The Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh will spend Friday, his 95th birthday, as he spends every birthday ... fishing for bass, walleye and northern pike in northern Wisconsin.
"The years are tough and they get tougher. But at the end of the year, you take a deep breath and go fishing," says Hesburgh, the famous priest who served as president of the University of Notre Dame from 1952 to 1987.
He spoke during an interview Monday in his office on the 13th floor of the campus library that bears his name.
A day earlier, he sat outdoors under a hot sun in the stands of Notre Dame Stadium for more than two hours during commencement. He attends every year.
On Tuesday, he left for his annual May fishing trip to Land O' Lakes, Wis., where the university owns an environmental research center. It's his place for respite and renewal. "Fishing has a great therapeutic value. It gets you out in the sunshine and fresh air and gets you exercise," he says.
He doesn't eat what he catches. "I don't particularly like fish. I toss them back unless they are a record of some kind," he says.
He'll return to campus next week, in time to participate in the annual Notre Dame alumni reunion weekend.
At 95, Hesburgh is the oldest living Holy Cross priest in the United States.
Hesburgh's voice and his gait have slowed, but he still has more energy than many people several decades his junior. He walks with a cane made necessary because of faded eyesight, the result of macular degeneration.
Except for his sight, he says his health is fine. "I haven't missed a day's work since I came here in 1934. I'm not about to complain about health," he says.
He offers his own motto to others who are facing their retirement years.
"I think you do as much as you can, as long as you can, as well as you can," Hesburgh says.
He keeps up to date on campus, national and international news.
On this day, Notre Dame had filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a federal regulation that requires religious organizations to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and other services that go against Catholic Church teachings. It was among dozens of suits that Catholic dioceses, schools and other institutions filed Monday in federal courts across the nation.
Hesburgh says he was aware that Notre Dame administrators were planning the suit, but he didn't want to comment on it in detail.
"I would only say that I think the university is doing what it should do. The government just overreached and overstretched and has to be brought up short," he says.
A large window in his office looks down on the campus he largely built, with a clear view of the Golden Dome-topped Main Building. The room is filled with mementos of Hesburgh's life and career: medals and other honors, photos of him with presidents and other world leaders, and books everywhere.
Hesburgh, who led the university for 35 years, was Notre Dame's