November 28

Shawn Ellwood, Jr.

Sophomore Shawn Ellwood, Jr. from Niles, Ohio, shares the courage and grace it takes to sustain the start of a new life under the Dome.

“As I sat alone in the chapel, I asked God for strength. I started going to the chapel every chance I could, either for Mass or just to be alone, think, or pray. These visits truly saved me. I started speaking to others about my pain, feeling less isolated and nervous. Slowly, I adjusted to this new place, making friends and feeling more at home.”

During this Advent season, we can take comfort in knowing that we are not alone — that although the beginning of a new journey may be an intense struggle, we will find peace in God’s presence.



  1. Thank you for sharing your experience. So many people feel the same way you did during those lonesome weeks and it is so helpful for others to share their experiences so people know how they are feeling and helping others to not feel so alone during this time if transition. I’m so thankful you found strength at the Knott Chapel. You are now outfitted to help others even more.

  2. Shawn, when I entered Notre Dame in 1961 I experienced the same feelings you expressed in your video. It was the chapel in Cavanaugh Hall and The Grotto that saw me thru some tough times.

  3. You are not alone. Thanks for sharing your story and know there are so many others out there that feel the same. Have faith to follow the path you were meant to, trust in the guidance given by God, and know the ND family is here beside you!
    Happy Advent

  4. Your humility touched me Shawn as I am fairly certain it will touch others. Perhaps your your story will be a source of hope to another. God bless you – savor the sweetness of your time under Our Lady’s dome. Sister Christine

  5. Shawn, Thank you for being humble and vulnerable enough to share your story so that others may also benefit from believing that their feelings of isolation, stress, and loneliness are best resolved by communing with our amazing God, who beautifully answers our prayers of surrender and trust as He did yours. You are where you are supposed to be, and it makes me smile to see evidence of how happy you now are at ND. Thanks for your contributions to the band, and beyond. Go IRISH!! 🍀

  6. Shawn your story brought tears to my eyes. May God bless you & thank you for sharing your painful reflection.

  7. Shawn,
    Thank you for sharing your story of struggle and triumph. It’s not easy to be vulnerable, and I could relate to how you found peace in the scared space of a campus chapel. May God bless you always.

  8. Shawn, As you found out, you were not alone. I had the same doubts, but those came in the second semester when the grades were not at the level that I was used to in high school. The Grotto after dinner in January, February and March and the friendship of my NROTC classmates got me through.

    John Beall ’62

  9. Thank you for sharing your story. It has given me strength at a difficult time in my life and I am much older than you. Thanks for reminding me to pray more and never give up.

  10. Thank you for sharing your experience, Shawn! Yes we are never alone! I’m so glad you found the way toward true peace and happiness. This will serve you well the rest of your life. I am quite sure that by sharing your story you, will have a positive impact on many people struggling this Christmas season. God bless you!

  11. Thank you, Shawn, for sharing your story. You are an inspiration! I am praying for you this morning that you continue to find peace knowing God’s love for you.
    “Fear not for I am with you. Do not look anxiously about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

  12. Thank you. I admire your courage. Speaking about your loneliness and stress can be very hard. God bless you as you pay and pray it forward.

  13. God bless you, Shawn. You’re brave and an inspiration to me and I’m sure many, many others. Our Lady is beautiful and she shines through you.

  14. “Find peace in God’s presence.” What a comforting thought. Recognizing & realizing His presence…so nice. Blessings for your continued success as you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Thank you for your inspiration.

  15. Shawn,
    To open your heart and share this story is such a gift to so many who walk that difficult road as a freshman. It is a timeless story of the struggle you had. You see that your experience resonates with others through the decades who felt those same things and remember. God bless you for sharing your heart about this personal matter.

  16. Thanks for sharing Shawn. I’m gladdened that you now feel at home at Notre Dame. As a public school kid from Southern California I also struggled my first few months as a freshman in St Ed’s. Then everything worked out. Patrick ND ‘72

  17. Thank you, Shawn, for the reminder that “when we trust in God to rescue us in our darkest moments, God will.” Many will benefit from hearing this. Blessings to you as you continue to grow in faith.

  18. Shawn,
    I was truly touched by your story. Thank you for having the courage and grace to share it. I am sure that by sharing your story, you have and will help others who are struggling. You are a true inspiration.

  19. Shawn, as I listened to your opening words, I felt myself in your place as a freshman 51 years ago. God has been good to me too! I wouldn’t trade my time at ND for anything in the world! Continue to ask God for help….He has big plans for you!

  20. Tremendous story of faith and perseverance Shawn. Thank you for sharing. Grants hope and faith to more people than you could ever know!!

  21. Such a beautiful testimony of God’s comfort when we trust in Him. This is a story that deeply resonates with me and will for so many. Thank you for sharing it!

