If you were to ask a Holy Cross religious about the most poignant moments of our life in community, right up there with final professions and Ordinations is usually the community funeral, especially the procession from the Basilica to the community cemetery. After the funeral of one of our deceased brothers, the community gathers outside to walk with him to his final place of rest. It is a very concrete witness to the importance of our communal life in Holy Cross. Usually this special moment is witnessed by just a few folks who happen to be on the quad or jogging around the lakes at the right time.
However last week we were able to share this profound moment with a much wider community as we laid Fr. Ted Hesburgh, C.S.C., to rest. Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, and alumni lined the route to the cemetery and countless others followed the procession and internment on TV. I was surprised how many people came up to me in the following days saying that the procession was one of the most moving and touching things that they have seen. So many told me how beautiful it was and how special it was for them to watch it or be a part of it.
I think so many were moved by the procession not just because it was a beautiful gesture for a great and wonderful priest—though it was—but also because the procession itself is such a meaningful gesture. It speaks volumes about who we are as religious and our commitment to the common life. Certainly our community is full of different personalities, ideologies, opinions, and points of view, and in our world these differences are often seen as reasons for discord and disunity. Yet we, in spite of our differences commit ourselves to a common mission and a common life through our vows. Though we are different in many ways, our life in community brings us together when it matters the most, as “brothers who dwell together in unity.” We are called to be pillars of support for each other in good times and in bad, to be present to share joys and sorrows with each other and we know that we can rely on each other in our times of need.
Our procession together to the community cemetery is a powerful, concrete, sign of our communal reality. Even in death our brothers are there with us to help us journey to the next life, to continue to pray for us and support us at those moments when we need it the most.
Fr. Brian Ching, C.S.C., is Associate Pastor at St. Joseph Catholic Church in South Bend, Ind. He is originally from Flushing, N.Y., and is a graduate of Holy Cross High School. He entered seminary while a student at the University of Notre Dame. He professed Final Vows in 2012 and was ordained to the priesthood in 2013.