Birth and Family
“In the depths of the Depression, I scrounged like every kid my age to make pocket money. . . . In my senior year, I worked forty hours a week at a gas station.”
—Father Hesburgh, in God, Country, Notre Dame*
Theodore Martin Hesburgh was born on May 25, 1917, in Syracuse, N.Y., to Theodore Bernard Hesburgh and Anne Marie (Murphy) Hesburgh. His great-grandfather on his father's side had emigrated from Luxembourg in 1848, while his mother's father was an Irish immigrant.
Ted, as he was called, was the second of the five Hesburgh children and the first of two boys. His brother, James, who was called Jimmy, wasn't born until Ted was 16, so Ted grew up in a house full of sisters: Mary, Elizabeth "Betty," and Anne.
Ted was closest to his sister Mary, who was just over a year and a half older than he, and the two often worked on their homework together. Their close relationship continued to grow stronger, and after Ted left for the seminary, Mary wrote to him on a regular basis throughout her time at Syracuse University and even after she married and had children.
Catholicism was a part of daily life for the Hesburgh family. While Ted's parents were both quite religious, his father was more reserved in practicing his religion, and his mother expressed her faith more openly. All of the Hesburghs attended Mass regularly; some went on a daily basis, and the children all began their education at Most Holy Rosary School in Syracuse.
Ted's grandfather Theodore Hesburgh, with whom Ted was close, wrote for the New York World newspaper. He had learned to speak six languages in addition to English. This achievement would later inspire Ted's own interest in studying languages.
For more information on Father Hesburgh's birth and family, see the following resources:
*Hesburgh, Theodore Martin, and Jerry Reedy. "Growing Up Catholic." God, Country, Notre Dame. New York: Doubleday, 1990. Print. O'Brien, Michael. "Early Life, 1917–1945." Hesburgh: a Biography. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1998. Print.