JOSEPH ELMER CARDINAL RITTER – His Life and Times, by Monsignor Nicholas A. Schneider, was published by Liguori Publications in 2008. On the back cover, Msgr. Schneider writes the following.
“Cardinal Ritter was one of the most important prelates of the twentieth-century American Catholic Church. Before being assigned to the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Joseph Ritter served as the ordinary for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He was a forward-thinking individual who helped formulate and bring the Second Vatican Council’s changes into everyday Catholic Practice and liturgical celebrations.
His many “firsts” include the desegregation of an entire diocesan school system, sending archdiocesan priests as missionaries to South America, building a diocesan hospital dedicated solely to the health care of children, and many examples of ecumenical outreach, including being the first to deliver a major address at an American Protestant seminary.
Known for his broad pastoral sensibility, Cardinal Ritter embraced the issues of ecumenism, social justice, Catholic education and Church reform. He was a truly selfless shepherd-leader.”
Joseph Elmer Cardinal Ritter – His Life And Times
by Monsignor Nicholas A Schneider.
Review By James Gallen (St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.) –
This review is from: Joseph Elmer Cardinal Ritter: His Life and Times (Paperback)
A few years ago a friend mentioned that Cardinal Ritter is one about whom a biography should be written. Now it has. Msgr. Schneider has done an excellent job of writing a popular biography of one of the most significant churchmen of Twentieth Century America.
Cardinal Ritter was born into the humble background of a German-American family in New Albany, Indiana. After graduation from St. Meinrad’s Seminary, he entered the service of the diocese of Indianapolis where he became a protégé and eventual successor of Bishop Chartrand. Ritter was installed as Bishop of Indianapolis in 1934 and as Archbishop when Indianapolis became an Archdiocese in 1944. During his tenure in Indianapolis, Ritter got the diocese on a sound financial footing and promoted Catholic education while facing the challenges of Depression and War.
In 1946 Archbishop Ritter was called to replace the popular John Cardinal Glennon as Archbishop of St. Louis. Ritter, in contrast to his predecessor, came as a humble, physically unimpressive man with limited oratorical skills. His tenure in St. Louis was to be historic as he challenged the Archdiocese, community and the universal church in ways which could not have been foreseen. His first major initiative was to integrate the parishes and parochial and archdiocesan schools, starting in the late 1940s, when it was not even clear that such was permitted by Missouri law. It is a tribute to him and to the community that this was accomplished with so little disruption. As the 50s and early 60s progressed, Ritter established Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital as a memorial to his predecessor as well as numerous new parishes and high schools to serve the increasing faithful and new suburbs that were springing up. He anticipated Poe John XXIII’s call for missionaries to Latin America by setting up the Archdiocesan Mission program in Bolivia, which continues to this day.
Ritter’s service was recognized with his elevation to the College of Cardinals by Pope John in 1961. This would enhance his service to the Universal Church. During Vatican II, Ritter became a leader of the American Bishops and the one who was most responsible for the Vatican Document on Religious Freedom, which he pushed over determined European opposition. During the Council he took part in the 1963 consistory which elected Pope Paul VI.
After the Council, Cardinal Ritter devoted himself to the implementation of its decrees in St. Louis, as well as opening Ecumenical invitations to other Christian communities. He had little time to work on these issues as he died in June 1967.
Cardinal Ritter is a figure with whom anyone interested in the history of St. Louis, Indianapolis or the Church in America should be familiar. Msgr. Schneider has given us the opportunity with this short, well written and easy to read work. No reader should worry of being bogged down in minutiae. Terms are defined and there are no footnotes to slow down the reading. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did.