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Ritter Installed as Archbishop and Indianapolis elevated to an Archdiocese – December 1944


[Please note: This is a rather lengthy post, due to the fact that I am quoting all the text from the Newspaper regarding the ceremony. Also, near the end, I have included the remarks of the Apostolic Delegate concerning Bishop Brute, which were given at the dinner, the night before the ceremony, in the hope that what was said 79 years ago will be contemplated once again]

      Toward the end of World War-II, just before Christmas, Europe was still enveloped in war. The “Battle of the Bulge” was almost over and Nazi Germany would fold in less than six months. The Church continued to function and in Indiana there was celebration because the Holy Father, Pope Pius XII, had proclaimed in October that the Diocese of Indianapolis was to become what is known as a Metropolitan See, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis Times, recognizing the historical nature of this ceremony carried the story on their front page. Here is the story:

The Indianapolis Times VOLUME 55—NUMBER 242 TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1944

Ritter Is Installed As Archbishop Here In Brilliant And History-Making Pageant

By EMMA RIVERS MILNER – Times Church Editor

A son of Indiana today holds one of the highest honors the Roman Catholic church can bestow. The Most Rev. Joseph Elmer Ritter was installed as archbishop of Indianapolis in history-making ceremonies this morning in the SS. Peter and Paul cathedral. At the same time, the new Ecclesiastical Province of Indianapolis was established. The installation and establishment were followed by a pontifical solemn mass for which the Most Rev. Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, J. U. D,, apostolic delegate to the United States, was celebrant.

ARCHBISHOPS, bishops and abbots from all parts of the nation participated in the ceremonies, among the most brilliant ever witnessed by this community. “It was necessary to reserve half – of the cathedral to seat the monsignor, clergy, religious and officials.

It rarely happens that a priest is made a bishop of the diocese in which he is serving or that a bishop becomes archbishop of the archdiocese created from his diocese.

Both these honors now have been conferred upon Archbishop Ritter. Truly a Hoosier, he was born and brought up on the Ohio river in the old town of New Albany.

ALTHOUGH THE HERITAGE of the Catholic world from the time of St. Peter was in evidence in every song, word and gesture, Indiana’s special interest in the ceremonies is obvious. When the news came in November that Indiana was to give this new archbishop to the world, the chancery was asked why this boy dedicated his life to the priesthood. The answer was: “Joseph Elmer Ritter had a good mother and father and a good home to start him on the way to becoming a priest and an archbishop.”

THE PARENTS who made that home are not living. But other relatives were among the faithful filling the cathedral pews this morning. They saw the pageantry of the installation and establishment and heard the reading of the official decree and the sermons. They lived again the drama of the sacrifice of the Saviour on Calvary which is repeated daily in the mass.

And all the while, except for a few brief silences, devotedly prepared music poured from the choir loft. Rising and falling, sometimes plaintive and again triumphant, it steeped the holy place in its loveliness as the ceremonies went forward before the gold and white altar,

A FANFARE OF TRUMPETS and organ hailed the beginning of the pageantry as the procession of clergy, religious and the prelates entered by the north transcept. Last among these came the apostolic delegate, Archbishop Clcognanl, because he was the ranking prelate of all. He was accompanied by two prelates and by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Raymond R. Noll, as assistant priest. Msgr. Noll is vicar general of the diocese and the cathedral pastor. The apostolic delegate was preceded by Archbishop-elect Ritter. The apostolic delegate was vested in the cappa magna, the great two-tiered cape of his office. The upper cape of ermine came a trifle below his shoulders while beneath it a second cape of red watered silk fell over him in majestic folds to form a sweeping train along the floor.

ARCHBISHOP-ELECT RITTER wore a hooded cloak, or cope, and a silk head dress, or mitre. He, too, was attended by two prelates wearing -choir costumes or the robes of monsignori. The procession passed slowly along the north aisle to the rear of the church as the four-part male, chorus sang Reyl’s “Ecce Sacerdos Magnus.” The chorus was composed of the cathedral schola cantorum, a number of whom have sung in the cathedral for more than 30 years; the clergy choir, and selected singers from various Catholic choirs of the city.

The entire program was in charge of Elmer A. Steffen, K. S. G., archdiocesan director of music. Mr. Steflen was assisted by the Rev, Fr. Edwin Sahm, who directed the Gregorian chant,

AT THE REAR of the church, the procession paused while the apostolic delegate knelt to pray, kissed the crucifix, accepted from a prelate the holy water sprinkler and extended it for the arctibishop elect to touch. The apostolic delegate sprinkled the bystanders with holy water and was then incensed by a high prelate with three double swings of the censer. The procession then moved along the center aisle toward the front pews into which the clergy and monsignori filed. The prelates, including archbishops, bishops and abbots, proceeded to the sanctuary where the apostolic delegate seated himself on a throne to the left, or gospel side, of the altar, Nearby the archbishop-elect sat down on a faldstool.

AFTER CERTAIN preliminary procedure, the apostolic delegate gave the decree to the Very Rev, Msgr. Henry F. Dugan, closely associated with the archbishop-elect, who read the decree aloud in both Latin and English. The decree is the official document of establishment and installation from the apostolic delegation in Washington, D, C.

The pallium, or white wool symbol of archbishop, was not placed around the archbishop-elect’s neck as is usual at an installation. Due to wartime conditions, it has not yet come from the Holy Father.

After the return of the notary to the sanctuary, soon came the great moment of the ceremonies when the new province and the new archdiocese came into being and the archbishop-elect became the archbishop.

