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Father Edmund Joyce, 1917-2004

Matt Bramanti | Thursday, May 13, 2004

On May 5, Father Edmund Joyce was laid to rest the same way he lived and died – at Notre Dame, with Father Theodore Hesburgh by his side.Hundreds of members of the Notre Dame family filled the Basilica of the Sacred Heart to celebrate the life of the executive vice president emeritus, who died May 2 in Holy Cross House. Father David Tyson, the provincial superior of the Indiana Province of the Congregation of Holy Cross, presided over the funeral mass, and scores of ivory-robed Holy Cross priests concelebrated.Mourners came from all corners of the Notre Dame family. A dark-suited young alumnus sat next to a uniformed ROTC instructor, while Monogram Club blazers and Roman collars were sprinkled throughout the sizeable congregation.In the homily, Hesburgh bade farewell to the man he met at their ordination in the Basilica nearly 55 years earlier. Hesburgh’s words fulfilled a pledge between the two men that whoever survived the other would speak at his late best friend’s funeral. “We used to kid each other and argue who was going to die first,” Hesburgh said. “[Joyce] said, ‘I have to die first because you’re going to have to give my sermon. I don’t want to give yours,'” Hesburgh added, to laughter from the congregation.He also praised the staff of Holy Cross House, where Joyce had lived since suffering a debilitating stroke in September 2002. “Day and night they are there, caring,” Hesburgh said. “Ned never had a bad moment that one of them wasn’t at his side.”Despite the help, Hesburgh said Joyce’s suffering was a “crucible of pain” for the stricken priest.”I’m personally happy that he’s now at peace,” he said. Hesburgh said that Joyce was a vital part of the administration during the pair’s 35-year tenure under the Golden Dome.”In all that time, he more than carried his half of the load,” Hesburgh said. “He was always loyal, faithful and hardworking.”The former president also spoke about his friendship with Joyce, a relationship that spanned half a century.”He was always a good friend, in the best sense of that word,” Hesburgh said. “I’ve never known anybody in my life who was as wonderful a person as Ned Joyce.”In ending the homily, Hesburgh expressed gratitude for his long-time association with Joyce.”I thank you Ned, for just being my brother for so many years.”Mourners like alumnus Tom Blum said Joyce represented a prosperous era in Notre Dame’s history.”It’s literally the passing of an era,” Blum said.Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said Joyce was a vital force in the University’s rise to national athletic prominence.”It’s rare in life, and especially in any kind of athletic program, to both have an architect and a spiritual architect,” Willing-ham said. “His vision for the athletic programs was unmatched and unparalleled.”Joyce’s casket was draped with a pall bearing the emblem of his order – a cross superimposed over crossed anchors, and the motto “Crux spes unica,” “The cross is our only hope.” A priest placed a crucifix on the casket, symbolic of the crucifix Joyce received when he professed his final vows to the order in 1948.Following the Mass, congregants sang the University’s alma mater, and the Basilica’s bells tolled for several minutes. Mourners then processed on foot along St. Mary’s Road to Joyce’s gravesite in Holy Cross Cemetery, passing the late priest’s former residence of Corby Hall.Hesburgh gave a final blessing at the gravesite, where Joyce’s friends and family sprinkled the casket with holy water.”I tell you for Ned that he loves you all,” Hesburgh said. “If there’s one place he loved on his earth, it was this University.”On the eve of Joyce’s death, Hesburgh administered last rites to the ailing priest, and they prayed the Rosary together. Hesburgh said Joyce had been in poor health since his stroke.”He never really recovered,” Hesburgh said Sunday afternoon. “It’s been a rough year and a half.”In an emotional press conference the afternoon of Joyce’s passing, the former president marked his friend’s death, saying he and Joyce were “like bro-thers.””He was a fine priest, he was a wonderful friend, he was a South Car-olinian gentleman,” Hesburgh said. “He was a real moral anchor and a spiritual leader.”He added that while he was out of town, he had confidence in Joyce to oversee the University’s operation.”When I was away from Notre Dame, I never had to call back,” Hesburgh said. “I knew he was in charge, and he was very capable.”Hesburgh and Joyce ran the University during a period of rapid growth, including the construction of the Memorial Library and the Athletic and Convocation Center that now bear their names. Hesburgh said the buildings’ construction budgets revealed the men’s philosophy for the University’s direction.”We decided the ACC should cost less,” Hesburgh said. “We didn’t spend more on the athletic building than on the academic building.”Athletic director Kevin White said that while Joyce’s contributions to Irish athletics are often best remembered, his service to Notre Dame was multifaceted.”He was the most revered, respected intercollegiate athletics statesman of the last century,” White said. “But first and foremost, he was a phenomenal priest and a loyal and devoted member of the CSC.”Joyce was born in British Honduras, now known as Belize, on Jan. 26, 1917. After graduating from Spartanburg (S.C.) High School, he came to Notre Dame, where he received a degree in accounting in 1937. He returned to Spartanburg, where he worked for the accounting firm of L.C. Dodge, becoming a certified public accountant.In 1945 he began to study for the priesthood in Washington, and was ordained June 3, 1949 in Sacred Heart Church on campus. Joyce was then named to Notre Dame’s administrative corps, becoming assistant vice president for business affairs. After a one-year stint at Oxford University in England, he returned as vice president for business affairs in 1951. Joyce became Hesburgh’s executive vice president the next year, a position he retained for 35 years.During his tenure, he rose to national prominence in the NCAA as a voice for integrity in college sports.Former fencing coach Mike DeCicco, who served as Notre Dame’s first director of academic advising for student-athletes during Joyce’s tenure, said Joyce was devoted to ensuring the education of Notre Dame’s athletes.”He wanted to make sure they were students first and athletes second,” DeCicco said, also characterizing Joyce as fiercely devoted to the University.”He was very demanding,” DeCicco said. “He told me [not to] make a mistake that brings Notre Dame down in any respect.”Joyce held several honorary degrees, including one from Notre Dame. While the grieving Hesburgh said he prays for Joyce, he’s confident that his friend will live on.”I’m not worried about a guy as good and holy as Ned,” Hesburgh said, “who lived as good a life.”