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Hesburgh christens “Night of Faith”

Sheila Flynn | Thursday, September 18, 2003

Notre Dame President Emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh said he always knew he wanted to be a priest, but he initially didn’t know how, when or where to go about doing so.

“That’s the beautiful thing about faith,” Hesburgh said. “You take one step at a time.”

Hesburgh spoke in the Alumni Hall chapel as the first speaker in the dormitory’s lecture series titled “Wednesday Nights of Faith.”

The lecture focused mainly on Hesburgh’s entrance into the priesthood, his religious studies abroad and the positions he held after his ordination. Hesburgh served as the first executive vice president of the University and was later named president at age 35.

“It was kind of a daunting thing at 35,” Hesburgh said.

His tenure as President lasted well beyond the original six-year term; he held the position until 1985, when current University president Father Edward Malloy replaced him.

“I said, ‘It’s only a six-year job,'” Hesburgh said of his reaction when University officials invited him to continue with his presidency. “They said, ‘We just changed that.'”

Hesburgh said he looked to the Holy Spirit for guidance and inspiration throughout his life.

“My devotion which really keeps me going is devotion to the Holy Spirit,” he said.

Hesburgh said the Holy Spirit is the “spirit of wisdom” who “knows all the answers,” yet “he’s also the forgotten guy.”

Hesburgh said he begins and ends each day with the prayer, “Come, Holy Spirit.'”

“In a sense, it orients you for life,” Hesburgh said.

Hesburgh said that, after all his experiences throughout the world and in high-level governmental positions, he would never change his decision to become a priest.

“It’s wonderful just to follow the life of Christ, and to try to live it out in your own time, your own place,” Hesburgh said.

Hesburgh cherishes his ability to offer Mass and listed exotic locations in which he has celebrated Mass, ranging from the South Pole to 50,000 feet above the ground in an airplane.

He said he tries to celebrate Mass every day – he can only remember missing Mass three times since his retirement.

“Having Mass every day strengthens your faith,” he said.

He also tries to visit the Grotto daily.

“I manage to do that pretty consistently – like at 100 percent,” Hesburgh said.

Speaking of the Grotto and campus, Hesburgh said he considers Notre Dame to be one of the most desirable locations on the planet.

“I don’t know any place on earth I’d rather be except here,” he said.