Fellow Spotlight: Mary Frances Myler

Author: Center for Citizenship & Constitutional Government

Mary Frances Myler joined the Center for Citizenship and Constitutional Government as a postgraduate fellow after graduating from Notre Dame in 2022. She majored in the Program of Liberal Studies with minors in Constitutional Studies and theology. Following graduation, Myler received the Sycamore Trust’s award for Outstanding Catholic Leadership and participated in the Claremont Institute’s Publius Fellowship. 

As a student, Myler served as editor-in-chief of the Irish Rover, where she began writing and researching Catholic identity in higher education. Now, as a postgraduate fellow, she is working on a long-term writing project that explores the dynamics of Catholic identity and higher education in our increasingly polarized society. 

Since joining the CCCG, Myler’s writing has been published in the National Catholic Register, The American Conservative, Law & Liberty, The Federalist, The American Spectator, and other publications. 

What motivated you to want to pursue writing? Were there any particular moments in college or otherwise that led you to this aspiration? 

My love of writing has been lifelong. I read ravenously as a child (and to this day), and as a kid, I would type up a small newspaper for my family on an old typewriter and post it on our refrigerator. In college, I started freelancing for several publications and getting increasingly involved in the Irish Rover, but it wasn't until the summer before my senior year that I decided to take my love of writing seriously and consider journalism as a future career. I had recently been named editor-in-chief of the publication, and I loved the operations side of running a publication just as much as I enjoyed writing and working with talented student journalists. 

My writing received a lot of attention in the fall of 2021, both on campus and in the national media landscape, which gave me the extra push to pursue further writing opportunities, including those facilitated by this fellowship. 

But apart from the biographical details, I have found that writing fuses contemplation and action in an exciting way. I get to keep learning, exploring ideas, and pursuing topics of interest, but I also get to hone the craft of writing and, hopefully, shape the ways in which people understand the topics I write about. The research, writing, and editing I've been able to do this year have confirmed that this is a perfect way to combine curiosity with advocacy for the ideas in which I believe. 

Is there anything you've written during the fellowship that you're particularly proud of?

The main focus of this fellowship is the development of a book about Catholic identity and higher education. While it's unfinished as of yet, I have loved diving into the nuances of Notre Dame's history, academic freedom, and the Church's encounter with contemporary culture. I am so grateful for the opportunity to think and write about these topics, which are close to my heart and also, I think, deeply important as we see continued conflict between secular culture and Christianity in America. 

In the meantime, however, I've been able to write freelance articles for a number of publications. I'm deeply honored that articles about education were published by Law and Liberty and The American Conservative, and I'm excited to keep working on smaller articles alongside my book project!

What inspired you to write a book? 

When the opportunity arose to spend a year writing as a postgraduate fellow, I was immediately excited. Notre Dame occupies a unique place in the role of Catholic higher education, distinct from both the Georgetown model of Catholic higher education and the Newman Guide colleges. After spending four years thinking and writing about Notre Dame’s Catholic identity, I wanted to engage with the topic more thoroughly. 

As I write, I’m trying to make Notre Dame understandable to those who see it from afar, perhaps reading the occasional not-too-flattering headline. Even though I don’t agree with every decision made by the university, I love Notre Dame, and I think she has the potential to be a powerful beacon of Catholic education in a post-Christian nation. 

What distinct role does a Catholic university play in an increasingly secular society? 

Especially as religious affiliation precipitously declines among millennials and Gen Z, I’m increasingly convinced that Catholic universities should ensure that every graduate has been taught the things that an educated Catholic should know, like the basics of Catholic theology, ethics, and social teaching. Students can, of course, disagree with these teachings, but especially as cultural religiosity wanes, it’s increasingly important that we take advantage of opportunities to evangelize. 

Pope John Paul II articulates the role of the Catholic universities far more eloquently than I can in Ex Corde Ecclesiae, and I return to his words again and again: “A Catholic university must have the courage to speak uncomfortable truths which do not please public opinion, but which are necessary to safeguard the authentic good of society.” 

What are you hoping to do when your fellowship ends? 

After the conclusion of this fellowship, I am excited to move to Washington D.C. and dive deeper into the political conversations that have captivated me throughout my time with the CCCG. This fellowship has given me essential time to develop my own contributions to that conversation, pursue freelance opportunities, and discern future paths, while also remaining adjacent to the classroom. 

My exact plans are undetermined at this time, but I have a clarity about my future that I didn't have after graduation. My experiences as a postgraduate fellow have shown me that I will find professional fulfillment through writing, learning, and working to promote the Christian and American ways of life. 

Originally published by Center for Citizenship & Constitutional Government at constudies.nd.edu on February 16, 2023.