  22. Thanks for your powerful testimony, Shawn. I’m glad you’re finding Notre Dame – and the ND Band – a place to call ‘home’. You belong here. Nicholas – ’18, ’22.

  23. Shawn, you are a wise person to have sought comfort in your faith during your time of transition and stress. You will have a wonderful and joyous life journey. John W. BA 1972

  24. Shawn,
    Obviously I don’t know you, so I’m hoping that I can tell you this without sounding c0ndescending or presumptuous…but, I’m PROUD of you. You had the sense to turn to the One greater than all, and in Who’s hands all things can be accomplished. I’m betting you are well on your way, young sir…

  25. Hi Shawn, I remember feeling especially lonely on Sundays when I was a 1st semester freshman at ND back in 1973. The weekdays were busy but Sundays could get long when missing home. Glad you’ve become comfortable at ND and I wish you great success.

  26. You are so loved Shawn!! So happy you were able to find a home under the dome 🙂 Thank you for the beautiful story! God really has an amazing way of showing us his love <3 Miss that place so much – ND '22

  27. Shawn this is a moving testament to your/our Faith. I am so happy you found strength and comfort when you most needed it. You are and will be a true Faith leader and evangelist. Enjoy your time at ND and thank you for showing the courage to do this. May God continue to bless you and your family.

  28. Thanks for your courage to share. Many of us found the ND chapels treasured places, Enjoy all that ND can offer you, Have a blessed Christmas, Sr, Stephanie ’67

  29. Thanks for such a heart felt sharing Shawn. Your story can apply to so many other facets of our lives. Truly inspirational. Through God all things are possible.

  30. God bless you Shawn! Be asssured of my prayers for your continued peace and blessings. You are remembered at Mass. May Our Lady hold you close.

  31. Shawn – you have shared wisdom beyond your years! Thank you for opening your heart and reminding all of us to have faith in God’s presence in every part of our lives.

  32. what a beautiful witness of perseverance Shawn!
    God says;
    I see You, I hear You, You matter, I am with You, I care and I LOVE YOU!

    I AM He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” Is 46:4 This is God’s promise to YOU Shawn! Claim it, believe it, and be at peace.
    Be HOPEFUL in ALL things!
    May God’s blessings always be upon you Shawn!
    GO IRISH ☘️

  33. Shawn,
    Thank you for sharing your story. It reminded me as a college professor to be open and aware of the many concerns a student may be carrying.
    Blessing to you this holiday season

  34. Shawn,
    Thanks for sharing your story. As I listened, I couldn’t help but think of my first few weeks on Our Lady’s campus as a freshman, experiencing the same feelings of loneliness. As with all new journeys, this too will pass, with the help of God. Good luck as you continue your journey, and Keep the Faith.

  35. Shawn, listening to you reminded me so much of the feelings I had in leaving home to come to Notre Dame. The start of Freshman year was challenging in so many ways, and missing home only made it harder. I, too, found a profound sense of peace and community at a dorm chapel. In my case, it was through being a part of the group that provided music for the Zahm Hall Sunday evening mass. Singing hymns on Sunday night with friends brought me such joy and peace in the strong sense of community I felt with everyone in the chapel. This fueled me for the week ahead, and gave me the feeling of God’s presence that was so reassuring. Wishing you continued peace and good luck with your studies. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  36. While not maybe the most beautiful of the universities chapels, I am happy you found a place of peace. As the mother of a former Knott Hall resident, I can tell you the friendships and relationships that you develop in your dorm will carry you through life, and lift you up when times are difficult, now, and long after graduation. I can attest to that, knowing that Knott Hall men are still my son’s best friends 21 years later. Thank you for sharing your struggle! It reminds us all of the importance of turning to God in times of stress.

  37. Shawn-thank you for sharing your story, which is the story of so many young people leaving home and going off to college. I’m so glad that you found your home at ND, and I hope that you will share your story at orientation or in some way with incoming students at some point. You’d be an inspiration and blessing to so many of them. Your story was a blessing to me for sure! God bless☘️!

  38. Thank you for sharing your story, Shawn. By being both vulnerable and brave, your authentic and inspiring words will no doubt help other current and future students adjust to the life-changing experience of being a college freshman. Here’s to your continued success at ND.

  39. This is so beautiful, Shawn. Thank you for your honest about how difficult the first few weeks of college is for many students. It is. And, I am so glad you have found peace. Janine

  40. That’s powerful, Shawn! And courageous. I’m thinking you’re gonna influence a lot of people, positively, in your life. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

  41. What a beautiful sharing Shawn. It is often difficult to speak about our trials but so uplifting to know that we are never alone. May God continue to lead you on your path.

  42. Shawn, thank you for your intimate, beautiful and inspirational reflection, which reminds me to continue to pray for so many people who are going through difficult challenges, in some cases without realizing how much our Lady and our Lord are always there to love, protect and guide us.

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