‘Fr. Ted sought the grace of God’


I first met Fr. Hesburgh five years ago at my installation as Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend. He warmly welcomed me and told me how welcome I should always feel at Notre Dame. In fact, every time I later met with him at Notre Dame, Fr. Ted showed me that same warmth. My conversations with him have been a wonderful blessing in my life these past five years. His strong conviction that there be a close relationship between the University of Notre Dame and me as local bishop impressed me greatly. He saw this as an essential part of Notre Dame’s Catholic identity.

His spiritual wisdom has inspired me in many ways. What touched me the most was Fr. Ted’s deep faith and convictions about his priestly identity. Numerous times he shared with me the importance of daily Mass throughout his priestly life. Clearly he discovered his priestly identity in the Eucharist. He shared with me the many places throughout the world where he celebrated Holy Mass. It was clear to me that this is what immersed him in the mystery of Christ and stirred him to give so much of himself in service of the Church, Notre Dame, our nation, and humanity. I was also struck by his intimate relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary whom he experienced as his spiritual mother and the spiritual mother of Notre Dame. I think she gave him the strength to respond so generously and wholeheartedly to the demands of his priestly ministry, including his presidency of Notre Dame, which he always saw as a work of priestly ministry and not merely administrative leadership.

Fr. Ted gave me a copy of his autobiography a few years ago.  I had some questions after reading it that Father Ted was so gracious to answer. He helped me to understand some of the issues and challenges he faced. I was especially grateful to discuss with Fr. Ted the Catholic identity and mission of Notre Dame.

I remember with special gratitude a visit of my family and me with Father Ted in his office at the library. He was most gracious, and we spent a very enjoyable hour together. My family was amazed to learn about some of Fr. Ted’s experiences. He did not boast of his accomplishments, but clearly he was excited about the opportunities he had to be involved in so many important events. He gave wonderful advice to my nephew and nieces about the call to service of the poor and living the faith through love. His words were impactful. I imagine he gave similar advice to students at Notre Dame through the years. I saw how he naturally related to young people and inspired them in their commitment to the Gospel.

Throughout his life, Fr. Ted sought the face of God. He encountered Christ each day in the Eucharist under the forms of bread and wine. I pray that he will now meet Him face to face and celebrate at the heavenly banquet feast that the Eucharist foreshadows. And may Mary, our Mother, welcome her faithful son to the communion of saints in heaven!

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades

Bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend