Congregation of Holy Cross Mourns Death of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C.

Father Theodore Hesburgh 2006

Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., was born May 25, 1917, in Syracuse, N.Y, to Theodore and Anne Marie Murphy Hesburgh. Young Ted didn’t have the classic dreams of a six-year-old: He didn’t want to be a farmer or a policeman. “I just wanted to be a priest, not necessarily knowing what I would do as a priest, except that I knew I wanted to be a priest,” he said as he prepared for the 70thanniversary of his Ordination in 2013.

When Fr. Hesburgh was an eighth grader and an altar boy at Most Holy Rosary Parish, Rev. Tom Duffy, C.S.C., and three other Holy Cross missionaries visited Fr. Hesburgh’s parish. That visit was his inspiration to join Holy Cross.

Fr. Hesburgh graduated from Most Holy Rosary High School in 1934 and was received into the Congregation on Aug. 15, 1935. He made his First Profession of Vows on Aug. 16, 1936. He professed his Final Vows on Aug. 16, 1939, and was Ordained on June 24, 1943.

The Ordination Class of 1943 including Father Theodore Hesburgh

Fr. Hesburgh attended the University of Notre Dame from 1934 to 1937 and then was sent to Rome to study theology at the Gregorian University. He graduated from the Gregorian with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1939. Fr. Hesburgh earned a doctorate in sacred theology from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 1945. This became the first of many degrees Fr. Hesburgh would receive: He has the distinction of having received 150 honorary degrees, a Guinness World Record.

Fr. Hesburgh wanted to serve as a Navy Chaplain, but his Holy Cross Superiors had other plans. His next assignment was the beginning of a long and legendary career at Notre Dame. He was a teacher, Chaplain to veterans and their families, Rector, Chairman of the Religion Department and Executive Vice President. Finally, from 1952 to 1987, he was the longest-serving President of Our Lady’s University, which he affectionately referred to as “the greatest Catholic university of all time.” He was also Notre Dame’s youngest president, having been appointed at age 35.

GPHS 3/: Rev

His commitment to stand by others led Fr. Hesburgh to serve on the Civil Rights Commission one of 16 presidential appointments and he is seen as a principal proponent of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Fr. Hesburgh knew Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. well and worked with him in advancing the cause of integration in the United States. For his role in the civil rights movement, Fr. Hesburgh was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1964 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999. He also was given the inaugural Gerald R. Ford Award for leadership in intercollegiate athletics by the NCAA in 2004.

In his assignment as President of Notre Dame, Fr. Hesburgh brought that same dedication to equality by increasing financial aid for students and opening the University to female students in 1972. He is credited with making the University the nation and world’s most renowned Catholic higher education institution. Fr. Hesburgh also chaired the International Federation of Catholic Universities, which redefined the nature of the contemporary Catholic university.

Father Theodore Hesburgh says Mass in his office chapel

“I’ve enjoyed being part of it, but I don’t take the credit so much as Our Lady. I was smart enough to put it in Our Lady’s hands and I have a great devotion to the Holy Spirit,” he said.

In 2006, Fr. Hesburgh was given the Sachem Award, Indiana’s highest honor, in recognition of a lifetime of excellence and moral virtue that brought credit and honor to the state. In 2010, he was one of 100 recipients of a Centennial Medal from Catholic Charities USA for his work on behalf of the poor.

Fr. Hesburgh founded the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame with Philanthropist Joan Kroc, wife of the late founder of McDonald’s Corp. Fr. Hesburgh also served as honorary chairman of the fundraising campaign for the South Bend Salvation Army’s Kroc Community Center, which opened in 2012 and was built by securing a grant from the Kroc Foundation and monies left by Mrs. Kroc to Salvation Army locations across the nation upon her death.

Pope Paul VI meeting with Rev

Fr. Hesburgh has received several Papal appointments, including:

  • Permanent Vatican City representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, from 1956 to 1970;
  • Head of the Vatican representatives attending the 20thanniversary of the United Nations’ human rights declaration in Tehran, Iran, in 1968;
  • At the request of Pope Paul VI, Fr. Hesburgh spearheaded the construction of the Tantur Institute for Ecumenical Studies in Jerusalem in 1972;
  • Member of the Holy See’s United Nations delegation in 1974; and
  • Pontifical Council for Culture, 1983.

Until his death, Fr. Hesburgh was passionate about fishing. He lived at Holy Cross House and worked daily in his office in the 13thfloor of the Hesburgh Library on campus.

Father Theodore Hesburgh in his office May 2013

Fr. Hesburgh’s life

Read more aboutFr. Hesburgh’s lifeand his life’s work in hisObituaryand in a2013 profilepublished in Pillars for his 70th Jubilee.

Holy Cross, Cross & anchors (thumbnail)

Funeral Arrangements

  • Public Visitation:Tuesday, March 3, Noon to 6 p.m.; and overnight from9 p.m. to 10 the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.As the line for entry may be lengthy, please allow sufficient time to clear security and proceed through the Basilica.
  • Wake(by invitation only):Tuesday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m.
  • Holy Cross Funeral Mass(by invitation only):Wednesday, March 4, at 2 p.m. at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.
  • Procession to the Burial Site:Wednesday, 3:30 p.m., the Basilica of the Sacred Heart to Holy Cross Community Cemetery.After the Funeral Mass, there will be a procession from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart to the Holy Cross Community Cemetery, as is the custom for the Congregation of Holy Cross. All are invited to line the path from the Basilica to the cemetery to pay final respects to Father Ted.
  • Live Streaming in Campus Facilities:Given the limited capacity of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart the customary site of a funeral for a religious of the Congregation of Holy Cross it is unfortunately not possible to accommodate everyone who might wish to participate in the Wake Service or Funeral Mass, and consequently these events are by invitation. However, there will be several sites on campus where these events will be live-streamed, to allow the full participation of the alumni and friend community, including the Wake at the LaFortune Student Center and the Funeral Mass at the Compton Family Ice Arena and LaFortune.

Throughout the week, you will find the latest details on events, parking, building hours, food options, etc. Check back often.


If you cannot make it back to campus, you can still join us in prayer and remembrance of Father Hesburgh in your Notre Dame community.

  • Live Streaming:The Wake, Funeral Mass and Memorial Tribute will all be live-streamed
  • Gather in Prayer:Join together in your community (in homes or during Notre Dame Club-organized events) to pray for Father Hesburgh and participate in the live-streamed events. You will findprayer resources, including the Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, prayers for Father Hesburgh, and our Grotto prayer request form at FaithND. The psalms, readings, and Gospel from Father Hesburgh’s Wake and Funeral Mass are also available.

For more information regarding the week’s events, please You can also call the information hotline at574-631-5858.

Father Hesburgh receives Naval honor

Video, Photo Gallery

SeeFr. Hesburgh’s life and ministryinpictures and video.

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