To the students of Notre Dame
Letter to the Editor | Tuesday, March 17, 2015
It was fitting that Fr. Jenkins, Coach Holtz and a couple of other speakers at Fr. Ted’s memorial departed from their scripts to comment on how impressed they were with the way in which Notre Dame’s student body turned out to line the funeral procession route, from the Basilica to Fr. Ted’s final resting place. Beyond all of the eloquent words by the University’s dignitaries and friends, I believe Fr. Ted would have been most touched and honored by your collective gesture.
I was fortunate to be part of that procession and was struck by your reverence and respect. For me, the single greatest memory of the day will be that walk, hearing only the sounds of shuffling feet and seeing the solemn expressions on your face. Thank you. Universally, all of those who gathered last night at Rohr’s shared the same observation. What was most amazing is our knowledge that most of you had only a limited time to get to know Fr. Ted.
Coach Holtz told a story about a friend whose 3-year-old daughter sang the fight song for Fr. Ted. After she concluded, Fr. Ted said, “That’s great sweetheart; can you say the Our Father?” I was the friend that Coach Holtz referenced and Caroline is my daughter. She’s 21 today and is a college junior, down the road at DePauw University. Like each of her three younger brothers, Caroline was baptized by Fr. Ted in the Log Chapel. Her fight song performance was after her oldest brother Jimmy was baptized (Coach Holtz failed to mention that Caroline knew the Lord’s Prayer by the time we reached the Chicago Skyway on the drive home, but I digress).
But there’s a second story about Fr. Ted and my daughter.
About six years after the fight song encounter, I called Fr. Ted’s dear friend and assistant Melanie Chapleau, to see if I could bring my entire family by Ted’s office for a quick visit. My wife and I wanted all of the kids to perhaps have a memory of Fr. Ted (I will forever regret not making a second trip with the kids in any of the subsequent years).
We waited in his way-cool reception area with so many artifacts. Our three young sons most enjoyed the pictures and models of all the planes Fr. Ted had ridden in, especially the supersonic Navy jet, “Blackbird.”
He came out to greet us and invited us back to his office. The hallway to his office is lined with pictures of Fr. Ted with virtually every significant Head of State over the past 50 years. Our children were oblivious. As we left however, Caroline spotted a man in one of the pictures she did recognize. She stopped immediately, stared at the picture for a moment, turned quickly and asked, “Father Ted….you knew Martin Luther King!?” As he did in the Log Chapel six years earlier, Fr. Ted bent over, hands on knees, looked our daughter gently in the eyes and said, “Caroline … Dr. King was a GREAT man.” I still get the chills recounting that incident. A genuine member of our nation’s history, giving our daughter a lesson.
For those of you who did not have any personal encounters with Fr. Ted, but who still turned out to line the processional route out of respect or school pride or simply instinct, perhaps that second story will come back to you when your children learn about civil rights and Dr. King. By then, you will understand 100 times over why you stood quietly in the cold and the gravity of your gesture to those who processed.
Rest in Peace, Fr Ted; YOU were a great man.
James M. Moriarity
Class of 1984
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.