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Online Exhibits > Father Edward Sorin and the Founding of Notre Dame


The Founder of Notre Dame at Rest!

Notre Dame Scholastic, November 11, 1893

NOTRE DAME is plunged in deepest grief and affliction because of the death of her revered founder, the Very Rev. Edward Sorin, Superior - General of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. On Tuesday of last week, at a quarter of ten o'clock in the morning, the noble, gifted soul of the venerable patriarch passed peacefully from earth, thus closing a life full of years and merits before God and man. For more than half a century he had been a commanding figure, a leader among his fellows in the cause of religion and education, and his zeal and devotedness have been crowned by a monument to his memory the glory of which has not been surpassed by the achievements of the great men of any age. A pioneer in the missionary work of the Western Church, the founder and upbuilder of a great institution of learning, whose fame and influence extend throughout the length and breadth of the land, the record of his life presents the extraordinary and exceptional career of apostolic men -- of men who appear but at times in the history of the world -- men whom Divine Providence raises up for a special purpose, and endows with noble gifts for the accomplishment of an exalted mission among their fellowmen.

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More than fifty years have passed since Father Sorin, imbued with the spirit of an apostolic missionary, began his great life work in the wilds of Northern Indiana. During that long period of time he devoted himself assiduously to the development and perfection of his grand undertaking, never faltering or wavering, although the most trying difficulties and obstacles beset his path, but ever filled with an unbounded confidence in the protection of Heaven, and instilling the same spirit into the hearts of those whom he gathered around him to co-operate with him in carrying out the great designs which his noble mind conceived. His faith and piety and zeal were signally blessed by God, and it was given him to see in his declining years the child of his heart -- his beloved Notre Dame, his glory and his crown -- nobly realizing the hopes and expectations of his early years -- a grand home of Religion and Education, a centre of piety and learning, whence issue forth year after year bands of devoted souls to diffuse her influence throughout the land.

It was the exceptional privilege of Father Sorin to be blessed with health, strength, and length of years to begin, to direct the progress and witness the perfection of one of the greatest undertakings of the nineteenth century. It was to be expected that such unremitting and long - continued labor should tell upon his bodily frame. But it was not until about three years ago that he first gave signs of impaired health. At that time, in fulfilment of a long-cherished pious desire, and in the hope of amelioration in health, he visited the Holy Land, the impressions of which are embodied in a manual of "The Way of the Cross," which he composed and published on his return. He was greatly benefited by the voyage, and continued the active exercise of the duties of his office until within a few months ago. After that, while the great mind retained its noble powers, the hitherto tireless body, despite all the care and attention which scientific skill could command and faithful, loving devotion could give, began to yield and steadily lose its strength.

On Saturday, the 28th ult., he was unable to rise from his bed, and through that and the following day his condition became gradually more serious and alarming. On Monday he received, with the most edifying devotion, the last sacraments in the presence of most of the priests and many devoted religious who were gathered around his death-bed. He lingered through the night, constantly attended by numbers of his spiritual children, his eyes closed as if oblivious to all things earthly, whilst the fervent aspirations that at times escaped his lips showed that his soul was absorbed in prayer and communion with Heaven. Sometimes, too, a smile would light up his countenance, as if he were favored with some heavenly vision, or enjoying a foretaste of the ineffable bliss which awaited him. So the night passed, and Tuesday, the vigil of All Saints, dawned, the venerable Father gradually sinking until at a quarter to ten o'clock, when he opened his eyes slowly, looked upon the kneeling religious surrounding him as if bidding them a fond farewell, then gently closing his eyes again, without struggle or motion, he gave forth his great soul into the hands of his Maker. Our Father Founder was dead! The end had come calmly and peacefully, and, as befitting the close of such a noble, devoted life, it coincided with the end of the month consecrated to his most cherished devotion, the Rosary of the Queen of Heaven, whose client and champion he had been all through his years upon earth. It was, too, the eve of the great festival of All Saints, when the Church upon earth was preparing to celebrate the glory and happiness of her triumphant members in the celestial kingdom, and the happy death of the venerable Superior, crowning a prayerful, devoted life, gave to his spiritual children the consoling assurance that to him the God of goodness and of mercy must have given a speedy admission into the company of the blessed.

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The sad intelligence of his death was quickly wired to the houses of the Order throughout the world, and to prelates and friends in this country. Telegrams and letters of sympathy began to be received, showing the universal appreciation in which the lamented dead had been held. Quickly, too, loving hearts and willing hands proceeded to drape the various University buildings, expressing, in part, the deep affliction with which all at Notre Dame were oppressed. The main building, Sorin Hall, St. Edward's Hall -- the home of Father General's little favorites, the Minims -- the Chapel of Our Lady, where the lamented Superior was accustomed to offer up the Holy Sacrifice, and his own residence, were heavily covered with the emblems of mourning. And on Wednesday, immediately after the close of the services appropriate to the solemnity of the day, a great transformation took place within the magnificent Church of the Sacred Heart -- the building of which was so largely due to the exertions of Father General. A large, beautiful catafalque was erected at the head of the centre aisle, near the altar railing, to receive and retain the precious remains until they should be carried forth to their last resting-place. The whole interior of the sacred edifice, the walls, pillars and paintings were heavily draped, while from the centre of the arched ceiling, immediately over the nave, immense streamers of black flowed in melancholy beauty to the different extremities of the floor below. In the meantime the body of our departed Father had been prepared, clothed in the cassock and cape which he had worn during his sojourn in the Holy Land and vested in the habiliments of his priestly office.

During the whole of Tuesday and Wednesday the precious remains lay in state in the parlor of his residence and were constantly attended by the religious kneeling in prayer and visited by friends from near and far. The Mayor and members of the City Council of South Bend were among the first to appear at the bier of the dead and give expression to their sympathy and regret at the departure of one whose life work contributed so much to the prosperity of our neighboring city.

On the evening of Wednesday, after the Vespers of the Dead had been chanted, the body in its casket was borne to the catafalque which had been prepared for it in the church. There it was placed, surrounded by lights, to he constantly watched over night and day by prayerful religious until it should be carried to the grave.