University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame

Missionary's Home

On the shore of this lovely solitude stands the


This, stranger, is one of the most interesting features of Notre Dame, the home for the aged Priest! a home, when he needs it, for the beloved Pastor, who long and faithfully hath dealt out the "bread of life" to the members of Christ's flock! What Catholic heart doth not thrill with emotion at the very suggestion! which of us doth not offer to God fervent thanks for the opportunity thus afforded of manifesting some little gratitude for the inestimable benefit He vouchsafes us in sending "Pastors and teachers, for the perfection of the saints, for the work of the ministry, unto the edification of the body of Christ, till we all meet in the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God."

Here, far away from the noise of the world, in a home provided by reverential love, by filial gratitude, by that true piety which sees God in the Priest, can the exhausted Missioner recruit his failing strength and spend the last days of his wearied life in peaceful contemplation, and holy preparation for the end that must come to all. A more delightful site could hardly have been selected to carry out this idea, and need I say a more beneficent idea could hardly have been conceived. The place of the buildings provides a handsome comfortable apartment for each inmate -- a chapel and refectory -- and the Sisters of the Holy Cross will, with that pure spirit of kindness which characterizes their every actions, wait on and administer to the wants of the Missionaries When we consider the state of the Catholic Church of this country, as to temporalities, we must agree with the friend who lately gave it as his opinion, that of the works of the Very Rev. Father Sorin has projected, none can supply this one in importance.

Who that hath witnessed the toilsome life of a Missionary Priest in this country; who that hath known of his traversing the dreary wilds, or seen him penetrating the gloomy depths of the forest in order to convey "the peace of God," by the administration of the Sacraments to the sick or dying, but must have felt that that charity is superhuman which braves all dangers, which incurs all risks, while it cheerfully proceeds onwards in its glorious office, ministering to the salvation of souls. Yes, by the very obligations imposed by his office, the character of the true Priest becomes superhuman. "They watch," says St. Paul, "as being to render an account of your souls." But they do far more than this, not only in the actual discharge of their sacerdotal functions, but like the great Apostle, "they become all things to all men, that that they may save all." What sorrow can his children feel that the good Pastor does not share? What calamity can they undergo that HE does not commiserate? What suffering that HE seeks not to relieve? Our experience convinces us so completely of this that we need not dilate further on the theme.

But are the duties confined to one side only? Shall He who has baptized our infants, who has instructed our growing youth, who has solaced our mature age, who has fostered and encouraged in our souls every indication of spiritual good, while he has repressed the evil incident to our fallen nature; shall he who has stood by the sick bed as an angel of Peace, pouring balm on the distempered spirit; shall he whose ready hand has responded to his own noble heart, who has broken bread to the hungry, and given drink to the thirsty, corporally and spiritually -- shall He be left unaided, when sickness, infirmity, old age, or any of the miseries incidental to this vale of tears, shall befall him? or shall chance offerings be the only maintainance for him, who in the hands of God has proved to be a "Providence" for others, in many, many ways. Forbid it gratitude. Forbid it justice, reverence, respect. Nay, forbid it veneration to God himself.

He who hath stood among us as the "Dispenser of the Mysteries of God," can never, in Catholic hearts, descend to the ordinary rank of human nature: and if charity to all men be but a just tribute exacted by God as a fitting homage to himself how much more are we bound to exercise that charity in behalf of those who have been to us the representatives of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in the highest, holiest sense in which those words can be applied to created beings.

The Missionary's Home appeals then of itself to the highest and sublimest sentiments we can entertain. It presents itself feelingly to our hearts, as if it were a direct appeal from God himself to animate our zeal. If a cup of cold water given to a disciple in the name of a disciple, shall in no wise lose its reward; and if to clothe the naked and to give drink to the thirsty among the least of His little ones, shall be esteemed by our Divine Lord as if done to Himself, shall we not invoke a powerful blessing by the exercise of extensive charity towards those who came in His name to announce the glad tidings of salvation to mankind?

The Missionary's Home is then an institution to provide for the necessities of our overtasked Pastors, when infimity, or age, or accident shall have rendered a retreat from the world desirable: when, having exercised for long years the sacred duties of their high calling, they feel incapacitated for further exertion and desire an honorable repose, a retirement in which no anxiety respecting the providing for necessities shall intermingle with the attention to the care of their own salvation, which will then form the sole object of their solicitude.

The proposal for the foundation of such a "home" has received not only the formal sanction and the solemn benediction of His Holiness, Pope Pius IX, but with the zeal that so pre-eminently distinguishes him, He (the Pope) amid the difficulties that surround him, amid the necessities created by the disorders of the times, found a superior necessity in his own heart to contribute to a work which has so entirely the glory of God for its object, and He generously disbursed a pecuniary offering in addition to the invaluable blessings of his sanction and approbation.

Need more be urged to induce the laity largely to contribute their aid to the undertaking? And will you, stranger, turn a deaf ear to this appeal? Will you not through your Guide contribute your quota for the home of the aged and helpless Priest.

Were superior motives wanting, yet might self-interest alone prompt. the Faithful to give the greatest assistance they could command to the measure; for contemplate for a moment what would be the consequence if instead of the disinterestedness that now characterizes the Catholic Priest, it were to become a necessity, real or supposed, that He should himself set apart from his income a sum sufficient to maintain him in his declining years. The sums now freely given for the promotion of the greater glory of God would then be hoarded up in a commercial spirit, and the consequences would affect not only the external acts, but the interior relations of the soul in a manner too painful to dilate upon at present.

Turn we therefore from the contemplation of a result, far too distant as yet to provoke reasonable fear, to the hope, nay, to the confident anticipation that the offerings of the Faithful will be poured in so generously, so freely that no probability can render the success of the Home doubtful.

At the head of the subscription list stands the august name of the Sovereign Pontiff Pio Nono. Can we doubt that a generous desire to follow in his track will soon swell the list by thousands, who will thus at one and the same time confer a benefit on every branch of the Catholic community? The aged Pastors will be provided for, while the younger clergymen will be freed from anxiety respecting their own future destiny, and being thus freed, will pour forth in more ample streams the rich spiritual treasures confided to their sacerdotal charge.

May Almighty God then in his mercy and compassion prosper THE MISSIONARY'S HOME!

Its object, then, is purely ecclesiastical, viz : to offer a home to venerable Clergymen too far advanced in years to discharge longer the arduous duties of the Sacred Ministry -- or incapacitated by sickness -- or simply desirous to retire for awhile into solitude to renew in their hearts the fervor of their vocation.

The location is healthy and fine, ten minutes from the University on the shore of the lake St. Joseph, of which it commands a beautiful view, and further on, on one side the buildings of Notre Dame; on the other, the Novitiates of St. Joseph and St. Aloysius, and in the distance St. Mary's of the Immaculate Conception.

The plan is extensive, one hundred and thirty-six feet in length by seventy-five feet in width, and three full stories high, containing forty eight private rooms -- some of which are twenty-five by twenty feet -- with every convenience to promote the comfort of the Rev. Gentlemen for whom the house is intended.

To secure the happiness of its inmates, counsels have been given which, considering their source, must be received as commands. So far as bodily and spiritual comforts are concerned, there shall be nothing spared to render happy those who may choose it for their residence and their home.

-- 1865 Guide to Notre Dame and St. Mary's