Who’s the Longest-Serving Priest in the United States?

Well, here’s a look at one who’s up there, and holds at least one distinction among many:

Holy Cross Father Theodore M. Hesburgh is one of 22 members of Holy Cross celebrating anniversaries of Ordination or Religious Profession during this year’s Jubilee. A celebratory Mass is scheduled for today at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.

Fr. Hesburgh, who celebrates his 96th birthday May 25, is currently the oldest and longest-serving priest of the United States Province. The New York born priest knew as an eighth grader he wanted to be a priest after a Holy Cross priest and three missionaries visited the church.

“I just wanted to be a priest, not necessarily knowing what I would do as a priest, except that I knew I wanted to be a priest,” he fondly recounted. “I don’t know why God does what God does. Once I came here [the University of Notre Dame], I didn’t want to do anything but be a Holy Cross priest.”

Fr. Hesburgh wanted to become a Navy chaplain after ordination, but furthered his studies instead. His doctorate was one of many degrees Fr. Hesburgh would hold. He ultimately earned the distinction of having received 150 honorary degrees, a Guinness World Record.

He returned to Notre Dame after completing his doctorate and assisted the returning veterans as Religion Instructor and Chaplain of World War II veterans and married veterans living in Vetville at Notre Dame. He went on to other roles at the university including Executive Vice President in 1949 and the University’s 15th President in 1952. Fr. Hesburgh was 35 and held the position for the same number of years – the longest serving President of Notre Dame.

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