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A chat with Father Hesburgh

Maria Smith | Wednesday, December 8, 2004

On Monday evening the Alumni Association of Notre Dame released what it hopes will be a different look into the life of University President Emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh. Members of the Alumni Association, the Notre Dame community and the South Bend community were invited to watch the first screening of “A Man For All Generations,” a 30-minute video created from a series of interviews with Hesburgh. The former president spoke briefly following the screening.The film offers Hesburgh’s views on the questions real people might ask about if they had 30 minutes to talk with the Holy Cross priest about his life. Hesburgh discusses happiness, marriage, love, loss and other problems relevant to people of all ages and in all places.Over the years the world has become familiar with the eventful life of Hesburgh through numerous documentaries, books and articles; and the attention to Hesburgh’s accomplishments is well deserved. Even on paper Hesburgh’s list of accomplishments is a tribute to his courage, faith and abilities. Hesburgh has done a great deal for many causes and organizations, especially in the area of human rights. It is nearly impossible to imagine Notre Dame without the former president. Hesburgh’s focus has not only been limited to issues concerning the University. He has held 15 Presidential appointments and served four Popes in a variety of roles.With the new “A Man For All Generations” NewGroup Media, the production company for the film, was aiming for something different from a traditional documentary. The film is shot in various locations around the Notre Dame campus including the Grotto, the Basilica, Hesburgh’s office and the porch of Sorin College. Shots from past moments in Hesburgh’s life are also interspersed throughout the interviews. “These were nice intimate locations for him,” said producer Christopher Salvador. “We didn’t want another documentary.”The film tells very little about the facts of Hesburgh’s life and focuses instead on his attitudes towards faith and relationships. The segments build a portrait of the belief that allowed Hesburgh to accomplish all the things he did.On the attitude of Hesburgh throughout the interview, Sister Judy Zielinski, a Franciscan nun who conducted the interviews for the video, said. “He was very genuine and frank with us … He was most comfortable with free associating.”The idea for a different kind of video came up during the filming of another documentary on Hesburgh’s life. “[Sister Judy] was listening to him talk, and she said, ‘He’s such a jewel, I wish we could talk to him about life.'” At the time, the idea seemed especially pertinent since it arose not long after the death of former Executive Vice President Father Edmund Joyce. “His friend Father Joyce had died about six months ago,” Zielinski said. “It emphasized the fact that Father Ted is 87, and while he’s still in good health, we wanted to record him on a personal level.”Hesburgh discusses faith very seriously in the video, but mentioned it in his comments following the screening with more humor. “Anyone working or living at Notre Dame is going to have a special life,” Hesburgh said. “The best thing to do is wake up every morning and thank God we’re here instead of Kokomo or somewhere else.””A Man For All Generations” will be available for purchase in the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore. The video is priced at $19.95 on DVD and $24.95 on VHS.