Ralph Leo Hayes

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Most Reverend
Ralph L. Hayes, STD
Bishop of Davenport
Bishop Ralph Hayes.jpg
Church Catholic Church
Appointed November 16, 1944
In office January 11, 1945 – October 20, 1966
Predecessor Henry Patrick Rohlman
Successor Gerald Francis O'Keefe
Ordination September 19, 1909
by Pietro Respighi
Consecration September 21, 1933
by Hugh Charles Boyle
Personal details
Born (1884-09-21)September 21, 1884
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died July 5, 1970(1970-07-05) (aged 85)
Davenport, Iowa
Previous post Bishop of Helena
Titular Bishop of Hieropolis
Rector of the North American College
Motto Opere et veritate
(In action and truth)

Ralph Leo Hayes (September 21, 1884 – July 5, 1970) was a 20th-century bishop of the Catholic Church in the United States. He served as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Helena in the state of Montana from 1933–1935, and as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Davenport in the state of Iowa from 1944–1966. Between those two appointments he served as the rector of the Pontifical North American College from 1935–1944.


Early life & Ministry[edit]

Hayes was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Patrick Nagle and Mary Jane (O’Donnell) Hayes. He received his high school and college education at Holy Ghost College (now Duquesne University). He played on the school football, basketball and baseball teams while in college, and in the summer on a semi-pro baseball team. He studied for the priesthood at the Pontifical North American College and the University of the Congregation of Propagation of the Faith in Rome. He was ordained a priest there by Cardinal Pietro Respighi for the Diocese of Pittsburgh on September 19, 1909. He initially served in a parish before he was appointed to the diocesan mission band where he eventually served as its director. From 1917–1925 he was superintendent of schools for the Pittsburgh Diocese. He then spent seven years as pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Pittsburgh doing what he called ‘’real priest’s work.” [1]

Bishop of Helena[edit]

On June 23, 1933, Pope Pius XI appointed Hayes as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Helena and he was consecrated bishop on September 21, 1933 by Bishop Hugh C. Boyle of Pittsburgh. The principal co-consecrators were Bishops James A. Griffin of Springfield in Illinois and Alphonse J. Smith of Nashville.[2] Both co-consecrators were classmates of his in Rome.[3] He served the diocese as its bishop for two years.[4]

North American College[edit]

On October 26, 1935 he was appointed Titular Bishop of Hieropolis and rector of the Pontifical North American College.[2] With the onset of World War II Pope Pius XII chose to temporarily close the national seminaries and Hayes returned to Pittsburgh. While in Pittsburgh, Hayes continued to look after the financial and other business matters relating to the college. He also assisted Bishop Boyle in his episcopal responsibilities.[5]

Bishop of Davenport[edit]

On November 16, 1944 Pope Pius XII appointed Bishop Hayes as fifth bishop of the Diocese of Davenport.[2] He was installed in Sacred Heart Cathedral on January 11, 1945. Pius XII also appointed him Assistant at the Pontifical Throne on April 30, 1958.[6]

During his 22 years in Davenport there was an expansion to school facilities across the diocese.[7] Muscatine Central Catholic High School (now closed) in Muscatine (1953), Notre Dame High School in Burlington (1957), Regina High School in Iowa City (1958), Assumption High School in Davenport (1958), Aquinas High School (now Holy Trinity) in Fort Madison (1959), Walsh High School (now closed) in Ottumwa (1960), and Cardinal Stritch High School (now closed) in Keokuk (1965) were all established.[8] Many of these communities had been served by parish high schools, while Davenport's new high school was a merger of St Ambrose and Immaculate Conception academies. New buildings were also added at St. Ambrose, Marycrest and Mt. St. Claire Colleges. The four bishops of Iowa built Mt. St. Bernard’s Seminary in Dubuque.

Hayes Hall (left) and Christ the King Chapel at St. Ambrose University. The chapel was built when Hayes was bishop.

