Program on Church, State & Society’s 2021 fellows share summer experiences

Author: Jonathan Hannah


Three Notre Dame Law students gained valuable exposure this summer in the area of religious-institutions practice. Sponsored by the Law School’s Program on Church, State & Society, each summer fellow assisted a religiously affiliated organization.

Lizzie Walter interned for the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Legal Services and General Counsel. "This summer at the Archdiocese, I was able to expand my understanding of legal work in both transactional work and litigation. I worked with an impressive team of skilled lawyers who took the time to teach me about concepts far more complex than what we are able to cover in one year at law school, including the different ways religious freedom is interpreted under the First Amendment,” said Walter. “I had the opportunity to learn more about the current state of religious freedom cases, from district court cases all the way up to those litigated in front of the Supreme Court. Witnessing the high caliber of legal work done in the Archdiocese opened up my eyes to the variety of legal careers that can be explored in the not-for-profit legal sectors."

Alec Afarian worked with the Napa Legal Institute. “This summer with Napa Legal Institute, I was able to progress my research skills and learn more deeply about considerations for faith based nonprofit organizations such as Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, tax law, and intellectual property. Working closely with NLI exposed me to and connected me with a group of professionals and attorneys who empower those trying to make the world a better place,” said Afarian.

Mary Coleman completed her fellowship with her alma mater, Saint Mary’s College. “Working with the Office of Planned Giving at Saint Mary’s this summer gave me valuable access to what life is like for a planned giving attorney. I enjoyed meeting with donors to develop tax-wise strategies to make the most of their gifts. Conducting tax research and learning more broadly about development work was fascinating. Learning from other planned giving professionals was a great opportunity to explore all of the ways attorneys support development and planned giving,” said Coleman. “It was a tremendous opportunity to return to my alma mater and I am grateful that Notre Dame’s Church, State and Society program supports such opportunities.”

The fellowship is one of the many ways the Program on Church, State & Society seeks to educate young lawyers about the relationship between law and religion. The fellowships allow students to experience a variety of career options that combine law and religion and involve legal services to religious institutions of all types. Fellowships will be offered again for the summer of 2022. Notre Dame law students interested in this opportunity can contact the Program Director, Jonathan Hannah, at