Lucey, Robert Emmet

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Second archbishop of San Antonio, TX, founder of the Bishop's Committee for the Spanish Speaking; b. Los Angeles, CA, March 16, 1891; d. San Antonio, TX, Aug. 1, 1977. He was the fifth of John Lucey and Mary Nettle's eight children. Lucey's lifelong and outspoken advocacy of labor causes may be traced to an early childhood experience. When Robert was nine years old, his father, an employee of the Southern Pacific railroad, was killed in a work-related accident for which the family received only a small compensation from the company. Lucey pursued his theological studies in Rome, where he was ordained on May 14, 1916, and awarded a doctorate in theology.

Lucey returned to Los Angeles and took up the routine of a parish priest until his appointment as diocesan Director of Catholic Charities in 1920. He subsequently acknowledged that this assignment completely changed the direction of his life by giving him direct contact with the poor, an experience that evoked a firm commitment to Catholic social teachings. In 1934, he was ordained bishop of Amarillo, TX, where he remained until his 1941 installation as the sixth ordinary and second archbishop of San Antonio. Lucey remained archbishop until advanced age and conflicts with his priests over his autocratic exercise of episcopal authority forced his retirement in 1969.

Career. During a career that spanned more than four decades in the hierarchy, Lucey earned a solid reputation as a liberal on social issues. In 1941 Time magazine hailed him as the "most socially conscious New Dealer in the Roman Catholic hierarchy." In addition to his outspoken advocacy of unpopular social causes, Lucey was one of the hierarchy's staunchest supporters of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), an organization that he regarded as the apostolate of the laity par excellence because of its potential to educate informed and socially committed adult Catholics. He served on the Bishop's Committee for the CCD from 1946 to 1969.

The archbishop is further remembered for establishing and directing the Bishops' Committee for the Spanish Speaking from 1945 until 1969. Lucey used his position as chair of this committee to champion the rights of migrant farm workers. His widely publicized efforts in this area won him a 1950 appointment by President Harry Truman to a blue ribbon committee on migrant worker issues. Archbishop Lucey delivered the invocation at the presidential inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. He subsequently served as a member of President Johnson's Advisory Council for the War on Poverty and, more controversially, as a member of the observation team for the 1967 presidential elections in South Viet Nam. The later appointment came in recognition of his strong support for the Johnson administration's unpopular prosecution of the Viet Nam War.

Lucey spent his retirement years promoting the use of telecommunications and space satellites for evangelization and catechesis. In 1969 he hosted an international study week on telecommunications and catechetics that brought recognized experts from all over the world to San Antonio. The last five years of his life were marked by increasingly serious health problems that precluded the retired archbishop's active participation in public life.

Bibliography: s. e. bronder, Social Justice and Church Authority. The Public Life of Archbishop Robert E. Lucey (Philadelphia 1982). s. a. privett, Robert E. Lucey: Evangelization and Catechesis Among Hispanic Catholics (Arbor, MI 1985). v. a. yzermans, American Participation in the Second Vatican Council (New York 1967).

[s. a. privett]