O'Hara, John Francis

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Cardinal; b. Ann Arbor, Mich., May 1, 1888; d. Philadelphia, Pa., Aug. 28, 1960. As the son of John and Eleanor (Thornton) O'Hara, he received his early education in the parochial grade school and public high school of Peru, Ind., where his father was a practicing lawyer. Later he studied at the Collegio de Sagrada Corazon in Montevideo, Uruguay, where his father served as American consul. On returning to the U.S., he entered the University of Notre Dame, Ind., where he taught Spanish while earning his bachelor of philosophy degree. He entered the novitiate of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Aug. 15, 1912, made his first profession Sept. 14, 1914, and was ordained in Indianapolis, Ind., on Sept. 9, 1916, by Bp. Joseph Chartrand. He spent the first year of his priesthood in historical studies at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., followed by a summer at the Wharton School of Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. In September 1917 he returned to Notre Dame University and established a department of commerce in response to the increased enrollment of prospective businessmen in the university. With O'Hara as dean, this became the College of Commerce in 1920.

In his priestly activities, O'Hara began to manifest the same zeal in administering the Sacraments that he had shown as a builder of the business school. While acting as a counselor to the students, he urged them to take advantage of the possibility of frequent and even daily Holy Communion, which had been revived by the decrees of Pius X. He was made prefect of religion and gave up his deanship to devote his time to this work and to teaching some classes in religion. Despite the increasing enrollment in the university after World War I, he literally became acquainted with nearly every one of the 2,000 or more students. To reach them, he began to post and later to distribute a one-page religious bulletin in which he combined criticism of student weaknesses with strong inspiration. In 1933, when Rev. Charles O'Donnell, CSC, President of Notre Dame University, became fatally ill, O'Hara was appointed acting president. He was elected president the following year. His presidency was signalized by the increase and advancement of the faculty, the erection of new buildings, and the expansion of undergraduate work. On Dec. 11, 1939, Pius XII named him titular bishop of Milasa and military delegate to Abp. (later Cardinal) Francis Spellman of New York, Military Vicar of the Armed Forces of the U.S. O'Hara was consecrated Jan. 15, 1940, at Notre Dame by Spellman; he established headquarters in New York, where he was joined by Bp. William T. McCarty, CSSR.

Because of the draft law and the expansion of the army and navy after World War II began in Europe, the office of military delegate acquired a great importance that was increased when the U.S. entered the war in December 1941. O'Hara not only administered the central office in New York, but visited personally the camps and offices of the chaplains, administering the Sacrament of Confirmation and looking into the spiritual welfare of soldiers and sailors. He reorganized the military ordinariate, setting up eight military vicar delegates, and during the war he supervised nearly 5,000 priests who attended to the religious needs of Catholics in the Armed Forces.

On March 10, 1945, O'Hara was transferred to the See of Buffalo, N.Y., where he was installed by Spellman on May 8, 1945. During his episcopate, he renovated the cathedral church, established new parishes, introduced new religious communities, and held a National Eucharistic Congress in 1947. O'Hara was appointed to the See of Philadelphia, vacated by the death of Cardinal Dennis Dougherty on Dec. 28, 1951, and he was installed by Abp. Amleto Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate, on Jan. 9,1952. O'Hara brought to his new position the same zeal for Catholic education and for frequent reception of the Sacraments that had characterized his work as chaplain at Notre Dame University, as military delegate, and as bishop of Buffalo. He established 55 new parishes and 14 new Catholic high schools, and reorganized the administration of the archdiocesan charities. He continued his efforts to have personal contact with both clergy and laity. John XXIII made him a member of the College of Cardinals Dec. 15, 1958. Already his active career as priest and administrator had begun to weaken his health. Although frequently hampered by arthritis and other infirmities, the cardinal endeavored to meet all his commitments. He died in Philadelphia, and his body was returned to Sacred Heart Church at Notre Dame for burial.

Bibliography: Articles by t. t. mcavoy et al., in Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia 64.1 (1953) 356.

[t. t. mcavoy]