Joseph Rummel

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The Most Reverend

Joseph Francis Rummel
Archbishop Emeritus of New Orleans
ProvinceNew Orleans
SeeNew Orleans
InstalledMarch 9, 1935
Term endedNovember 8, 1964
PredecessorJohn William Shaw
SuccessorJohn Patrick Cardinal Cody
James Hugh Ryan
Other postsbishop of the Diocese of Omaha, Nebraska (March 30, 1928 - March 9, 1935)
OrdinationMay 24, 1902
Personal details
Born(1876-10-14)October 14, 1876
Steinmauern in the Grand Duchy of Baden, German Empire
DiedNovember 8, 1964(1964-11-08) (aged 88)
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
BuriedCathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
Alma materSt. Boniface Parochial School
Saint Anselm College
Seminary studies in Rome
Motto"Animam pro ovibus ponere" -- "To give one's life for the sheep"
Ordination history of
Joseph Rummel
Episcopal consecration
Consecrated byPatrick Joseph Hayes (New York)
DateMay 29, 1928
Episcopal succession
Bishops consecrated by Joseph Rummel as principal consecrator
Charles Pasquale GrecoFebruary 25, 1946
Louis Abel CaillouetOctober 28, 1947

Joseph Francis Rummel (October 14, 1876 – November 8, 1964) was bishop of the Diocese of Omaha, Nebraska (March 30, 1928 – March 9, 1935) and Archbishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans (March 9, 1935 – November 8, 1964).

Early life[edit]

Joseph Francis Rummel was born in the village of Steinmauern in the Grand Duchy of Baden, German Empire, on October 14, 1876. His family immigrated to the United States when he was six years old. Like many recent German immigrants, the Rummels settled in the Yorkville District of Manhattan in New York City. [1] Joseph Rummel attended St. Boniface Parochial School, which was later demolished and is now the location of the United Nations Building.[2] He attended St. Mary's College, a Redemptorist minor seminary in North East, Pennsylvania, which is now part of Mercyhurst College. He graduated from the Benedictine Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire, in one of its first graduation classes, as it was founded in 1889.[3]

Priest of New York[edit]

After seminary studies in Rome, he was ordained to the priesthood at the Basilica of St. John Lateran on May 24, 1902. [4] Fr. Rummel returned to the Archdiocese of New York and served as a parish priest in several parishes around the city for the next 25 years. [5]

Bishop of Omaha[edit]

He was named the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Omaha, Nebraska, on Mar. 30, 1928, where he served for seven years. [6]

Archbishop of New Orleans[edit]

Rummel was named as the ninth archbishop of the Archdiocese of New Orleans on March 9, 1935. He succeeded the recently deceased Archbishop John Shaw. [7] Rummel transferred to New Orleans during the Great Depression. At the time, cities in the United States, including New Orleans, were rapidly urbanizing, as farmers flocked to the city in search of factory jobs. Also, recent European immigrants, many of whom were Catholic, were also settling in the city. The population of the city rapidly expanded, as did the need for community services, especially schools. Over the next thirty years, the Catholic population in the Archdiocese would double to over 762,000, and the number of students in Catholic schools grew from fewer than 40,000 to over 85,000. [2] [8]

During Rummel's episcopacy, 45 new church parishes were created throughout the archdiocese, increasing the number of parishes from 135 to 180. In 1945 he launched the Youth Progress Program, a major initiative to raise money for the expansion of the parochial school system. This program resulted in the construction of 70 new Catholic schools, including several new high schools. Saint Augustine High School in Orleans Parish was built in 1951; Archbishop Shaw, Archbishop Chapelle, Archbishop Blenk, and Archbishop Rummel, all in Jefferson Parish, were built in 1962. [2] [5]

In 1935, Rummel mandated the creation of CCD programs in every parish. He streamlined the accounting procedures of the archdiocese. And he created new lay organizations to support an expansion of the many charity programs within the archdiocese. [2] [5]

In October 1960, at the age of eighty-three, Rummel broke an arm and a leg in a fall, after which he nearly died from pneumonia. Rummel recovered and continued to serve as archbishop for another four years, but his health was a recurring concern during the last few years of his life. He was given a coadjutor, John Cody, in 1961. [1]

The desegregation of the archdiocese[edit]

Rummel spent most of his tenure in New Orleans expanding the parochial school system. However, he is perhaps best remembered for his controversial decision to desegregate the archdiocese, including the Catholic schools. All of the Southern States, including Louisiana and the city of New Orleans, had been racially segregated by law since the failure of Reconstruction in the 1870s. Like the rest of the city, church parishes and schools within the Archdiocese were also segregated. The community had accepted segregation as a normal part of life. [9]