Enrollment in the Catholic Schools reached their highest enrollments during Bishop Hayes’ episcopate. Elementary school enrollment reached its highest mark in 1960 at 12, 074. The high schools reached their highest mark in 1965 with 4,129 students.[9]

There was also an expansion in facilities to care for the elderly. The Kahl Home for the Aged and Infirmed in Davenport, which is operated by the Carmelite Sisters, built a new building. New facilities were established in Burlington (St. Francis) and Clinton (Alverno).

The church’s social teachings was a theme that ran throughout Bishop Hayes’ episcopacy. A four-day conference sponsored by the National Catholic Welfare Council was held in Davenport in 1949. It focused on the themes of industry, education and rural life. From 1954–1956 Bishop Hayes served as the president of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.[10] Their national convention was held in Davenport in 1956. The Papal Volunteers of Latin America were established in the diocese in February 1961 in response to a plea from Pope John XXIII. Rev. Luis Colonnese, who would later become Director of the Latin American Bureau of the United States Catholic Conference, was put in charge. Fundraising was led by the Knights of Columbus, and Johnny Lujack, who was responsible for a special gift drive. For the most part, missionaries from the diocese went to Cuernavaca, Mexico or to Ponce, Puerto Rico.[11] The Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award was created by the Davenport Catholic Interracial Council in 1964 in commemoration of the 1963 encyclical Pacem in terris by Pope John.

Bishop Hayes attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council. He was the oldest bishop from the United States at the council.[12] The Catholic Messenger published the decrees of the council in their entirety in the paper. Liturgical renewal was already underway in the diocese under the direction of the Rev. Cletus Madsen. In the 1950s he had been working on reforming liturgical music in the diocese by advocating the replacement of the more sentimental devotional music with liturgical music and participation by the laity. He also advocated teaching children Gregorian Chant so as to lead the congregation in singing.[13] Work had also begun, under Bishop Hayes’ direction, to establish a Priests’ Senate.

Later life & Death[edit]

On his 82nd birthday, September 21, 1966, Bishop Hayes submitted his resignation to the Holy See in compliance with the Vatican II decree Christus Dominus. His resignation was the first such resignation accepted by Pope Paul VI.[12] On October 20, 1966 he was named Titular Bishop of Naraggara and Bishop Emeritus of Davenport. He retired to the Kahl Home.[12] He died there in 1970 at the age of 85. Following his funeral in Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bishop Hayes was laid to rest in the Bishop's Circle of Mt. Calvary Cemetery.


Hayes Hall, the former seminary building and now an academic building at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, and Bishop Hayes School in Muscatine, Iowa are named in his honor.


  1. ^ Schmidt, Madeleine M. (1981). Seasons of Growth: History of the Diocese of Davenport. Davenport, Iowa: Diocese of Davenport. p. 221. 
  2. ^ a b c "Bishop Ralph Leo Hayes". www.catholic-hierarchy.org. Retrieved 2009-07-31. [self-published source]
  3. ^ Schmidt, 221
  4. ^ "History". www.diocesehelena.org. Retrieved 2009-07-31. 
  5. ^ Schmidt, 220
  6. ^ The Official Catholic Directory. New Providence, New Jersey: P.J. Kenedy & Sons. 2009. p. 362. 
  7. ^ Dawson, W.F (1967). New Catholic Encyclopedia. vol. 4. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 656. 
  8. ^ Schmidt, 258-9
  9. ^ Schmidt, 316
  10. ^ Schmidt, 224
  11. ^ Schmidt, 244
  12. ^ a b c Schmidt, 241
  13. ^ Schmidt, 228-9

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
George Joseph Finnigan
Bishop of Helena
Succeeded by
Joseph Michael Gilmore
Academic offices
Preceded by
Eugene S. Burke
Rector of the Pontifical North American College
Succeeded by
J. Gerald Kealy
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Henry Rohlman
Bishop of Davenport
Succeeded by
Gerald Francis O'Keefe