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It’s St. Patrick’s Day, the 180th Birthday of Gonzaga Founder Fr. Joseph Cataldo, S.J.

Today marks the 179th birthday of Gonzaga's founder, Fr. Joseph Cataldo, S.J. Photo courtesy of Gonzaga University Archives.

Today marks the 180th birthday of Gonzaga’s founder, Fr. Joseph Cataldo, S.J. Photo courtesy of Gonzaga University Archives.

SPOKANE, Wash. – As the Gonzaga University men’s and women’s basketball teams prepare for their respective NCAA Tournament games on Saturday, it’s St. Patrick’s Day today, which carries special significance for the University as today marks the 180th birthday of Gonzaga’s founder, Father Joseph Cataldo, S.J.

In another slice of Gonzaga trivia, today also marks the 79th birthday of Father Frank Case, S.J., men’s basketball team chaplain, who is with the Zags at the NCAA Tournament in Salt Lake City.

Fr. Frank Case, S.J. (Gonzaga photo by Rajah Bose)

Fr. Frank Case, S.J. (Gonzaga photo by Rajah Bose)

While Gonzaga students are on spring break this week, The Bulldog restaurant in the John J. Hemmingson Center on campus is bustling and serving up corned beef and cabbage specials along with Irish beef stew.

St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland, died on this day in the year 493, according to The Catholic Encyclopedia, (some sources say he died in 460 or 461).

Fr. Cataldo was born on this day in 1837 in the town of Terrasini on the Italian island of Sicily. He was the first of a long line of overachieving Zags. Chronically frail in health and supposedly ill-suited to missionary work, Gonzaga’s founder was relentless in his efforts to establish a boys’ school on the frontier that evolved to become Gonzaga University. He is a figure that continues to amaze and inspire researchers. Fr. Cataldo became a dominant force in the region and was appointed General Superior of the Rocky Mountain Mission in 1877 before founding Gonzaga 10 years later.

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