Rausch, James

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Bishop, Church official; b. Albany, Minn., Sept. 4, 1928; d. Phoenix, Ariz., May 18, 1981. He was the son of a storekeeper in a small rural community and was educated at Crosier Seminary, Onamia, Minn., and St. John's Seminary, Collegeville. Following his ordination as a priest of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minn., on June 2, 1956, he fulfilled several parochial assignments while serving as instructor at Cathedral High School. He pursued graduate studies in education at the College of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn., and received his doctoral degree in pastoral sociology from the Gregorian University, Rome, in 1969.

In 1967 Rausch was named an associate of the Justice and Peace Commission of the United States Catholic Conference (USCC). At the beginning of 1970, he became its assistant general secretary and was unanimously elected general secretary of both the USCC and NCCB December 1972. He was ordained a bishop by John Cardinal Krol in St. John's Abbey Church, Collegeville, as an auxiliary of the bishop of St. Cloud while continuing to serve as general secretary of the USCC and NCCB.

Rausch brought his direct and incisive leadership ability to his new post. He spoke extensively on the role of the Church in the areas of civil and human rights, political involvement of the Church in moral concerns, and the decisive role of the Catholic laity in both political and ecclesiastical life. He was a leading figure in the "Call to Action" convention of the Catholic laity that met in Detroit in 1979. He was recognized as one of the promising young bishops of the U.S. advocating the major social concerns of the times. In this cause he met opposition from the conservative wing of the Catholic Church of that period, both lay and clerical.

Installed as the second bishop of Phoenix, Ariz. on March 22, 1977, Rausch brought his pastoral zeal to bear on the issues of poverty, discrimination, civil and human rights. He was a vigorous advocate of the underprivileged, resulting in an unfortunate alienation of some of the more conservative and affluent members of his flock.

He died of a sudden heart attack at a shopping center in Phoenix. During his brief tenure as bishop of Phoenix he ordained eighteen priests, established seven new parishes, and supervised the building of six homes for the aged. He performed a prophetic role in providing for the future of the diocese which, unfortunately, was not recognized by many of his clergy and people. In the exercise of his episcopal office he proved to be a man ahead of his time.

[v. a. yzermans]