Mitty, John Joseph

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Fourth archbishop of San Francisco, Calif.; b. New York City, Jan. 20, 1884; d. Menlo Park, Calif., Oct. 15, 1961. He was the son of John and Mary (Murphy) Mitty and was orphaned at an early age. After an early education at the St. Joseph's School and the De La Salle Institute, he graduated (1901) from Manhattan College, New York City. From 1901 to 1906 he attended St. Joseph's Seminary, Yonkers, N.Y., and he was ordained on Dec. 22, 1906; he was the first graduate of that institution to be consecrated a bishop, and he himself ordained more than 700 priests and consecrated seven bishops. He pursued graduate studies at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., and the Lateran Seminary, Rome, receiving a doctorate in sacred theology in 1908. After advanced studies in psychology at the University of Munich, Germany, he returned to New York (1909), where he was assigned briefly as a curate at St. Veronica's Church. In the same year he joined the faculty of St. Joseph's Seminary as professor of theology, enjoying the life of a scholar until 1917, when he joined the U.S. Army. He served as chaplain with the 49th and 101st regiments at Camp Merritt, N.J., and in France, where he participated in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. After the war he was appointed pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Highland Falls, N.Y., and chaplain of the cadet corps at West Point. His second pastorate was at St. Luke's Church, Bronx, N.Y., from 1922 to June 21, 1926, when Pius XI appointed him bishop of Salt Lake City, Utah. He was consecrated the following September 8, the youngest bishop in the country at that time. He served as ordinary of the Utah diocese until Jan. 29, 1932, when he was named coadjutor archbishop of San Francisco; he succeeded to the see when Archbishop Edward J. hanna resigned on March 2, 1935.

Mitty's previous career fitted him well for the huge task that awaited him in rapidly growing San Francisco. His arrival there coincided with an economic depression that stunted the growth of facilities necessary to maintain a living church. Then World War II, with San Francisco the major port for Pacific operations, gave a new direction to the sociological, cultural, political, and spiritual development of the archdiocese. The great westward migration that hit flood stage with four million newcomers during the war years brought an increase in the Catholic body from 405,000 Catholics in 1935 to more than 1,121,500 in 1961. Mitty founded 85 new parishes and directed the completion of 563 major building projects, including 120 new churches, 119 new elementary schools, 13 high schools, 28 youth centers, and 27 diocesan buildings, including orphanages, retreat houses, general hospitals, and an enlarged junior seminary. During his tenure, the number of priests serving the archdiocese increased from 667 to 1,197, and the number of children in Catholic schools rose from 27,257 to 100,681. The total number of youth under religious instruction in 1961 was 220,397, an increase of 164,783. This increase was due to the new concept of the School of Religion in the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine program, which Mitty started and which has since become widely accepted in many parts of the world.

Mitty was one of the first prelates in the United States to inaugurate a specialized postgraduate training for his clergy; all diocesan departments were headed by priests trained especially for the purpose and with appropriate degrees. He also anticipated many pastoral projects that later became common practices in U.S. dioceses, pioneering in the work of counseling in the social services and initiating a series of monthly spiritual hours of direction for the nuns in the archdiocese. He was one of the first to organize "flying squads" of priests to care for migrant workers, and he lost no time in integrating schools throughout the archdiocese. When television was in its infancy, he plunged immediately into the establishment of a weekly diocesan-produced program. Ecumenicalminded, he was instrumental in having accepted nationally the ceremony of "mixed marriages" held in the parish church. He provided summer schools for the education of his priests in the social encyclicals long before such activities became popular. He insisted that his seminarians spend their summers in some form of apostolic work that he himself provided through camps, catechetics, and census-taking. When the United Nations was founded in San Francisco, Mitty organized the greatest act of citizen participation in the initial days of the United Nations with a Mass at which he was joined by 10,000 of his flock.

Bibliography: Archives, Archdiocese of San Francisco.

[w. j. tappe]