West Roxbury, Mass.— It took one class at the University of Notre Dame for Mr. Michael Dermody to properly articulate why he loves his job.
Mr. Dermody, CM’s Director of Campus Ministry, had just enrolled at Notre Dame’s Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program in the summer of 2018. One day, he remembered his instructor walking into the South Bend classroom and reminding him and his classmates that Jesus had three professions: caretaker, carpenter, and teacher.
“What’s better than having the same profession as Jesus?” Mr. Dermody said, grinning ear-to-ear.
“That really hit home for me and vindicated why I feel like this is my calling.”
This past July, Mr. Dermody graduated from the Remick Leadership Program with his MA in Educational Leadership. He also graduated with a newfound appreciation for what it means to transform the lives of young men, which he now calls his life’s work.
A 2007 graduate of CM, Mr. Dermody took an admittedly unconventional path to the classroom.
In the first few years after he graduated from the University of Michigan as a Communications major in 2011, Mr. Dermody worked as a sports producer at the Needham Channel. However, he longed for a sense of community. So, when he saw a communications associate position open at CM in the fall of 2014, he applied and earned the job under the condition that he teach a theology class, too.
The added role surprised him, at first.
“When I was first offered a job at CM to teach, I remember thinking to myself, ‘I am not a teacher,’” he said.
“I had no teaching background. No background in education. But I distinctly remember having discussions with my family about teaching. They called it such a beautiful profession. They urged me to try it out for one year to see how it goes.”
However, in what seemed like no time, Mr. Dermody proved a perfect fit, especially in the way he worked with students. That first October on the job, he woke up bright and early to meet CM’s “Sea of Red” at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk on the Charles River Esplanade. Then, in January, he coached the swim team and, in the spring, led a Blessed Edmund Rice Solidarity Initiative (BERSI) trip.
“It was those moments with the kids outside the classroom that I started to realize, ‘Wow the faculty had such an amazing impact on me as a student, and now I get to have that same impact on [students], too,’” Mr. Dermody said.
His epiphany encouraged him to think deeper about the school’s mission and how to recreate his own life-changing CM educational experience for the next generation of Knights. Whenever he interacted with a student inside or outside the classroom, he thought back to his own time at CM, particularly as a student in CMTV and as a student-athlete on the swim team. He said he remembered the profound way in which CM faculty and coaches trusted him to take on any challenge, giving him the confidence and character needed to succeed in college and beyond.
Such discernment led to him to the CM Admissions Office, where he joined its staff as a full-time Assistant Director.
“At that point while working in Admissions, I realized how special the mission of CM was and that this was my true vocation,” said Mr. Dermody.
During his time in Admissions, the mentors he worked closely with continued to encourage him to think deeper about his ability to live out the school’s mission. Eventually, former Admissions Director Mr. Dan Chisholm encouraged him to apply to Notre Dame’s Remick Leadership Program.
The Remick Leadership Program belongs to Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and provides those who wish to pursue a career in Catholic education leadership with a proper educational background. Spanning the course of three summers, the program provides its participants with rigorous instruction on how to cultivate Catholic school culture, apply executive management skills, and how to increase academic achievement by integrating a school’s mission with informed data, according to its website.
After researching the program, Mr. Dermody saw it as the perfect opportunity to supplement his prior experience teaching theology and decided to enroll.
“I’m someone who always likes to grow and learn,” said Mr. Dermody.
“I love CM and didn’t want to leave here. But, knew I didn’t have the educational background needed to continue growing at the time.”
Midway through his time in the program, Mr. Dermody continued to learn and grow while at CM. In 2019, he left the Admissions Office to lead the Campus Ministry Department as its new director. In this role, Mr. Dermody had a chance to apply his understanding of CM’s mission into the programming needs of CM retreats and liturgies, service opportunities, and the Peer Ministry Program.
His commitment to refining each program caught the attention of Mr. Kevin Durazo, the Vice Principal of Mission Integration.
“[Mr. Dermody]’s time in the Remick Leadership Program has directly strengthened his vision and ability to skillfully animate the CM mission in each of our Campus Ministry programs,” said Mr. Durazo.
“His creative, flexible thinking generates new ideas of how to put our students first. It’s a joy working with someone who understands boys and is as devoted to the mission as he is.”
Such creative thinking allowed Mr. Dermody to find an innovative, tech savvy approach to uniting the CM community when the school transitioned to online learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Barred from holding events on campus, Mr. Dermody needed to find a way to celebrate Mass and unite the community during a time of distress. So, he decided to bring the CM community online. He led the creation of a virtual prayer wall, where students, faculty, and alumni could come together and offer their intentions for fellow community members. He also organized a series of online Masses and prayer services using Zoom, ensuring that the entire CM community always had 24-7 access to the CM Chapel from the comfort of their own homes.
Since graduating from the Remick Leadership Program this past summer, Mr. Dermody has continued to think of new, innovative ways to create flexible student programming amid the pandemic.
And, despite the new challenges that unfold each day, he says that his steadfast belief in his vocation keeps him grounded.
“I was made to transform boys’ lives,” Mr. Dermody said.
“This is how I want to spend my time, and what better place to do that than at a place that had such an incredible impact on me as a young man.”