Deaths in the family

Author: John Nagy ’00M.A.

Born into Italian families in 1923, they grew up 100 miles apart in upstate New York and would meet as teenagers on a train bound for South Bend and their studies at Notre Dame as postulants in the Congregation of Holy Cross. But their service as the rectors of Cavanaugh and Zahm halls in the 1970s would reveal strikingly different personal styles.

Both the gruff Father Matthew Miceli, whose crusty exterior concealed what one alumnus called a “heart of gold,” and the warmhearted Father Thomas Tallarida, whose humility tempered his impatience with the challenges of residence-hall administration, won the respect and love of their former charges. The two men were 89 when they died — Miceli in December and Tallarida in January — at Holy Cross House.

Rev. Matthew M. Miceli, CSC, ’47, taught theology and served briefly as the rector of Stanford Hall before leaving in 1962 for the University of Portland. A year later, he returned to Notre Dame’s theology faculty and began his 27-year tenure at Cavanaugh.

Miceli’s reputation for authoritarianism would be caricatured in the late 1970s as “Father Machiavelli,” a minor character in the popular campus comic strip, Molarity. Many Crusaders recall retaliating against his old-school discipline with good-natured pranks like dangling firecrackers from a string to explode outside their rector’s window. But Miceli’s Eucharistic devotion and compassion in the confessional revealed the nature of a man who gave his life to his residents.

Paul Coppola ’78 remembers a place that nurtured high GPAs and seniors who stuck around. “They liked it there, so they stayed on campus. . . . Yes, parietals were enforced, but there was a great camaraderie.”

Miceli stepped down in 1990, his struggles with Notre Dame’s transition to co-education still surfacing in an occasional joke that he would block Cavanaugh’s conversion into a women’s hall by lying down in front of the metaphysical bulldozers. (It made the switch in 1994.) He cultivated grapes in a plot off Bulla Road, producing — with decidedly mixed results — a white wine he called Bolla Bulla. His men did not forget him. Many named children for him — by one count, 16 Matthews and one Matthea.

One dorm to the north in the 1970s was Miceli’s rector-neighbor, Rev. Thomas C. Tallarida, CSC, ’47, ’56M.A. Tallarida taught high school history for 13 years and earned a second master’s degree before returning to the University in 1970 as Zahm’s rector. An affectionate and exuberant man, Father Tom ran his hall as many a well-meaning parent would, caring for his residents and staff as whole people while setting high expectations. He was a gentle enforcer, a natural diplomat who gave an example of self-sacrificing leadership, whose vision for Zahm was a community of men united for the common good.

Remembered as a welcoming presence to the women of North Quad in the early years of co-education, Tallarida would direct the Office of Off-Campus Housing before his tenure at Zahm ended, and later led the Foreign Students Program and the Old College Undergraduate Seminary Program. Many former students sought him out as a confessor and celebrant at weddings and baptisms. “His life demonstrated that love is an action verb: It is what you do more than what you think or say,” Annette Magjuka ’78 wrote. “He acted on his commitment to be a priest of integrity and love.”

Her work on the front lines of the most sensitive issues in student life required the most profound of her personal gifts: modesty, intellectual fire, wit to relieve the unrelenting stress, and above all what one religious sister called a “deep well of spiritual strength.” When, reflecting on her work as chair of Notre Dame’s Standing Committee on Gay and Lesbian Student Needs, she said, “No matter what I do, somebody’s mad at me,” it was an observation, not a lament. But nothing ever robbed “ML” of her smile or her love for Notre Dame — not even the ALS that diminished her health before she died in January at age 73.

Sister Mary Louise Gude, CSC, entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in 1959 and graduated from Saint Mary’s College in 1963. She earned her doctorate in French literature at the University of Pennsylvania and returned to Saint Mary’s in 1976, where she would teach for 15 years before joining the faculty at Notre Dame.

ML’s heart for students often pulled her away from full-time teaching and scholarship — she wrote two books on French literature and intellectual history — first in 1983 as an assistant rector of Breen-Phillips and later as rector of Farley Hall. Her public ministry at Notre Dame perhaps truly began when, as assistant vice president of student affairs from 1998 to 2006, she became the University’s primary liaison to gay and lesbian students. In 2010, the Gay and Lesbian Alumni of Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s honored her with the Tom Dooley Award for her efforts to educate all students and ensure that homosexual and questioning students were welcomed.

“On the one hand, the University really strives to affirm church teachings on sexuality,” she once told Notre Dame Magazine. “On the other hand, we know by church doctrine that we are all loved by God. Students here go through a hard time coming to terms with their sexual- and self-identity, but we have an obligation to do all we can to be in accordance with Church teaching and respond to their needs.”

Another task found her reaching out to students facing unplanned pregnancy, working to make sure the women received whatever academic exemptions and communal care they needed to manage their pregnancies and stay in school.

She retired in 2006, but what a retirement. Her fluency in French and her administrative talents made her the perfect candidate to manage the bilingual beatification ceremonies of Rev. Basil Moreau, CSC, in LeMans in 2007. Duty called once more in 2009 when she accepted the post of vice president for mission at Saint Mary’s, but the diagnosis of ALS followed soon after. Sister ML Gude spent her last years offering spiritual direction to novices, reading, writing, visiting with friends and family, and praying.