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Notre Dame Day: Patrick Creadon ’89 and Jerry Barca ’99 of “Hesburgh”

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The pair discuss their film’s opening weekend, and Fr. Ted’s enduring legacy.

Producer Jerry Barca and Director Patrick Creadon discuss “Hesburgh” with Anne Thompson.
ND Studios

“Hesburgh” is a phenomenal documentary. Patrick Creadon ’89, the director, and Jerry Barca ’99, producer, talked with Anne Thompson ’79 about the film, which opened last Friday, during Notre Dame Day.

Anne: “It is such a pleasure to have you here. You’ve just had your big opening in Chicago and South Bend. What’s been the reception?”

Patrick: “The movie’s off to a great start. So, we had a really big opening weekend in South Bend and Chicago. Next weekend, which is five days from now, we’ll be in 35 markets around the country. So, this is sort of a big test for the film. I will say, as much as this is a Notre Dame story, we really felt that truly this is, Father Ted’s story is an American story. I think it plays really well to the Notre Dame community. It’s also playing really well to people who are not even really familiar with him and his story, because I think it speaks to what really great leadership can look like.”

Anne: “Now, Patrick and Jerry, you’re both alums. But this is not a Notre Dame project, is it?”

Jerry: “No, it was never...Our aim in doing this story was always to bring Father Ted’s story to the widest possible audience and really tell an American story. And when we were making it, we thought we’re telling a historical story. But, as things evolved, we realized the message of Father Ted’s life and how he lived his life is as timely as ever in this country.”

Anne: “That’s what I think is extraordinary about the film is that it’s a look back on his life. But it has such resonance and relevance to what’s happening today.”

Patrick: “Yeah, I think there’s a crisis in our country right now with leadership. And I am not, I’m genuinely I am not thinking of one particular person or one particular party. I think that there’s a different style of leadership that Father Ted embodied, which was strong and it involved problem solving and bringing people together. And it involved, Father Ted was a very kind man. You take all those qualities and roll them up into one and you have a chance to have a really great leader. When I look around the landscape today in our country, I don’t see a lot of Father Ted like characters out there or personalities. And I think we need to find them again and support people like that, because I think our country needs that.”

Anne: “I think one of the extraordinary things that people learn in this is how Father Ted was able to bring people together. People who had, were just as polarized today as we are in our politics. How did you make that happen, Jerry?”

Jerry: “Well, I think as Pat just mentioned, you know, he was kind. He was also results oriented. He was there to make a difference with his life and to create something possible where people thought it would be impossible. And, obviously, he was also led by his faith. I think one of the most interesting things is, you know, we were told he never had a sleepless night. He made his decisions, and most likely guided by his faith that what he was doing was the right thing and moved on. And I think being kind, bridging divides, and producing results. That’s also why it’s timely. Those things never go out of style. Being a great leader is always a message that can resonate.”

Anne: “And I also think that focus on his faith kept him from being co-opted by either the Republicans or the Democrats or the liberals or the conservatives.”

Patrick: “For sure. He really didn’t belong to any party. And he, it’s funny, he never had to face a re-election. I think that’s an interesting thing about his life and his success was that, he was a very public figure in a very prominent, not politician obviously, but he was a very prominent leader let’s say.”

Anne: “He was a civic leader.”

Patrick: “He was a civic leader.”

Anne: “I mean, he was engaged in the world.”

Patrick: “Exactly. And he wasn’t an elected official. And I think in some ways, we need to listen to some of those folks outside of elected office because in some ways, they’re freed up from having to run again every two or four years. There’s a lot about Father Ted that some of us in the Notre Dame community know. But there’s a tremendous amount about him that has sort of faded away. That’s the magic of making documentaries is we’ve tried to bring him back to life through this story.”