Dame, we talk about the law as a calling and encourage students to view the practice of law as a vocation. As a priest, you’ve already answered one call and pursued a vocation. What perspective do you think you will bring to law school?

In Holy Cross, we talk about the call within the call. My thinking about law school was framed by my service to the Church and my religious life in the priesthood. I wore my blacks to my admitted student visit at Yale.

I have a desire to learn more about human rights law. When you’re a community that serves among the poorest of the poor, as Holy Cross does, you tend to find yourself in places where human rights are trampled upon. Similarly, my sharing in the life of this place has inspired a lot of questions about higher education, how pedagogy works, how we engage in meaningful formation with students in an era when formation is difficult.

I go into law school not knowing exactly what I’ll do, but my career trajectory is circumscribed by my vow of obedience. That commitment to Holy Cross is what drives me.

FatherpatreidyFather Pat Reidy sits in the St. Thomas More Chapel inside Notre Dame Law School.

Except for your novitiate year during seminary, you’ve been at Notre Dame since 2004. What will you miss most about Notre Dame?

I will miss being a priest here.

I’ve loved walking with students and faculty and staff, and being present to so many different stories. It’s been a privilege to be invited into people’s lives. I love celebrating Mass here. I love helping people to encounter surprise and joy in their relationship with Jesus and the Gospels and the sacraments.

I’m grateful that I’m a Holy Cross priest for the long haul. I love this community. One of the consolations in leaving this place is knowing I’m hopefully not leaving for long.