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Fr. Robert Gorman

In many of our posts, we refer to and quote the writings of Fr. Robert Gorman, former Archivist of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Fr. Gorman was born in Evansville on the 6th of February 1906. He studied at St. Meinrad and was ordained to the priesthood on June 10, 1930.

In 1935 he was sent to do graduate studies at the Catholic University. When he completed his PhD in 1938, he was appointed as a history professor at St. Mary of the Woods College. In 1957 Archbishop Schulte officially appointed him Archivist of the the Archdiocese, although he had been acting in that role for quite some time.

In 1941 he began his work on the history of the Catholic Church in Indiana. Here is a clipping from the Indianapolis Times. Fr. Gorman’s history, like most histories of that time were clergy based — that is, the history of, in this case, the Catholic Church in Indiana was based on the stories of the bishops, archbishops, priests and particular parishes. That is pretty much what this “blog” does as well, because the material available to us is the same — Historical documents, old histories, etc. that are based on “official” materials.

In a perfect world there would be histories of the so-called “laity”. That is, Catholic history based on “social history”. Notre Dame historian, Jay P. Dolan applied that theory to his book “The American Catholic Experience“. His history was written “…by looking at the entire subject through the eyes of the Catholic laity rather that those of priests and bishops”. ((Patrick Allitt writing in the “Journal of American History“, Vol-90, Issue-3, December 2003))

Fr. Gorman’s history still tells the story, but from the perspective of the clergy. That in no way takes anything away from it. But, unfortunately, Fr. Gorman’s history was never published. There is an urban legend that Archbishop Schulte didn’t like the length of the history and suggested that Fr. Gorman shorten it. He began work on a shorter version, but alas he developed colon cancer and died at St. Mary of the Woods in May of 1964.

We want to recall the slogan of this blog — “Keeping the memory alive of those who have gone before us”¦” Fr. Gorman worked very hard and obviously his desire was to share his research and study with all Catholics and in particular Catholics in Indiana. His dedication to building the Archives into a useful repository of information about the Catholic Church in Indiana will not be forgotten.

You can read Fr. Gorman’s obituary from the Criterion – May 8 1964

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