Jakubowski on Fr. Hesburgh
Ann Marie Jakubowski | Sunday, March 1, 2015
Fr. Hesburgh, in your 97 years you transformed Notre Dame, the United States and the world. You had the most purposeful and inspiring life I can imagine, and your presence will be deeply missed.
I wish there had been a way to watch the news of your death travel with a bird’s eye view, slowly at first and then lighting up our entire campus in a single night and echoing across the nation and the world all weekend. I suppose you have exactly that perspective on us now, looking down and watching the impromptu tributes and memorials and plans materialize on campus and the heartfelt reflections and anecdotes pouring out nationwide.
These past 72 hours have felt like both a sprint and a marathon in our newsroom, and every moment has been dedicated to honoring you as best we can. I wish I could share that bird’s eye view you have for just a bit, to get a better sense of perspective and some much-needed guidance. The more reflections I read and photos I flip through, the more I realize how utterly irreplaceable you are. You are an infinitely deep source of inspiration for our community.
The more I learn about your legacy, the more certain I feel that for the next century and beyond, Notre Dame will keep you always in our collective mind, draw guidance from the precedent you set and turn to you as a source of both motivation and reassurance.
This weekend, I’ve read your quote dozens of times about wanting to be “nothing more, but nothing less” than a priest. We’ve tried to make that the guiding theme of our coverage this weekend, but I’m only beginning to wrap my mind around just how powerful a statement that is.
To say you were a great religious leader, but “nothing more” would be completely inaccurate, looking at the extraordinary list of your global accomplishments. But to say you were “so much more” than just a priest because your impact was felt beyond the Catholic Church would completely fail to convey the centrality of your priestly vocation to your life’s work.
You devoted your life to unceasingly building up the good in our world and building up the Catholic Church. You spent your life building up Notre Dame as an institution capable of, in turn, building up its own students in spirit, mind and body in the Holy Cross tradition.
You represented what is best and truest in Notre Dame by fulfilling your priestly vocation to represent Christ to the world, whether you were acting on behalf of the University or the United States or the Vatican.
Your legacy is inextricably tied to your identity as a priest; you unceasingly built the University and the world into a better place. Nothing more, and nothing less.
We have much to celebrate this week. As much as we mourn your death, we now have the chance to gather as a community and revisit the tangible fingerprints you left on the story of Notre Dame, the United States and the world. We will thank you over and over again, in as many different ways as we can think of, for unceasingly building us a better world.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.