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Campus community, visitors watch funeral Mass, follow procession

| Thursday, March 5, 2015

Given the rich Notre Dame lineage, it’s fitting that so many people have made the pilgrimage to campus to attend memorials honoring University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh.

“As an ND family for three generations, he’s been our local pope,” Rich Cronin, class of 1976, said. “When the pope passes, you go to the Vatican.”

Cronin traveled from Los Angeles, and his sister, Cindy Cahill, class of 1980, came from the Chicago area to pay respects to Hesburgh. Cahill served as the first woman president of the Notre Dame Club of Chicago.

“I came out because I love Fr. Hesburgh,” she said. “… I met him many times — had dinner with him.”

Cronin and Cahill watched the funeral Mass in the packed main lounge of LaFortune Student Center, along with many other alumni and students.

Visitors joined the campus community at various other locations around campus to watch a live stream of the Mass, and many students watched the service together in their dorms before heading out to line the procession’s path.

Outside the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a group braved the cold to listen to audio of the service and receive Holy Communion, and some people left their viewing areas to stand outside the Basilica for the Eucharist.

The funeral Mass was by invitation only.

“[The funeral] was really nice … very somber, but very nice. An honor to be there.” Eric Woitchek, junior and Dillion hall president, said.

Traveling alumni joined the campus community in celebrating Hesburgh’s legacy as they lined the path around Saint Mary’s Lake from the Basilica to Holy Cross Community Cemetery. Some followed the procession to the cemetery.

“It showed those that went to the funeral — family, friends and members of the Holy Cross congregation — that we are one big community and are all together in times of hardship,” O’Neill Hall sophomore Alexander Preudhomme said on attending the funeral procession.

As mourners gathered, many shared personal memories of meeting Hesburgh.

“My RA used to read to him every Tuesday,” freshman Margaret Crawford said. “She’s been doing that since she was a freshman, so she took our section to go meet him first semester. He was really impressive, kind of intimidating just because he’s such a big Notre Dame figure.

“But he was just a really cute old man. And he told us all these amazing stories about incredible things that he’s done in his lifetime.”

Maura Poston Zagrans met Hesburgh while working on the book “Camerado, I Give You My Hand” about Fr. David Link, a professor emeritus and dean emeritus of the Notre Dame Law School. She recalled that Hesburgh was always gracious and accommodating during her visits and work on the book.

Zagrans’ husband and daughter attended the University, she said.

“My husband came to Notre Dame because of Fr. Hesburgh and the work that he did for civil rights,” Zagrans said. “He could have gone anywhere in the country. This place owes a lot to Fr. Hesburgh.”

Many remembered Hesburgh exactly as he often said he wanted to be remembered — as a priest.

“Fr. Ted was a man for the ages,” Zagrans said. “He was truly a great man. And I think he was a quintessential priest. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here.”

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