The city of New Orleans has always had a large population of black Catholics.[10] Previous archbishops, such as Archbishop Francis Janssens and Archbishop James Blenk, established dedicated schools for black children in an attempt to improve the educational opportunities for black parishioners. But the segregated parochial school system suffered from the same problems with underfunding and low standards as the segregated public school system. No archbishop attempted to desegregate the Archdiocese until the Civil Rights Movement began after the end of the Second World War. [5]

Once the movement did begin, Rummel embraced the cause of racial equality. He admitted two black students to the Notre Dame Seminary in 1948. He ordered the removal of "white" and "colored" signs from churches in 1951.[9] That year he opened Saint Augustine High School, the first high school dedicated to the higher education of young black men in the history of the archdiocese. [11] And in 1953, he issued "Blessed Are the Peacemakers", the pastoral letter that officially ordered the end to segregation in the entire Archdiocese: [5]

"Ever mindful, therefore, of the basic truth that our Colored Catholic brethren share with us the same spiritual life and destiny, the same membership in the Mystical Body of Christ, the same dependence upon the Word of God, the participation in the Sacraments, especially the Most Holy Eucharist, the same need of moral and social encouragement,
let there be no further discrimination or segregation in the pews, at the Communion rail, at the confessional and in parish meetings, just as there will be no segregation in the kingdom of heaven."
Rummel, Most Reverend Joseph Francis.
"Blessed Are the Peacemakers." Pastoral letter 15. 1953.

The letter was read in every church in every parish of the archdiocese. Some parishioners organized protests against the diocesan order. Rummel closed a church in 1955 when its members began protesting the assignment of a black priest to their parish. [1] He issued another pastoral letter the following year, reiterating the incompatibility of segregation with the doctrines of the Catholic Church. [9]

"Racial segregation as such is morally wrong and sinful because it is a denial of the unity and solidarity of the human race as conceived by God in the creation of Adam and Eve."
Rummel, Most Reverend Joseph Francis.
"The Morality of Racial Segregation." Pastoral letter. Feb. 1956.

But most parishioners reluctantly accepted the desegregation of church parishes. The situation was very different for school desegregation. The United States Supreme Court issued its Brown v. Topeka Board of Education decision on May 17, 1954, declaring segregated schools unconstitutional and reversing all state laws which had established them. [5] [12]

We conclude that, in the field of public education, the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.
Warren, Earl. Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. May 17, 1954.

The Louisiana State Legislature promptly passed Act 555 and Act 556, protecting its segregated public school system from being dismantled by the Supreme Court. Both acts were rendered unconstitutional by Judge J. Skelly Wright, a federal judge from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in New Orleans, in the case Earl Benjamin Bush v. Orleans Parish School Board on February 1956. Nevertheless, the Orleans Parish School Board and neighboring parish school boards vowed to postpone desegregating their public schools indefinitely. [5] [13]

Archbishop Rummel praised Brown v. Board of Education, but he was reluctant to desegregate his own parochial school system. He had announced his intention to desegregate the Catholic schools as early as 1956. However, most archdiocesan parish school boards had voted against desegregation. After Bush v. Parish School Board, some parents had transferred their students from public schools to parochial schools to avoid desegregation. A few local Catholics sent a petition to Pope Pius XII, requesting a papal decree supporting segregation. The papacy responded by describing racism as a major evil. [5] [9]

There was also a very real threat that the Louisiana State Legislature would withhold funding from parochial schools if they desegregated. The State of Louisiana funded free textbooks, reduced-price lunches, and free buses for all students in the state, even students attending parochial schools. This was a legacy of Huey Long's Share Our Wealth program, and it still exists to this day. [5] [14]

But by 1962, Judge Wright had issued a barrage of court orders neutralizing the Orleans Parish School Board's attempts at evading the Supreme Court. A handful of black students were already being admitted into previously all white public schools. Archbishop Rummel formally announced the end of segregation in the New Orleans parochial school system on March 27, 1962. The 1962-1963 school year would be the first integrated school year in the history of the archdiocese. [5] [9]

White segregationists were outraged. Politicians organized "Citizens' Councils", held public protests, and initiated letter writing campaigns. Parents threatened to transfer their children to public schools or even boycott the entire school year. Rummel issued numerous letters to individual Catholics, pleading for their cooperation and explaining his decision. He even went so far as to threaten opponents of desegregation with excommunication, the most severe censure of the Church. The threats were enough to convince most segregationist Catholics into standing down. Nevertheless, some parishioners continued to organize protests. [5] [15]

