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Malloy’s reflection on Hesburgh

| Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Editor’s note: University President Emeritus Fr. Edward “Monk” Malloy spoke during the Tuesday night wake service for University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, who died Thursday. The following is his speech in its entirety.

“Come, Holy Spirit.

“A couple weeks ago Fr. Charlie Kohlerman, the superior of Holy Cross, our healthcare and retirement facility where Fr. Ted lived for a number of years, called me and a number of other of Ted’s close friends and said, ‘The end is near. If you want to have a last, final conversation with Ted, you’d better do it quickly.’

“I knew that I would be traveling, and so I was a little worried about when was the best time. When Melanie came back, she said to Joan, my assistant, ‘He’s in the office. We never thought he’d come back here.’ So I thought I would visit him there, but then somebody came to visit me and I wasn’t able to catch him there. So I went over to the Holy Cross House. I went up to his room. The television was on, but there was nobody there. So one of the nurses said, ‘Follow me.’ So we went down to the first floor and out into this bubble, which was the approved place for smokers.

“Now, you have to know that this is not enclosed as far as walls. And so there was a gigantic heater and Ted was wearing a hat and three layers of clothes and blankets on his feet. And he had a stogie in his mouth and he was puffing away, but it wasn’t lit. And I didn’t know if I should tell him or not. A little later, another resident of Holy Cross came by and he wanted to smoke a cigarette. He, too, was close to 90, so who am I to give him a word of reproach? He said, ‘Now don’t worry about me; I can’t hear anything.’ So he just watched us the whole time. About halfway through our conversation, which was very personal, I thought, well, maybe I should tell Ted that his cigar was not lit. So this guy said, “Well, I have a lighter.” The guy would light the thing, Ted would lean over and the wind from the heater would blow it out every time. Finally Ted was satisfied and went puffing away.

“I said, ‘Ted, what have you been thinking about?’ He said, ‘Eternity.’ He said, ‘The phrase that keeps coming into my mind: no eye has seen nor ear heard what God has in store for those who love Him.’ I was blown away, of course. And I recognized at that point that he knew that he was going to die soon and that he was full of utter gratefulness for his life and all of the gifts that he had enjoyed along the way.

“I said, ‘Let’s talk about people.’ And we started with Ned Joyce, who he often described as his best friend in his whole life. For 35 years, they were colleagues and friends and companions, Ted as president, Ned Joyce as executive vice president. You couldn’t have found two people that personality-wise were more different. Their politics, their ecclesiology — all different.

“But Ted was proud when he said, ‘We never had a fight.’ I think that was influenced by the fact that Ted had the last word. But those of you who have had a chance to read the wonderful book ‘Travels with Ted and Ned’ — I always wonder what the book would have included if it had been ‘Travels with Ned and Ted.’ Well, we’ll never know.

“He talked about Helen Hosinski, his secretary-assistant, whose gnarled hands didn’t prevent her for years from getting everything done, taking dictation, making sure she could prevent the wrong people from getting access, organizing his schedule and otherwise making his life easier. Ted used to say, ‘We’re just figureheads. It’s the women of Notre Dame like Helen who really run the place.’ That, of course, is very true.

“We talked about Ed Stephan, who became the first chair of the Board of Trustees in its modern version, who wrote the constitutions and the by-laws of the University in the transition from Holy Cross ownership to a shared responsibility of the Fellows and the Board of Trustees. … Notre Dame would never have been as successful if this dramatic transformation had not taken place. The skill, the enthusiasm, the generosity of so many trustees through the years has been transformative for Notre Dame.

“And a lot of that goes back to Ted’s doctoral dissertation in Catholic University on the role of the laity in the modern church. Ted was always open to new ideas, new perspectives, including new structures.

“Ted was very thankful for the wonderful care he received at Holy Cross House. From the doctors and the nurses to his companions there, other Holy Cross religious. Shortly before he died, around lunchtime, they anointed him and he was able to say words of thanksgiving to the whole community assembled there. What a gift they were to him.

“Melanie Chapleau. How can we describe what Melanie was to Ted? She ordered his life, she was able to make sure that he was attended to as he went through the decline to his health. She became a weightlifter when he had to get in and out of wheelchairs and in and out of cars and all those sorts of things. She represents all the best of what the staff are like at Notre Dame.

