Noll, John Francis

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Bishop and editor; b. Fort Wayne, Indiana, Jan. 25, 1875; d. Huntington, Indiana, July 31, 1956. Son of John G. and Anna (Ford) Noll. After completing his studies at St. Lawrence College, Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin, Noll attended Mt. St. Mary's Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was ordained for the Diocese of Fort Wayne by Bp. Joseph Rademacher in June 4, 1898. After two years as curate in various parishes, he became pastor at Kendallville, Indiana, in 1900, and of St. Mary's in Huntington, Indiana, in July of 1910, remaining there until he was named bishop of Fort Wayne. While pastor at Besancon, Indiana, Noll's interest in apostolic work among non-Catholics led him to publish a booklet, Kind Words from Your Pastor, in 1904. At Hartford City, Indiana, in 1908, he began a parish magazine that was later printed for hundreds of parishes as The Family Digest. In 1912, in answer to the Menace and other anti-Catholic papers, he began to publish a four-page paper, Our Sunday Visitor.

Despite his other activities, he never ceased to be a writer and editor. To inform non-Catholics, he produced Father Smith Instructs Jackson (1913) and The Fairest Argument (1914). In 1925 he founded the magazine Acolyte, which in 1945 became the Priest. His pamphlets, numbering approximately 150, embraced such titles as The Catholic Church vs. the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ, A Catechism on Birth Control, Instructing Non-Catholics before Marriage, and The Parochial School, Why? His longer books included A Vest Pocket of Catholic Facts (1927), The Decline of Nations (1940), and Our National Enemy Number One, Education without Religion (1942). In 1941 he added a second volume to the History of the Diocese of Fort Wayne begun by his predecessor, Bp. Herman J. Alerding, in 1907.

Noll was made domestic prelate in 1923, was named bishop of Fort Wayne May 12, 1925, and was consecrated by Cardinal George W. Mundelein June 30, 1925. Noll derserves credit for introducing into the diocese the Redemptorists (1927), the Capuchins (1928), the Slovak Franciscans (1929), the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (1934), the Society of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (1935), and the Crosier Fathers (1938). He reorganized Central Catholic High School, Fort Wayne, as a coeducational institution in 1938. He opened Bishop Noll High School in Hammond and St. Joseph High School in South Bend, Indiana, and established a minor seminary for the diocese at Lake Wawasee under the Crosier Fathers.

Nationally, Noll was one of the founders of the Catholic Press Association. He was one of the original members of the episcopal committee that formed the Legion of Decency to combat immorality in motion pictures, and he acted as the first chairman of the National Organization for Decent Literature. He was a member of the Board of Catholic Missions for more than 25 years. He devoted much time to the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC), especially as a member of the conference's executive committee, chairman of its Department of Catholic Action, and chairman of its Committee of the Department of Lay Organizations. In this last capacity, he gave aid and direction to the National Council of Catholic Men and the National Council of Catholic Women. Among his other activities and offices was chairmanship of the National Committee on a Religious Census, which sought inclusion of religious affiliations in the Federal census. He raised $125,000, chiefly through Our Sunday Visitor, to erect a statue of Christ as the Light of the World at the NCWC Building in Washington, D.C. Pius XII made Noll an assistant to the papal throne March 14, 1941, and personal archbishop Sept. 2, 1953.

[t. t. mcavoy]