Robert John Armstrong

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Most Reverend
Robert J. Armstrong, D.D.
Bishop of Sacramento
Robert Armstrong circa 1930.jpg
Bishop Robert Armstrong in black cassock with amaranth trim, pectoral cross and zuchetto
Church Catholic Church
See Sacramento
In office January 4, 1929—January 14, 1957
Predecessor Patrick Joseph James Keane
Successor Joseph Thomas McGucken
Ordination December 10, 1910
Consecration March 12, 1929
Personal details
Born (1884-11-17)November 17, 1884
San Francisco, California
Died January 14, 1957(1957-01-14) (aged 72)
Sacramento, California

Robert John Armstrong, (November 17, 1884–January 14, 1957) was an American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church who served as the fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento[1] (which encompassed 36 Northern California counties) and was its longest serving ordinary. [2][better source needed]

Bishop Armstrong served during the Great Depression, World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War. He gave the benediction at the inauguration of Governor Frank Merriam, who was a former "farm boy".[3]


Early life, ordination and ministry[edit]

Robert Armstrong was born in San Francisco, California, and later moved with his family to the state of Washington. He studied at Gonzaga University, graduating in 1904,[4] and the Grand séminaire in Montréal, Quebec, Canada.

He was ordained a Catholic priest for the Diocese of Seattle on December 10, 1910.[5] He served as a curate in Spokane and was pastor of St. Paul's Church in Yakima, Washington from 1914-1929.[6]

Armstrong would later be transferred to the Diocese of Spokane where he eventually became the assistant pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral.[7] He was "inducted into the order" of the Knights of Columbus and became a chaplain of the order.[7] Armstrong spent 15 years in Yakima and was known as "Father Bob" and "Bishop Bob".[7]

Bishop of Sacramento, California[edit]

On January 4, 1929 Pope Pius XI named Father Armstrong the fourth bishop of the diocese located in Sacramento, California.[2][8] He was consecrated a bishop on March 12, 1929 by Bishop Edward John O'Dea of Seattle. The co-consecrators were Bishops Mathias Lenihan of Great Falls and Joseph McGrath of Baker City.[9]

During the week of August 2, 1930, Captain Michael Riordan and Armstrong hosted a lay retreat for men from the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Sacramento Valley region at a Jesuit retreat center near Los Altos, California.[10]

On Aug 29, 1932, Armstrong gave a short address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium.[11]

On January 8, 1935, Armstrong gave the benediction at the inauguration of Governor Frank Merriam, who was a "farm boy".[3]

On December 13, 1936, Armstrong travelled to Sacred Heart Church in Gridley, California to establish a men's Holy Name Society.[12] The bishop preached that its purpose was for "each man to labor for the glory of God's name."[12]

On April 8, 1940, Armstrong was the concluding speaker at a three-day Catholic Confraternity of Christian Doctrine convention in Portland, Oregon.[13] He postulated that religion "cannot enter our public schools and pupils think it of little importance when it cannot be taught as other subjects."[13]

Armstrong led his ecclesial community through the Great Depression and World War II while becoming known for his casual and approachable manner.[14] He became involved in government and legislative issues that affected Catholics. He institutionalized social work within the see and upgraded its Catholic school system.[15] After these turbulent periods, Sacramento’s population doubled in 20 years. By 1957 there were 209,281 Catholics in the diocese, a 255% increase from 1940.[14] Armstrong established over 28 new parishes.

Later life and death[edit]

On April 14, 1942, Armstrong returned to Spokane to celebrate a pontifical requiem Mass for his mother, Margaret Armstrong, who died at age 80.[16] She was a member of the St. Aloysius altar society.[16]

Armstrong's health declined in 1954. On October 26, 1955 Pope Pius XII named Bishop Joseph Thomas McGucken, an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, as Coadjutor Bishop with the right of succession.[17] Armstrong died in January 1957.[1] At his death, the diocese encompassed 36 Northern California counties.[1]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c "Bishop Dies". Florence Times. Google News. January 16, 1957. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  2. ^ a b "Diocese of Sacramento". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 23 January 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Former Farm Boy Becomes Governor". Berkeley Daily Gazette. Google News. January 8, 1935. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  4. ^ "242 Graduated From Gonzaga". Spokesman-Review. Google News. May 25, 1954. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  5. ^ "Bishop Robert John Armstrong". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 23 January 2015. 
  6. ^ Delaney, John J, Tobin, James Edward (1961). Dictionary of Catholic Biography. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. 
  7. ^ a b c "Friends Honor Newest Bishop". Spokesman-Review. Google News. March 14, 1929. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  8. ^ "Bishop Is Named For Sacramento At Rome". San Jose News. Google News. January 9, 1929. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  9. ^ "Bishop Robert John Armstrong". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 23 January 2015. 
  10. ^ "Religious Retreat Of Hibernians At Los Altos Is Held". San Jose Evening News. Google News. August 2, 1930. 
  11. ^ "Foreign War Vets Throng Sacramento". Berkeley Daily Gazette. Google News. Aug 29, 1932. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  12. ^ a b "Men Of Sacred Heart Form Society". Lyon County Reporter. Google News. December 15, 1936. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  13. ^ a b "Religion Basis Of Society, Says Catholic Speaker". Ellensburg Daily Record. Google News. April 8, 1940. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  14. ^ a b The Diocese of Sacramento enjoys a rich history…
  15. ^ Lineage of Bishops
  16. ^ a b "Son Will Say Mass for Pioneer Matron". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Google News. Apr 13, 1942. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 
  17. ^ "Bishop Named To Sacramento". Lodi News-Sentinel. Google News. October 27, 1957. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 

Episcopal succession[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Patrick Joseph James Keane
Bishop of Sacramento
Succeeded by
Joseph Thomas McGucken