“Marty Ogren and the drivers who took him everywhere; the police security department, who were always on call, in a sense, when he had to go from point A to point B. They were generous, and he would always give them a blessing at the end, no matter what their religious heritage. Ted was appreciative at the end of his life of all those who had been so generous to him along the way.

“If you’ve read the obituaries, you know that his autobiography starts rather simply: upstate New York, a loving, Catholic family, thinks he wants to be a priest in grade school — too young. In high school he sees the group of Holy Cross religious giving a mission in his parish. He says, ‘That’s the group I want to belong to.’ He’s accepted, goes through formation, and the next thing you know, he’s studying in Rome at the Gregorian. And, fortuitously, it helped him become a linguist, which in so many of the things he did later was a great asset.

“But then, before World War II breaks out, he was able to get back to the States, gets ordained and goes and does his doctorate at Catholic University. He comes back. We all know the stories about wanting to be a Navy chaplain. He comes back; he gets assigned to be the rector of Farley Hall, to be the chaplain for Vetville for all those returning veterans and their spouses or about-to-be-spouses and children. He loved it. It allowed him to be a pastor in the full sense of the term.

“Then he gets appointed the head of the theology department, writes textbooks and then, he made that quick jump and became executive vice president. Because of the canon law requirements of the day, when Fr. John Cavanaugh, who was both president and superior, had to step down, Ted became his successor. He talks about, it was just kind of obedience: you go to the chapel, they give you your obedience, somebody gave you the keys and that was it. Notre Dame didn’t have a budget in those days. He didn’t even know how to turn the lights on.

“But what a transformative effect he had right from the beginning. His aspirations were high, but the resources were low, and so one of the things inevitably, he had to be a proclaimer of what Notre Dame could be. The Ford Foundation had seed grants that became pivotal for Notre Dame and through the years we began to accumulate the capital necessary to become a great university.

“Once Ted asked me and a group of people, on the basis of an experience working with nuclear disarmament and peace issues, if we would form a little committee to think about how we would form an institute for peace studies. We thought, like most academics, things would last about a year. We had one meeting. Ted was invited to give a talk in San Diego about his dream of a peace institute.

“After it was over, a woman came up he had never met before and she said, ‘How much would it cost?’ He said, ‘Who are you?’ She said, ‘I don’t know, but I can find out for you.’ So she gave him her card. ‘Joan Kroc,’ it said, as he found out soon, the inheritor of the McDonald’s fortune. We came back — we had five meetings in five days. We sent her prospectives. He said, ‘It’s going to take 6 or 7 million dollars. We’ll be happy to come out and meet with you.’ She said, ‘That won’t be necessary. I’ll send it to you in the overnight mail.’ He went, “What?’

“And then, between the time she sent it and when we were ready to cash it in, it accrued by $100,000. So we offered to send the $100,000 back, and she said, ‘Because you’ve been so honest, you can keep it.’ And that was the beginning of an extraordinary relationship with someone who’s not Catholic, who’s not very active in church life but wanted to be a generous person in every possible way.

“One of Ted’s things — if he had to choose where to die, would have been, I think, to be celebrating Mass in the chapel at Land O’ Lakes. He loved to go there at the end of the academic year to fish, to read, to be himself in nature, in this aquatic research facility that was facilitated by the Hank family and so many others. He was at home there. When I was having my last meeting with him, I said, ‘Did you ever hear the rumor that when you were out fishing, when you couldn’t see anymore, that somebody in a wetsuit would go down below the boat and hook the fish on the line?’ He said, ‘No, that couldn’t possibly be true.’

“One of the most extraordinary things about Ted Hesburgh was his interest in civil and human rights. When he was appointed to the Civil Rights Commission by President Eisenhower and made the head of the group by President Nixon, he … did not have much personal experience in dealing with this issue, this great scourge on American life. But he was a quick learner, and someone who believed deeply about civil and human rights in every possible fashion.

“And so one of the most iconic pictures of him that many of us have seen is holding hands, or locking arms, with Martin Luther King, Jr. and several others up at Soldier Field in Chicago, singing ‘We Shall Overcome.’ He went from somebody without much experience in this important issue in our common life to someone who was responsible, in a sense, for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Hard to explain it, but many times he played a providential kind of role in the events of our time.

