Stritch, Samuel Alphonsus
STRITCH, SAMUEL ALPHONSUS
Cardinal archbishop of Chicago; b. Nashville, Tenn., Aug. 17, 1887; d. Rome, May 27, 1958. He was the seventh of eight children of Garrett Stritch, a native of Ireland, and of Katherine (Malley) Stritch, born in America of Irish parents. After graduating at 14 from high school, he attended St. Gregory's Minor Seminary in Cincinnati for two years, the American College in Rome for six, and the Urban College of Propaganda, where he received the doctorate in philosophy (1906) and theology (1910). He was ordained, under canonical age, at St. John Lateran, Rome, by Cardinal Pietro Respighi on May 21, 1910. On returning to the U.S., he was assistant pastor first of Assumption Church in Nashville, then of St. Patrick's in Memphis. He was appointed secretary to Bp. Thomas S. Byrne in 1916 and chancellor of the diocese two years later; he was also superintendent of schools and rector of the Nashville cathedral.
On Aug. 10, 1921, he was named bishop of Toledo, succeeding Joseph Schrembs, first bishop of the 11-year-old see, and was consecrated on November 30 by Abp. Henry Moeller of Cincinnati. The youngest member of the American episcopate, he proved to be a capable administrator and educator. In 1924 he opened the first diocesan teachers' college in the country and in 1928, Central High School, which he staffed by bringing together members of several religious orders, a novel idea at that time. In 1926 he initiated construction of Holy Rosary Cathedral; 24 other churches were built in Toledo during his tenure. After the death of Milwaukee's fourth archbishop, Sebastian messmer, Stritch was promoted to that metropolitan see on Aug. 26, 1930. Faced with problems arising from the Great Depression, he acted energetically to expand Catholic charitable undertakings. He also inaugurated a comprehensive program of activities for young people of the archdiocese and introduced the Catholic Youth Organization. To strengthen the Catholic press, he negotiated a merger of the old diocesan weekly with a privately owned newspaper to form the Catholic Herald Citizen (see milwaukee, archdiocese of).
Ordinary of Chicago. On Dec. 27, 1939, Stritch was transferred to the metropolitan see of Chicago, the most populous diocese in the U.S., as successor to Cardinal George mundelein. He was installed the following March 7 by Apostolic Delegate Abp. A. G. Cicognani. One of his first actions was to reorganize the archdiocesan weekly, the New World, and to increase its circulation. He instituted the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine and directed the program of religious guidance known as the Parish High School of Religion. He promoted the postwar surge of diocesan construction and supported the Back-of-the-Yards Council and the Cardinal's Conservation Committee, both designed to improve urban living conditions. Within the framework of Catholic charities he introduced specialized services for the deaf and blind, a guidance center for children, and the Peter Maurin house for alcoholics. In 1951 he realized an ambition he had cherished for 30 years when he opened Cardinal Stritch Retreat House for diocesan priests on St. Mary of the Lake Seminary grounds. He appointed an archdiocesan commission on sacred music in 1953 and four years later set up an archdiocesan office for radio and television. From his youth he was a friend to minority groups; he founded a unit of the Catholic Interracial Council and fostered integration. To help solve problems posed by the influx of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, he established the Cardinal's Committee for the Spanish-Speaking in Chicago. In 1950 he received the Leo XIII Award of the Shell School of Social Studies for "outstanding devotion to the cause of Christian social education," and six years later an award "for bettering race relations and the cause of brotherhood" from the George Washington Carver Memorial Institute (see chicago, archdiocese of).
National Leadership. In 1935 Stritch was elected to the administrative board of the National Catholic Welfare Conference and was chairman of its Department of Catholic Action Study until 1939 when he was elected chairman of the board. After five successive terms on the board, he was ineligible in 1940, but was reelected the following year and was vice chairman and treasurer for four years, and chairman again in 1945. While archbishop of Milwaukee he had become vice chancellor of the Catholic Church Extension Society, and as archbishop of Chicago he was chancellor. In 1941 he was elected chairman of the American Board of Catholic Missions. He was also on the board of trustees of the Catholic University of America and of the North American College in Rome. He collaborated with Abp. John T. mcnicholas of Cincinnati to organize the Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs to foster emphasis on the liberal disciplines in Catholic scholarship. He was president of the board of the National Catholic Community Service (a United Service Organization agency) during World War II and visited USO clubs in many cities. After helping to create War Relief Services in 1943, he was chairman of its governing committee for a year following the war.
As chairman of the American Bishops' Special Committee on the Pope's Peace Plan, he strove to enforce Pius XII's principles, advocating justice and charity toward defeated nations. He placed great hope in the United Nations Organization, favored the Marshall Plan and other forms of foreign aid, and urged the American people to accept their responsibilities in international affairs. He supported the Catholic League for Religious Assistance to Poland and in 1948 received an award from the Friends of American Relief for Poland. He shared in founding the American Commission on Italian Migration and in 1957 was presented with Italy's highest decoration, the Grand Cross of Merit, for his efforts. In 1955 he recommended a more liberal U.S. policy in the Refugee Relief Program and relaxation of immigration restrictions, while using the facilities of his see for resettlement of displaced persons. He was awarded the Pro-Hungaria Medal of the Knights of Malta for his work with Hungarian refugees in Chicago after the 1956 revolt. He censured anti-Semitism and decried persecution of the Jews. Non-Catholics held him in esteem, and in 1958 he was awarded the Unitas Medal of St. Procopius Abbey, Lisle, Illinois, in recognition of his efforts "for the extension and preservation of Catholic unity." Shortly before the 1954 Evanston assembly of the World Council of Churches, he issued a pastoral letter (June 29, 1954) in which he forbade the clergy and laity to participate in such conferences. Alert to the dangers of Marxism and of the welfare state, he warned against extreme encroachments of government in social assistance and was opposed to the substitution of entirely public agencies for partly private charities. He considered secularism the gravest threat to the nation and frequently inveighed against a materialistic concept of life. At the same time he was zealous for social justice; he was known as a friend of organized labor and was called by labor leader George Meany "a champion of the working man."
Cardinal. In the first secret consistory held after World War II, Pius XII named him a cardinal priest along with three other U.S. archbishops and bestowed the red hat on him on Feb. 18, 1946. At his request St. Agnes Outside the Walls was designated his titular church. In 1958 he was asked by Pius XII to accept the office of proprefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, replacing the aged and nearly blind Cardinal Pietro Fumasoni-Biondi. He was the first U.S. citizen to be called to head a congregation of the Roman Curia, and the third non-Italian named to the Propaganda since its founding in 1622. Despite his consuming solicitude for home and foreign missions, it was admittedly "with a heavy heart" that he left Chicago. While en route to Rome, occlusion of the major artery of his right arm necessitated amputation upon his arrival. During recovery from surgery, he suffered a stroke that brought death within a week. After obsequies in Rome his body was flown back to Chicago and interred on June 3d in Mount Carmel Cemetery, Hillside, Illinois.
Short of stature, portly, and always slightly Southern in manner, Stritch impressed all who knew him with his kindliness, piety, and intelligence. He was an eloquent orator who could extemporize by drawing on the large store of knowledge that he kept replenished by constant reading and discussion. Although a gifted administrator, he disliked being confined to a desk and accepted numerous invitations to public functions. While he had a penetrating mind that quickly grasped all aspects of a problem, he was often slow to arrive at a decision. His fatherly, gracious concern for each individual won him the loyalty of his priests and people.
Bibliography: m. c. buehrle, The Cardinal Stritch Story (Milwaukee 1959).
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