Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

January 30, 2014

On the 200th Annivesary of the Birth of Our Founder

Thursday February 6, 2014, is the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Fr. Edward Sorin, C.S.C.

Fr. Sorin is best known for founding the University of Notre Dame in 1842. But from where we sit, we remember Fr. Sorin as the founder of Ave Maria Press.

In 1865, against the advice of just about everyone, Fr. Sorin began the a magazine he titled Ave Maria. Father Sorin’s goal was to produce a magazine honoring Mary, focusing on Catholic families, and showcasing the best American Catholic writing. Despite discouragement from naysayers who didn't believe it could be done, Sorin launched his magazine. In a daring move for his era, he soon turned the reins over to a woman, Sister Angela Gilespie, a nurse veteran of the Civil War. The Ave Maria grew quickly, and by the turn of the twentieth century, it was the most popular English-language Catholic magazine in the world. The magazine was published on Sundays until 1970.

Fr. Sorin was tough-minded and was known for a sharp tongue. He had to be in order to achieve the many accomplishments for his life, including serving as Superior of the Congregation of Holy Cross, supervising the Holy Cross missions in the United States, and being the first president of the University of Notre Dame.

A thorough biography of Fr. Sorin details what many consider to be his finest hour.

When a great fire destroyed the six story Main building at Notre Dame in April 1879, all was lost: dorms, classrooms, offices, and a chapel. Fr. Sorin was away when the fire struck, on the east coast about to embark for Europe. He immediately came back to Notre Dame to address the students and faculty. His words have never been forgotten:

I came here as a young man and founded a university which I named after the Mother of God. Now she had to burn it to the ground to show me I dreamed too small a dream. Tomorrow we will build it bigger and, when it is built, we will put a gold dome on top with a golden statue of the Mother of God so that everyone who comes this way will know to whom we owe whatever great future this place has.

Ave Maria Press celebrates the birthday of our founder, Fr. Edward Sorin. We share in the gratefulness to him and especially to Our Mother, Notre Dame du lac, that we have been part of the future he imagined.

Leave a Comment

High School eNewsletter
Receive bi-weekly lessons, links, tips and more in our Email Newsletter

Resources Archive