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Called to serve’

Christian Myers | Thursday, April 18, 2013

After 70 years, University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh finally realized his dream of becoming a chaplain in the United States Navy.

Rear Admiral Mark Tidd, chief of chaplains for the United States Navy, designated Hesburgh an honorary naval chaplain in a special ceremony Wednesday night in the Carey Auditorium of the Hesburgh Library.

Captain Earl Carter, commanding officer of Notre Dame’s Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), said the “well-deserved and significant” event was about honoring Hesburgh for his leadership and life-long legacy of service.

“Today we honor this selfless leader who has done so much for so many,” Carter said.

In awarding Hesburgh, Tidd said he could think of no one who better exemplified the navy chaplain motto “vocati ad servitium,” or “called to serve.”

“The Latin words on the naval chaplain corps seal are translated ‘called to serve,'” Tidd said. “In my mind there is no one more deserving to be named an honorary naval chaplain than someone who has answered the call to serve our nation, the call to serve the world, and the call to serve God.”

“Fr. Hesburgh, I am humbled to be able to declare: you are an honorary navy chaplain.”

Hesburgh said he was touched by the honor, and both he and the University would continue to cherish a connection with the U.S. Navy.

“I can’t tell you how much I am touched to be honored by my Navy brothers. … The Navy is welcome at Notre Dame,” Hesburgh said. “Notre Dame is better because we’ve had the Navy here as long as we’ve had ROTC.

“I can feel even closer to our Naval ROTC students now that I am an officer in the navy. I will continue to serve our navy and country in every way possible. Anchors away.”

Tidd said although Hesburgh wanted to be a Navy chaplain ever since he was ordained in 1943, his path to chaplaincy was very indirect.
“He took the long way around to becoming a navy chaplain,” Tidd said.

Hesburgh said he was forced to set aside his desire to serve as a Navy chaplain in obedience to his vows as a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross. He instead obtained advanced degrees in and taught theology.

Tidd said the inspiration to make Hesburgh’s dream come true all these years later began with Naval chaplain Fr. Bill Dorwart.

Tidd said Hesburgh encouraged Dorwart, a member of Holy Cross, to become a Navy chaplain. He said it was Dorwart who then brought Hesburgh’s dream to Tidd’s attention and who suggested the possibility of making Hesburgh an honorary chaplain.

Tidd said he was in favor of the idea, especially since he had met Hesburgh aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

“I thought it was a great idea. I had personally met him aboard the Theodore Roosevelt and knew about his commitment to serving our Navy and Marines,” Tidd said. “Fr. Hesburgh has had a strategic impact on our nation. He has also had a personal impact on many people, including Fr. Dorwart.”

Reflecting on the ceremony, Carter said he was glad Hesburgh received the honor and that Notre Dame’s Navy ROTC battalion could benefit from Hesburgh’s example.

“I thought it was a faithful tribute to a very, very deserving leader,” Carter said. “I’m honored we were able to do the presentation in front of our battalion of midshipmen, since Fr. Hesburgh’s selfless service to the nation provides them with such a shining example as they look forward to their naval careers.”
Tidd said the ceremony reflected both Hesburgh’s and the University’s history with the U.S. Navy.

“It was a great way to celebrate his long connection to the navy and Notre Dame’s long connection to the navy,” he said.

Sophomore midshipman Sam Hyder said the ceremony seemed to bring Hesburgh’s career back to where it had begun.

“I thought it was pretty full circle for Fr. Hesburgh’s career that when he started as a priest he wanted to be a chaplain and now he is one,” he said. “I thought it was impressive he was faithful to both the Navy and Holy Cross.”

Sophomore midshipman Kate Privateer said she was happy to be part of a ceremony honoring Hesburgh and to know about Hesburgh’s appreciation for the organization granting him the honor.

“I’m really glad I could be part of a ceremony for Fr. Hesburgh because of what he has done for our country and for our ROTC battalion,” she said. “It’s great he could be honored by an organization he cares so much about.”

Junior midshipman Murphy Lester said it was overwhelming to witness the ceremony.

“I think there are so few people who have done so much to shape our nation and our University,” he said. “To be able to be here for this, to say I was there when they made Fr. Hesburgh a chaplain, is unbelievable. It’s beyond words.”

Contact Christian Myers at cmyers8@nd.edu