Apart from his extensive work in philosophy (involving intensive study of Jacques Maritain), Fr. Ward also published acclaimed poetry in publications ranging from the student publication The Juggler to the prestigious New York Times. His poetry won several awards, including the 1970 Laus tibi Deo Poetry Award and the 1971 Catholic Press Poetry Award.
Though he wrote many other books on a variety of topics, he was always particularly fascinated by Irish culture. In books such as All over God’s Irish Heaven and God in an Irish Kitchen, Fr. Ward analyzed certain aspects of Irish life, especially in relation to faith. He once wrote “The Irishman lives by faith in a world not here at all. It may at times be routine with him when he expresses his faith by saying, ‘God is good.’ But if he is a genuine Irishman, I think those words are deep within him, as well as on his lips and his doorplate.”
Fr. Ward has also been essential in the formation of the University of Notre Dame in recent years due to his book, Blueprint for a Catholic University. In this work, he clearly stated his sometimes controversial opinions on the subject. He wrote, “The real problem with Catholic schools comes from the fact that they have settled in many matters for the mediocre: merely trying to keep up, not get behind, not to lapse from being accredited. Sometimes even this is a great trial. Moreover, they have taken as end simply to keep the faith, not to build or rebuild kingdoms, but to hold on, to see themselves as frankly only in a state of siege, where defending the walls is the whole problem.”
The ideas he expressed helped to form Fr. Hesburgh’s attitudes concerning Catholic higher education. Hesburgh himself wrote, “It was his writing on the Catholic university that, as he rightly observed, particularly interested and influenced me when I, too, returned to Notre Dame to teach and then to help create an ever greater Catholic university here…When I had to give my first talk on a Catholic university, it was to his book, Blueprint for a Catholic University, that I returned, and his message that I preached.”
Fr. Ward, despite his death in 1984, continues to be a vital part of the formation of Catholic higher education, especially at the University of Notre Dame.
She turned then, just a wispeen of a girl
To go back alone at midnight
the sky over her
The sea and mountains around her
And what she went back to was the house
Raised a few feet above the bog
Where she had everything
In her simple, bloodless little hand
-- From Irish Portraits and Other Poems, 1978.
Ward, Leo R. All over God’s Irish Heaven. Henry Regnery Company. Chicago, 1964.
Ward, Leo R. Blueprint for a Catholic University. B. Herder Book Co. St. Louis, 1949.
Father Theodore Hesburgh, from Preface to My First Fifty Years at Notre Dame.