On April 16, 1962, the Monday before Easter, he excommunicated three local Catholics for defying the authority of the Church and organizing protests against the archdiocese.[16] The first of the three was Judge Leander Perez, 70, a parish judge from St. Bernard Parish, who called on Catholics to withhold donations to the Archdiocese and to boycott Sunday church collections. The second was Jackson G. Ricau, 44, political commentator, segregationist writer, and director of the "Citizens Council of South Louisiana". The third was Una Gaillot, 41, mother of two, housewife, and president of "Save Our Nation Inc.". [5] [17] The excommunications made national headlines and had the tacit support of the papacy.[1] Perez and Ricau were reinstated into the Church after public retractions. [5]

A few months later, the 1963 school year began on September 1962. A handful of black students were admitted to previously all-white Catholic schools. Earlier threats of boycotts and mass student transfers to public schools never materialized. No violence took place between whites and the black students. Parents and students grudgingly surrendered to Rummel's decision, and racial segregation in the Archdiocese quietly faded from memory. [5]

Second Vatican Council[edit]

By October 1962, Rummel was eighty-six years old, in declining health, and almost completely blind from glaucoma. [1] Nevertheless, he left New Orleans for Vatican City to attend the first session of the Second Vatican Council. [2]

Archbishop Joseph Rummel died in New Orleans on November 9, 1964, at the age of eighty-eight. He was succeeded by John Cody, the Coadjutor Archbishop (1961–1964). Archbishop Rummel is interred under the sanctuary at Saint Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter. [18]

"Animam pro ovibus ponere" -- to give one's life for the sheep.[edit]

Archbishop Rummel was the Archbishop of New Orleans for twenty-nine years, through a world war and the beginning of the Civil Rights era. His Youth Progress Program had a profound impact on education in the city of New Orleans. And his leadership ended racial segregation in the churches and the schools of the archdiocese.

Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie is named after him. [2]


  1. ^ a b c d e Time Magazine. "The Archbishop Stands Firm." Friday, Apr. 27, 1962. Pages 45-46.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Archbishop Rummel High School. Biography of Archbishop Rummel.
  3. ^ St. Petersburg Times. "The Archbishop Dies - 88." Friday, Nov. 9, 1964
  4. ^ Cheney, David M. Catholic Hierarchy Website.[self-published source]
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n John Smestad Jr. Loyola University, New Orleans. The Role of Archbishop Joseph F. Rummel in the Desegregation of Catholic Schools in New Orleans. 1994.
  6. ^ "The Archdiocese of Omaha". Archdiocese of Omaha. Retrieved 2018-08-06.
  7. ^ Archdiocese of New Orleans. "Bishops and Archbishops". Archived 2006-10-08 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Nolan, Charles E. A History of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. "World War II and the Post-War Years 1941-1965". May 2001.
  9. ^ a b c d e Finney, Peter. Clarion Herald. "Lay persons launched 1961 desegregation drive". Archived from the original on February 17, 2005. Retrieved 2006-10-23.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link). Jan. 18, 2001.
  10. ^ Saint Augustine Church, Faubourg Tremé, New Orleans.
  11. ^ Clarion Herald. "St. Aug celebrates 50 years of education." August 30, 2001.
  12. ^ Warren, Earl. Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Cornell Law School. Brown v. Topeka Board of Education.
  13. ^ Devore, Donald E., and Logsdon, Joseph. Crescent City Schools. Jul. 1991. ISBN 0-940984-66-0. Pages 235-236.
  14. ^ Time Magazine. "Spirit v. Reality." Friday, Mar. 3, 1961.
  15. ^ Time Magazine. "Squeeze in New Orleans." Friday, Apr. 13, 1962.
  16. ^ Times-Picayune. "Church Excommunicates Leander Perez, 2 Others." April 16, 1962. Sec. A:1.
  17. ^ Nolan, Bruce. "The blow fell just before Easter 1962, in a city attuned to the solemn rhythms of traditional Catholicism." Aug. 3, 2004.
  18. ^ Saint Louis Cathedral "Archbishop Rummel, Ninth Archbishop". Archived 2006-10-11 at the Wayback Machine


Further reading
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
John Shaw
Archbishop of New Orleans
Succeeded by
John Cody
Preceded by
Jeremiah James Harty
Bishop of Omaha
Succeeded by
Archbishop James Hugh Ryan