Justin McDevitt is Notre Dame Law School’s new chaplain.
He will be present for Law School students, faculty, and staff who want to talk about their faith or need spiritual care.
You will see him at Mass in St. Thomas More Chapel, you will see him in Eck Commons. If you don’t want to talk about religion, strike up a conversation about comparative judicial politics or immigration law or Latin American politics. He’ll even speak with you in Spanish, if you prefer.
McDevitt is Stanford Hall’s rector, but he also feels at home in Notre Dame Law School.
He holds a law degree – a J.D. from Loyola University Chicago – and he spent many hours doing research in the Kresge Law Library when he was working on his M.A. in political science here at the University of Notre Dame.
Consider his law credentials with his passion for ministry and working with students, and you’ll see why McDevitt is a natural fit to be the Law School’s new chaplain. He succeeds Father Pat Reidy, who served as law chaplain for the past two years.
McDevitt has lived the life of a law student, and he credits his law chaplains at Loyola with helping get him through law school. He is here because he wants to provide that same kind of support for Notre Dame Law students of all religious affiliations.
Although McDevitt is not a priest, the Law School community can rest assured that this will not affect the Mass schedule in St. Thomas More Chapel. Priests from across campus will come here to satisfy the Law School’s liturgical needs.
“A large part of the spiritual needs of the student body occurs outside of Mass,” McDevitt said. “Pastoral care, being present when students need something, building rapport with students, building community. Having the background of an attorney and the skillset of a pastoral minister on campus, it makes sense for me to be in this position.”
Read more about McDevitt in the Q&A below. You can also learn about his background and experience at justinmcdevitt.com.
Talk about your path to Catholicism.
It’s an unusual story. I grew up ardently Southern Baptist in East Texas in the Bible Belt, and then I went to the University of Houston – an incredibly diverse campus. I went from living in an incredibly homogeneous place to living in an incredibly diverse place. It set me on a journey.
I was having drinks with a buddy after work one day, and he was Catholic. I asked him if he could tell me a little bit more. He said, “I think I know the right church for you.” I walked into the church – an incredible parish in the suburbs of Houston – and immediately knew it was where I belonged.
I went through R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) in Iraq, where I was working for a government contractor. I was the only civilian in the program. My sponsor was a full-bird colonel. I was welcomed into the Church on Easter Vigil 2009 by the Archbishop of the Military Timothy Broglio.
What drew you to Notre Dame?
I always knew I wanted to get my J.D. and Ph.D., and I wanted to go to a school where I could continue to grow in my faith.
I didn’t know much about Notre Dame. Then I met Notre Dame, and I was like “Yes.” You just know. I felt I belonged. The people I met were fantastic. I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else after I saw the place and met the people here.
You came to Notre Dame to earn a Ph.D. in political science – something that would complement your law degree and prepare you to teach. But you discovered a different passion that led you into student affairs.
It’s not a different passion – a different angle. My overarching goal in life is to help people. One way to do that is teaching. My undergraduate degree was in political science, and I still very much enjoy political science. But I didn’t know much about academia, per se, and I really just wanted to teach. I had some great teaching opportunities here, and I even got to co-teach a class my second year.
When I was a couple years into my Ph.D. program and it came time to spend the next two years in the library, my advisor said I looked miserable. I said the idea of not working with students makes me unhappy. I knew I wanted to be in with students.
He listed a few jobs and mentioned rector. I said, “What’s rector?” He said, “You live in a dorm and basically teach the guys life outside the classroom.” I said that’s what I want. It’s a great joy. I’d love to do this the rest of my life.
What attracted you to this position as law chaplain?
When Father Pete McCormick, the director of Campus Ministry, approached me about serving as law chaplain, I told him I had been praying that God would use my experience as a law school graduate to bear fruit. I had thought about taking the bar exam in Indiana to do some pro-bono work on the side. Then Father Pete asked me to do this, and I was floored and honored.
In law school, I had the most incredible chaplains. They helped me make it through law school, and I still keep in touch with them. This is giving back because I know how valuable it was to have someone there for me.