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Mundelein, George William


Cardinal, third archbishop of Chicago, Ill., archdiocese; b. New York City, July 2, 1872; d. Chicago, Oct. 2, 1939. He was the only son of Francis and Mary (Goetz) Mundelein, who sent him to St. Nicholas parochial school on Manhattan's lower East Side. Because his family had only modest means, friends helped him through De La Salle Institute and Manhattan College, New York City, from which he received a B.A. degree in 1889. A fellow Classmate, Patrick J. Hayes, and he decided to study for the priesthood. It is not altogether clear why he decided to study for the neighboring Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y. He spent three years at St. Vincent's Seminary in Beatty, Pa., and completed his training at the Propaganda College, Rome. He was ordained in Rome by Bishop Charles McDonnell of Brooklyn on June 8, 1895, and celebrated his first Mass at St. Peter's Tomb.

On his return to Brooklyn, he was appointed McDonnell's associate secretary and administrator of the Lithuanian Church at Williamsburg. In December of 1897 he became diocesan chancellor, and nine years later was made a domestic prelate, an unusual distinction in those days. The Arcadia, a group of Catholic scholars known for their literary attainments, elected him to membership on April 20, 1907. At the request of McDonnell, Mundelein was named titular bishop of Loryma and auxiliary bishop of Brooklyn and consecrated on Sept. 21,

1909, in St. James Procathedral. He resigned as chancellor to become rector of the Cathedral Chapel of Queen of All Saints, where he supervised the building of a church, school, and rectory, combined in one Gothic structure. He also directed the erection of Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception, the preparatory seminary.

Archbishop of Chicago. On Dec. 9, 1915, Mundelein was chosen to be the third archbishop of chicago. Only 43 years old, he was the youngest archbishop in the United States. His enthronement in Holy Name Cathedral took place on Feb. 9, 1916, with the apostolic delegate, Archbishop Giovanni Bonzano, presiding. A civic reception followed at the Auditorium Theatre on February 13 at which the new archbishop spoke, promising to bring the name of his predecessor Archbishop James E. Quigley "permanently and prominently before every man, woman, and child in the diocese." This pledge was fulfilled three months later when a pastoral letter of May 14, 1916, announced the building of Quigley Preparatory Seminary, a project the clergy and people enthusiastically supported. While this building was under construction, Mundelein planned a major seminary, which the archdiocese had needed since August of 1868 when the seminary department of the University of St. Mary of the Lake had been closed. A site was found near Area, Ill., and when the diamond jubilee of the archdiocese and the silver jubilee of the archbishop's ordination were celebrated in April 1920, the project for a new major seminary was announced. The purse given to the archbishop for his jubilee was used to begin construction of the philosophy buildings. During the next 14 years St. Mary of the Lake Seminary added 14 buildings in Georgian architecture to its plant on the shores of Lake Eara in Lake County. In 1924 the town of Area changed its name to Mundelein, and the school became known as Mundelein Seminary. Ten years later, the Congregation of Seminaries and Universities recognized St. Mary of the Lake Seminary as a pontifical faculty of theology with the privilege of conferring the doctorate in theology. Mundelein always took special interest in the seminary and collected rare books, manuscripts, autographs, coins, vestments, chalices, and pictures for its museum, library, and chapels.

Another of Mundelein's notable accomplishments was the organization of Catholic Charities in March of 1918, by which he united the diverse charitable activities of the archdiocese and prompted support for them. He never forgot that he had been a poor boy and always expressed affection for the underprivileged. Each year at Christmas he personally paid for a complete outfit of clothing and shoes for 100 needy children. Toward the end of his life he said to the members of the Holy Name Society: "The trouble with us in the past has been that we were too often allied or drawn into an alliance with the wrong side. Selfish employers of labor have flattered the Church by calling it a great conservative force, and then called upon it to act as a police force when they paid but a pittance of wages to those who worked for them. I hope that day is gone by. Our place is beside the poor, behind the working man."

Cardinal. All Chicago rejoiced at the news on March 2, 1924, that its archbishop would be elevated to the College of Cardinals in the consistory of March 24. When Mundelein was in Rome to receive the red hat, he began preparations to hold the 28th International Eucharistic Congress in Chicago from June 20 to 24, 1926. More than a million Catholics, including 12 cardinals, 64 archbishops, 309 bishops, 500 monsignors, and 8,000 priests made this congress one of the greatest religious demonstrations ever witnessed in the United States. In 1928, when Pope Pius XI appealed for help in building the new Propaganda College in Rome, Mundelein responded with a check for $1,500,000, underwritten by the generous mission contributions of his priests and people. In 1934 he celebrated his episcopal silver jubilee in Rome, where he purchased a building for the Collegio S. Maria del Lago, a house for postgraduate students. Three years later on May 18, 1937, he condemned the religious persecution undertaken by Hitler and the Nazi party. His description of the Fuehrer as "an Austrian paperhanger" brought protests at the Vatican and Washington.

A personal friendship developed between Mundelein and president Franklin D. Roosevelt. When the new Outer Drive Bridge, Chicago, was dedicated on Oct. 5, 1937, the President was his luncheon guest. In October of 1938 Mundelein served as papal legate to the eighth national Eucharistic Congress in New Orleans, La. While in Rome to report to Pope Pius XI, he celebrated the beatification Mass for Frances Xavier cabrini, whose funeral Mass he had offered in Chicago in 1917. After the death of Pope Pius XI in February of 1939, Mundelein participated in the conclave that elected Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli as Pope Pius XII on March 2, 1939. Seven months later Cardinal Mundelein died suddenly of a coronary thrombosis and was buried in a crypt behind the main altar in the seminary that bears his name.

Bibliography: p. r. martin, comp., The First Cardinal of the West (Chicago 1934). e. t. regan, One Hundred Years: The History of the Church of the Holy Name (Chicago 1949). g. w. mundelein, Letters of a Bishop to His Flock (New York 1927).

[h. c. koenig]

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