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Study abroad students remember Hesburgh, reflect on his global legacy

| Thursday, March 5, 2015

DUBLIN — When news of University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore “Ted” Hesburgh’s death broke shortly after 1:00 a.m. Friday, hundreds of students had a uniquely Notre Dame instinct: go to the Grotto, light a candle and pray.

For hundreds of other students studying in one of Notre Dame’s over 30 study abroad programs, the warm glow and prayerful comfort of the Grotto were thousands of miles and numerous time zones away. But in the days since, those students have offered prayers and shared memories of Hesburgh in solidarity with their classmates who were able to gather at the snowy grounds of the Grotto early Friday morning.

In Rome, junior architecture students observed a moment of silence before class Friday before celebrating Hesburgh’s life at mass the next morning.

“Before studio, our professors organized a moment of silence to reflect on the life and work of Fr. Hesburgh,” junior Molly Kalk said. “A number of us decided over the course of the day to go to the 7 a.m. Mass at St. Peter’s [Basilica] the next morning to remember Fr. Ted and pray for his family, fellow members of the Congregation and Notre Dame.

“At the Vatican, we, by chance, spotted a priest wearing the Holy Cross anchors and asked him if he would pray with us. [Former provincial superior of the Congregation of Holy Cross] Fr. Carl Ebey reflected eloquently on Fr. Ted’s life and we prayed by the Baldacchino, starting, as Fr. Ted would, with ‘Come, Holy Spirit.’”

Junior Tom Nye, who is also studying in Rome, said the immediate news of Hesburgh’s death came after he and a group of students walked past the Gregorian University, where Hesburgh received his undergraduate degree in philosophy in 1939.

“It felt strange to be so connected to campus though messages, Facebook, Twitter and even Yik Yak, while at the same time being so removed from our friends grieving together in dorms and at the Grotto,” Nye said.

Junior Abby Shepard, who met Hesburgh at a mass at the Notre Dame Environmental Research Center in Land O’Lakes, Wis. was one of approximately 25 students who gathered in Dublin Tuesday evening to watch a live stream of Hesburgh’s funeral.

“I felt like it was important [to watch the funeral] because it was a Notre Dame community event,” Shepard said. “I did meet Fr. Hesburgh twice, and I felt like since we’re not on campus to be a part of the week, it was important to go and at least see the funeral and be a part of that.”

On Monday students in London, Notre Dame’s largest study abroad program, shared reflections on Hesburgh’s legacy and celebrated mass in Trafalgar Hall.

“We had a memorial service for Fr. Ted and it was a beautiful celebration of his life,” junior Grace Mazur said. “We had near 100 people attend the service, including students, faculty, alumni and the public.

“… Even being thousands of miles from campus, we were able to join the entire Notre Dame community in prayer to celebrate the life of Fr. Ted. While it is definitely sad that we cannot be in South Bend to participate in the campus services, I think the fact that Fr. Ted’s legacy is being celebrated and remembered by students and alumni around the world is a great tribute to the impact that he made,” Mazur said.

That global legacy is evident in Notre Dame’s Jerusalem program, which junior David Oh said would not be possible without Hesburgh’s work to help establish the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, where Notre Dame students study.

“One of Fr. Hesburgh’s lesser known contributions to the greater good is in the realm of ecumenism, or the promotion of unity among Christian churches denominations,” Oh said. “After the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI asked Fr. Hesburgh to direct the efforts to establish an academic institute for ecumenical purposes in Jerusalem. As a result, the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, situated between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, opened its doors in 1972.

“Since then, it has welcomed scholars, priests, pilgrims of all faith traditions and from all walks of life, including Notre Dame students for a semester of study abroad. I think the continued existence of this very unique place, and Notre Dame’s commitment to it, is a fitting testament to Fr. Hesburgh’s vision for justice, reconciliation and peace in our world. His spirit lives on in places far and wide — even in a place as far away from Notre Dame as Jerusalem.”

Junior Steven Fisher, who is also studying abroad in Jerusalem, said Hesburgh’s legacy there, memorialized by a statue of him outside the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, lives on in the continual opportunities students receive.

“Without Fr. Hesburgh we could not have come [to Jerusalem] to explore, learn and grow,” Fisher said. “A bronze bust of him sits at the entrance of the Tantur Ecumenical Institute where we live and study, and now when I see it I am only beginning to realize what he meant to our university.”

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About Jack Rooney

Jack is a 2016 graduate of Notre Dame, and The Observer's former managing editor. He is currently spending a year living and working for the University in Ireland, and writing columns to keep him busy. For more random thoughts and plenty of news links, follow Jack on Twitter @RooneyReports.

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