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Hehir wins Laetare Medal

Kate Gales | Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The University of Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal was awarded to Father J. Bryan Hehir, president and treasurer of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Boston on Sunday.

“Father Hehir has been exemplary in ministry, scholarship and administration alike,” said University President Father Edward Malloy in a press release. “In honoring him and his service, we wish to refresh our vision of and renew our commitment to a just and compassionate society rooted in the dignity of all people.”

“Father Hehir is a great example of service and dedication to the church and the people of God, especially the poor and people in need,” said Father Peter Jarret, counselor to the president.

The Laetare Medal is the oldest and most prestigious award given to American Catholics. It was established in 1883, with notable past recipients including President John F. Kennedy, novelist Walker Percy and Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day.

“We just thought it was time [Hehir] was recognized for his incredible dedication and work,” Jarret said on behalf of the selection committee.

Hehir was ordained in 1966 and was appointed to his current post of president and treasurer of Catholic Charities last January. Prior to that appointment, he served as president and chief executive officer of Catholic Charities USA since 2001.

Previous to his work with Catholic Charities, Hehir was the first Catholic priest to lead the Harvard divinity school, a post he held from 1998 through 2001. This appointment followed 20 years of service in Washington to the United States Catholic Conference, now known as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Hehir worked as one of the main writers of the council’s 1982 pastoral letter regarding nuclear weapons, according to a Notre Dame press release. He also served on the faculty at Georgetown University in Washington from 1984 to 1992.

Father Hehir is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Catholic Theological Society of America. He is also a 1984 MacArthur Fellow and serves on the boards of organizations such as the Arms Control Association and the Council for a Livable World.

Hehir is the recipient of more than 25 honorary degrees from various colleges and universities. In 1998, he received a doctor of laws degree from Notre Dame.

Hehir will receive the award during the University’s Commencement ceremony on May 16.