As persons, we are a hodge-podge of soul, science and circumstance, and as students at the University of Dallas, we are always looking to see how our particular mixture of personhood will lead us to what God has in store for us. For 2022 UD alumni Gwendolyn Loop, her experience at UD led her to a passion for law and an exclusive Fellowship at the University of Notre Dame Law School.
During Loop’s freshman year at UD, a seed was planted. A speaker came and gave a lecture on Casa Juan Diego, an organization that works to provide a safe resting place for migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Volunteers live in community with the guests as roommates and offer them rest and aid while they prepare for their next steps. At the end of this lecture, Loop asked the speaker a question.
She said, “[The speaker] looked at me and smiled and was like, Oh, you’re a little Catholic worker. And I was like, I guess I am a little Catholic worker!”
This moment stayed with her throughout her time at UD and guided her towards service as a Catholic worker and eventually law as a Catholic attorney. Loop said, “I just really kept that in my heart all throughout undergrad.”
Another seed was planted in Loop’s heart during her freshman year that would bear great fruit. Loop attended another lecture, this one given by Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, the president of New Wave Feminists, an organization working to promote the dignity of both mother and child in all stages of life. Loop said, “I was just completely entranced, loved everything she was saying.”
Soon afterwards, Loop began working for NWF. During her senior year at UD, a director of NWF told Loop that the organization needed doctors, midwives and lawyers. Loop recalled, “I was sitting there as a UD student going into my senior year with degrees in English and politics. And I was like, ‘Well, I can’t be a doctor and I can’t be a midwife at this point. But law is actually something I could do to help these people who are really in crisis and to really live out Catholic social teaching.’”
This call to law capitalized on a conversation Loop had had with Dr. Crider of the English department during her Rome semester. There, she was talking with him about her double major in politics and English when he asked her why she wasn’t going to law school. She had no answer for him. Well, not then, at least.
After graduating from UD in 2021, Loop interned with the University of Wisconsin, then spent several months as a Catholic worker at Casa Juan Diego. She was grateful that the Spanish department prepared her for this. Living with so many people who were directly impacted by policy sparked a fire in Loop. She saw men, women and children suffering unimaginable trials with dignity and with a deep, enduring compassion. She wanted to help the law reflect this dignity.
“Law isn’t just, you know, a piece of paper, it’s something that can make or break it for people, it’s a life or death decision,” she said. “How can you not want the law to reflect the humanity of each person?”
Law school was the perfect fit for Loop, and a natural choice based on her personality and experiences. Loop said: “It was a combination of pro-life feminism issues and immigration issues. [They are] very much together, very much combined, in my heart and in reality at the border.”
At the Notre Dame Law School, students work to be a different kind of lawyer. Loop’s education at UD prepared her well to be one too. She said, “There isn’t a day that goes by in law school that I don’t find some tie in with what I was doing, either in my majors or as an underclassman with the Core curriculum.”
Loop enjoys her classes at ND for both their rigorous work and their constant application. She said, “You’re able to really delve into these serious intellectual issues… while still knowing that everything has a very concrete application for a lot of people and the way that society is being formed around us every day.”
The community at ND has been particularly appealing to Loop, as well. Not only has the deNicola center at ND connected Loop with some of her heroes, but she has found familiar hearts in the familiar and unfamiliar faces around her.
“I joke that the Catholic Venn diagram is a circle,” she said. Everywhere she goes, she finds members of the UD or ND community working together to develop a more Catholic society.
Loop would recommend experiences of service to anyone, particularly UD students. Through her time spent serving at Casa Juan Diego and working with NWF, Loop has found where God has called her to be. In high school and most of college, she never considered attending law school, but is grateful for the opportunity and for the path laid before her. “I really see God’s plan for me in my life,” she said. “It just ended up working out better than I ever could have dreamed.”