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Everyday Evangelist: Recent college graduate relies on foundation of faith

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

By Mike Dyer

ST. MARGARET MARY DEANERY — To say Jim Redden has a lot going for him these days would certainly be an understatement.
Redden, 23, graduated from the University of Notre Dame on May 16 and will soon be working as a chemical engineer for Exxon Mobil in Houston. As Redden leaves South Bend for the corporate world, he does so well equipped with a strong foundation of faith that was continually strengthened at Notre Dame over the past four years.

“Catholicism is an integral part of who I am, and I am proud to say that my peers would agree with me,” said Redden, a 2006 St. Xavier High School graduate.

Jim Redden
Jim Redden (Courtesy photo)

Redden made the most of his experience at Notre Dame and says he was very blessed to attend the school. Redden’s leadership was evident throughout his college years. On April 15 he was honored by the University of Notre Dame Alumni Association as a recipient of the Distinguished Student Award in recognition of his “outstanding academic performance and commitment to the university’s values of faith and service.”
Redden spoke to the alumni conference at an award luncheon and explained how much his family meant to him and how proud he was that they were able to join him that day.
His family has plenty to be proud of. In many ways, Redden, a 2002 graduate of St. Ignatius School in Monfort Heights, was the ideal student at Notre Dame.  He majored in chemical and biomolecular engineering and had a minor in the Glynn Family Science Honors Program. He consistently achieved dean’s list status and had a 3.86 cumulative grade-point average at the time he received the student award.
“My faith has been intellectually challenged both in and out of the classroom and ultimately strengthened over the last four years,” Redden said. “Notre Dame is a place that creates Catholic leaders that are grounded in a value system that aspires to Christian witness.”
Redden demonstrated leadership in a variety of capacities at Notre Dame. He was a leader in the Notre Dame Knights of Columbus, a student chapter of the fraternal service organization. The chapter helped to raise over $200,000 for various local, national and international organizations over the past four years.
As a junior, Redden was the Grand Knight (president) of the organization. He first joined the Knights as a freshman.
“I have learned more about leadership through the Knights of Columbus than any other organization I have been a part of,” Redden said. “Leaders must have a vision. They must take a vested interest in each of their followers and are always held to a higher standard. The Knights have been an integral part of my four years here, providing a brotherhood committed to service and spirituality that has kept me grounded in faith.”
Redden’s efforts didn’t stop with just a few activities. In addition to being a resident assistant at Notre Dame, Redden found other significant ways to make an impact in South Bend and other places each year.
Following his freshman year, Redden spent eight weeks rebuilding homes in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina through Notre Dame’s Summer Service Leadership Program. During the summer after his sophomore year, Redden conducted neuroscience research at the University of Cincinnati.
After his junior year, Redden taught high school math at a Holy Cross Mission in Uganda through Notre Dame’s International Summer Service Learning Program. He has also provided administrative assistance to a microfinance cooperative to support local farmers in Uganda.
“My experiences of social injustices through various Notre Dame-supported opportunities (New Orleans, Uganda, Knights of Columbus) have been integral to my education and understanding of Catholic social teaching,” Redden said.
Redden said he has vivid memories of people he encountered when he helped in New Orleans and in Uganda.
“My favorite memories of helping in New Orleans were when we were able to meet the homeowners whose houses were destroyed,” he said. “Hearing the stories of the survivors of the hurricane was very moving. In Uganda, my favorite memories are of the hour-long walk to and from school. The students there wake up at 5 a.m. and walk an hour-and-a-half to and from school. It was on these walks that I was able to develop real relationships with students.”
All of those significant projects, memories and lessons helped to shape Redden’s experiences at Notre Dame. Before he graduated, Redden said he was looking forward to his next step but that leaving the campus was also bittersweet.
“I have been involved with many great projects and organizations over the last four years,” he said. “I am proud of the way I have been able to balance my academic, social and spiritual life in a way that has had a profound impact on the people and communities I am involved with.”

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