Commitment to civil rights extended to those with disabilities

Father Ted and LOGAN

After LOGAN, the prominent local center for people with disabilities, built a school across Angela Boulevard from the Notre Dame campus in 1968, Father Hesburgh played Santa Claus at the agency’s annual Christmas party, deepening ties that became central to the University’s growing focus on service.

Father Hesburgh championed the rights of people with disabilities as an important dimension of the larger civil rights movement, and he welcomed the opportunity for students to find meaningful volunteer service within easy walking distance.

“He was a tremendous friend to our LOGAN family — and his incredible influence around the world on civil rights greatly impacted the rights of people with disabilities,” LOGAN said in a published statement. “With his compassionate leadership, Father Hesburgh helped foster a university, a community and a world that values humanity and it is that lesson that has allowed LOGAN’s mission to continue and thrive here. His loss will be felt deeply. But his example and his goodness will be celebrated always.”

“For me, the work of LOGAN for people with disabilities, the civil rights movement, the service to AIDS orphans, and all such initiatives for equality are all of one piece,” he wrote in the foreword to “Voice,” a history of LOGAN published in 2010. “They’re part of a common mosaic of the least of the brethren. The whole thing hangs together. Like all good works, it’s a work of God and a work of grace. LOGAN has made a difference in countless Notre Dame students’ lives, and that’s just one instance of how inclusion of such people makes all our lives better. By recognizing their humanity, the humanity we share, we become more humane.”

Father Hesburgh also supported LOGAN when the agency became the lead host for the 1987 International Special Olympics, with Notre Dame’s facilities as Olympic Village. At the nationally televised opening ceremonies, Father Hesburgh, the honorary chairman of the event, blessed the 6,000 athletes and coaches and 57,000 spectators, including 18,000 volunteers from 70 countries.

“In South Bend, LOGAN has made a significant difference both for the local community and for the University of Notre Dame,” he wrote in 2010. “For years, LOGAN’s building was right across the street from our campus, and students had an easy walk to an opportunity for service that enriched their lives as much as it did the people they helped. This campus is full of kids who come from stable families, most of them.

“If you’ve had all the blessings in life, you share it with other people ... The Lord said it all in one sentence: ‘What you do for one of these my least brethren, you do it for me.’ The habit of volunteering at LOGAN is a deep root of our service tradition that now involves 80 percent of our students. The work isn’t just across the street, but around the world, in places like South Africa where we strive to improve the lives of AIDS orphans.”

This story was originally published in NDWorks.