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The Life and Legacy of Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C.

This volume is the first comprehensive assessment of the life and legacy of Father Theodore Hesburgh (1917–2015), an educator, priest, public servant, and long-serving President of the University of Notre Dame. Despite being a transformative figure in Catholic higher education who led the University of Notre Dame for 35 years and wielded influence with US presidents on civil rights and other charged issues of his era, secular accounts of history often neglect to assess the efforts of religious figures such as Hesburgh. In this volume, the editors and their authors turn a fair-minded but critical eye to the priest’s record to evaluate where he fits into the long development of Catholic higher education and Catholics’ role in American public life.

Come, Holy Spirit reveals a spirituality intimately connected to the daily life of Fr. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, affectionately known as “Fr. Ted”—prominent priest, civil rights activist, public servant, and former president of the University of Notre Dame. In this first collection of his spiritual writings, Hesburgh is revealed to be a person of action with an even more dynamic spiritual life.

Hesburgh wholeheartedly embraced his role as pastor to the Notre Dame community and counted the day of his Ordination to the priesthood as the happiest in his life. Reflecting on his legacy, Hesburgh said that if he could have only one word on his tombstone, it would be “priest.” His homilies, lectures, prayers, and invocations display his characteristic wisdom and warmth and offer unique encouragement to contemporary readers pondering essential questions in their lives of faith, prayer, family, and peace.

Come, Holy Spirit sheds light on an underexplored facet of Hesburgh’s identity: While his life story has been widely told, few of his biographers explore in much detail how he nurtured his vocation through a commitment to prayer and daily celebration of the Mass. No collections of Hesburgh’s writings are currently in print, and no books of his spiritual writings were ever published during his lifetime.

The book explores the contours of Fr. Hesburgh’s calling to the priesthood and its ramifications for his service as the Church’s public intellectual. While many of the challenges Fr. Hesburgh faced still plague society today (civil rights and nuclear proliferation to name only two), this book places greatest importance on how Fr. Hesburgh’s calling to the priesthood compelled him to face those challenges.

Theodore Martin Hesburgh, C.S.C. (1917-2015) was the most widely recognized priest and university president of the twentieth century. His tenure as the leader of the University of Notre Dame not only spanned 35 years (1952-1987) but also arched across the most tumultuous era in the history of higher education—the late 1960s through the early 1970s.

During those years, the university’s faculty grew from 350 to 950, enrollment climbed from 4,979 to 9,600, the annual operating budget went from $9.7 million to $176 million, the endowment jumped from $9 million to $350 million, and funding for research soared from $735,000 to $15 million. Over 40 new buildings were also added during his presidency.

As a public intellectual, Hesburgh also invested in the debates that defined the mid to late twentieth century. At a time when such intellectuals were in retreat, Hesburgh contributed to policy efforts related to science and technology, civil and human rights, and foreign relations and peace. At the core of his commitment to those issues was his vocation as a priest and his belief in serving as a mediator between heaven and earth.