Father Hesburgh to be celebrated at U.S. Capitol reception

by Michael O. Garvey

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president emeritus, who celebrates his 96th birthday May 25 (Saturday), will himself be celebrated three days earlier at a special reception in the U.S. Capitol.

A reception hosted by John A. Boehner, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, will be held May 22 (Wednesday) beginning at 3 p.m. in the Rayburn Room of the Capitol. All members of Congress, both House and Senate, have been invited to the reception, at which both Boehner and Pelosi are expected to make remarks.

In addition to celebrating his birthday, the reception also is taking place to honor Father Hesburgh’s 70th anniversary as a priest. He was ordained as a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross on June 24, 1943 at Sacred Heart Church on the Notre Dame campus.

The 70th anniversary of Father Hesburgh’s ordination also will be celebrated at Notre Dame May 24 (Friday) along with the ordination anniversaries of 21 of his brother Holy Cross priests at a Jubilee Mass at 4 p.m. in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Father Hesburgh is the oldest and longest-serving priest of the Congregation’s United States Province.

Long regarded an elder statesman in American higher education, Father Hesburgh holds 150 honorary degrees, the most ever awarded to one person. He has held 16 presidential appointments involving most of the major social issues in his time, including civil rights, the peaceful use of atomic energy, campus unrest, treatment of Vietnam offenders, and Third World development and immigration reform. A charter member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, he chaired the commission from 1969 to 1972, when President Richard Nixon replaced him as chairman due to his criticism of the administration’s civil rights record. He was the first Catholic priest elected to the Board of Overseers at Harvard University and served two years (1994-1995) as the board’s president. He also co-chaired from 1990 to 1996 the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. In July 2000, Father Hesburgh became the first person from higher education to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.