“Ted was a polymath, a quick learner. He wasn’t so much a specialist at any one thing, but he learned about science because it was important. He learned about civil rights because how else would he effectively play that role? And he learned one time, he decided, enough about Islam, so he rented passage on an oiler, got a bunch of books and simply spent the whole time reading about Islam and celebrating Mass with the people on the crew. That was the kind of person that Ted Hesburgh was. Find the issue, get invited by presidents and popes and try to make a difference.

“He had a great friendship with Pope Paul VI, and Pope Paul and he would gather periodically and exchange gifts close to their own hearts. And eventually, Pope Paul asked him to found an ecumenical institute in the Holy Land. Originally, it was in Jordan. Now, it’s sitting in Jerusalem looking into Bethlehem. It was one of the places that was closest to Ted’s heart, and his goal in life was to see the antagonists in the Holy Land gather for however long it took at Tantur and come up with a peace plan that would bring final and lasting peace to the region. That’s a wonderful dream, even to this day.

“Ted was a daredevil. He liked challenges. Once I was with him at Jericho, reportedly the oldest city in the world, and it was about 108 in the shade. And Ted was about 82. I said, ‘We can just look at it, Ted.’ He said, ‘Oh no, we’re going to the top.’ We went up there, both of us sweating but not holding back from taking the risk and experiencing the fullness of that particular place.

“He celebrated Mass in a submarine between California and Hawaii and on aircraft carriers. He went to the Antarctic, and then he flew in a supersonic transport, which was one of the most important items in his office area. But his great dream in life was to be the first priest to celebrate Mass in outer space as an astronaut. He and Walter Cronkite were lined up, but then the tragedy of the Challenger disaster happened, and he was never able to fulfill that dream.

“Ted was in 100 countries, I think. One time, I was able to go to Tibet, and he said, ‘I’m so envious of you. I’ve only been to Nepal and Afghanistan and China and India and — but I’ve never been to Tibet.’ I said, ‘Too bad, Ted.’

“One of Ted’s great lines: ‘A Catholic university is the place where the Church does its thinking.’ He really meant it. Upholding the motives of the Church, but wanting us to be a full-fledged Catholic university, in every sense of the term, to appropriately acknowledged faculty prerogatives, to establish institutes and centers that were close to our Catholic mission and identity, to celebrate the achievements of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

“I used to have lunch with Ted every couple of weeks, sometimes with Tim O’Mara, a former provost, Bill Sexton and others from the University administration. I used to say to people, ‘If you want to know what we talk about, I’d have to kill you.’ But we had great conversations and one of the thing we talked about frequently was our great admiration and regard for Fr. John Jenkins, our contemporary president. How happy we were that someone of such great talent and enthusiasm and holiness was serving in succession to us. For me, one of the iconic moments in my time at Notre Dame was when the two of us put our hands on John’s shoulders at his inauguration and said a prayer of blessing. What a privilege that was, as we passed the mantle on.

“Finally, Ted was a man of prayer. He celebrated Mass every day, except for one or two times when it was impossible. He carried a black bag everywhere he went which had all the elements that are necessary to celebrate mass. He would invite Russian politicos and scientists to come to mass. He would invite people who were of other religious faiths. He would invite atheists, or whoever, and generally they always said yes, and they went away fully embracing a kind of sense of God’s presence in their life.

“He was the first priest to celebrate Mass at Lambeth Palace, which is the headquarters of the Archbishop of Canterbury, at that time George Carey. The first Mass there from the time of the Reformation, right there where Thomas Camden wrote the Book of Common Prayer, and a little bit away from where Thomas Moore was tried and hung. What a dramatic moment that was for both of us.

“One time, on one of his birthdays, we celebrated Mass right along the Sea of Galilee in a motel in a room with a Christian-Arab driver. And all I could think of, here was Ted, right next to where Jesus would have been doing the same thing in his ministry. He celebrated the holy office; he prayed the rosary; he visited the Grotto. He tried to be a pastor to anyone who came into his presence. When he lost his eyesight, he had the blessing that he could then invite people, undergraduate students particularly, to come and read for him, and they had the concrete experience of the person in the flesh, so to speak.

“When I left him on that last meeting, I asked him to bless me, which he did graciously. Now I want to say on behalf of all of us, Fr. Ted Hesburgh, C.S.C., you have been a great and holy priest. You have been our pastor here at Notre Dame, as you have for the country and the world. Now, go to God, and may you rest in peace.”

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