ARCHBISHOP ELECT RITTER, knowing himself now to be the center of an episode of church history in the making, turned from the altar where he had been praying with his back toward the congregation. He slowly descended the altar steps to be met at the foot by the apostolic delegate and a prelate. The delegate took the archbishop-elect’s left hand and the prelate, his right. Together they escortéd the former Bishop of Indianapolis to the throne on the gospel side of the altar.

After being seated, Archbishop-elect Ritter received from the apostolic delegate the crozier, a tall staff resembling a shepherd’s crook. The crozier symbolizes pastoral authority. The heralded moment had come. The new province was established and the new archbishop installed. . .

The apostolic delegate then mounted the second throne in the sanctuary, a white one on the epistle, or right side of the altar. The throne was draped in white because white symbolizes the pope.

ARCHBISHOP RITTER then stood before the high altar and, facing the congregation, gave his first archepiscopal blessing. This was done without the mitre in respect to the which he was facing.

The clergy of the diocese approached the throne to renew their vows of obedience and the others paid homage by kneeling and kissing the archbishop’s ring.

While this was taking place the church’s thanksgiving hymn, the “Te Deum” which was probably written about 300 A. D., was sung by the choir. The apostolic delegate had previously intoned it

“THIS OCCASION is one that places new and greater responsibilities upon us,” Archbishop Ritter said. “These rest first of all, upon the Episcopate. Together with my brother Bishops of the Province, I accept the challenge that the occasion presents. “This occasion links us more closely to the great Shepherd of Rome,” he said. “With him we pledge ourselves to labor unceasingly to further the Kingdom of God in the souls entrusted to our care. In this common endeavor we shall have the co-operation of the clergy, religious and laity, whose devotion, zeal and obedience have already been established. This will be our strength and assurance in the days ahead.”

THE MOST REV. JOHN T. McNICHOLAS, O.P, S.T.M, archbishop of Cincinnati, said in his sermon at today’s ceremonies:

“We need not be surprised that the Vicar of Christ in his solicitude for the advancement of religion everywhere should direct his attention to Indiana,” Archbishop McNicholas said. “It seems to offer extraordinary opportunities for a vigorous, militant, ecclesiastical province. The organized life of the church in this state is truly marvelous.”

AFTER ARCHBISHOP RITTER’S address he and the apostolic delegate exchanged reverences before the altar. The apostolic delegate took the throne on the gospel side and the new archbishop, the one on the epistle side. Then the mass began. The proper of the mass was the “Solemn Votive Mass of SS. Peter and Paul” given in Gregorian chant by the-clergy-choir.—The ordinary was a missa coronata: “Salve Regina” by J. G. Eduard Stehle. As a finale, the four-part male chorus sang Piel’s “Tu Es Petrus,” which was followed by Alexander Guilmant’s “Recessional March.”

AS ALWAYS in the mass, the most dramatic point was when the celebrant assumed the place of Christ and uttered the words of consecration which placed Christ Himself upon the altar of sacrifice. All was hushed; the choir, silent; and the congregation, praying. Only the soft tinkle of the little bell broke the stillness. The Host was elevated and then the Host and Chalice, the priest praying. Then the sacrifice of oblation being completed, the trumpets sounded filling the church with their fanfare. The procession formed again and moved slowly out of the crucifix on the cross church. A page in religious history had been written. A son of Indiana had been made an archbishop. 1

      Interesting enough, the whole process took place, mainly through the urging of Archbishop Timothy McNicholas, who was, at the time, the Archbishop of Cincinnati. Nineteen years previously he had been named Bishop of Indianapolis and Bishop Joseph Chartrand was named Archbishop of Cincinnati. For reasons known only to those involved, the two men were allowed to switch and Chartrand was re-appointed to Indianapolis and McNicholas went to Cincinnati. If this switch had not happened, I wonder if the establishment of Indianapolis as an Archdiocese would have ever happened? It was McNicholas who urged the break up of the Cincinnati province. He wanted to make sure that there was a “rural” diocese included in the new Indianapolis province. He suggested the southeastern part of the State, with Richmond or New Albany as the see city, but that suggestion obviously did not pan out. It was also suggested that St. Meinrad Abbey and Vincennes should remain as part of the Indianapolis Archdiocese. The first part happened with one township of Harrison County remaining within the boundaries of Indianapolis. Vincennes, however, became a part of the new Diocese of Evansville.


View the pages from the by going to the following link. Indianapolis Times2 Keep in mind that the articles are sometimes buried in the page, or the page is a “jump page”, that is, the continuation of an article from a previous page.


Listen to the reading of part of the decree, recorded in the Cathedral of Sts. Peter & Paul on this day in 1944


In addition, here is the address given by Archbishop Amleto Cicognani, the Apostolic Delegate to the United States at the dinner honoring his presence, the night before the ceremony. He speaks of Servant of God, Simon Brute. I have included it here to demonstrate the importance of Bishop Brute to the history of the Church in Indiana and in the United States.

Address Given By the Most Reverend Amleto G. Cicognani – 18 December 1944

On this occasion, our thoughts naturally travel back to a venerable and saintly figure, Simon Brute de Remur, first Bishop of Indiana, when a diocese was first established at Vincennes in 1834. From the first Archbishop we go back in spirit to the first Bishop, and we behold them linked together in tomorrow’s solemn feast.

In his “Report to Rome”3 on conditions in his diocese in March, 1836, Bishop Brute writes that among the half-million people then constituting the population of Indiana, there were scarcely twenty-five thousand Catholics; their spiritual needs were attended to by only two priests. The territory of the diocese, including all of Indiana and a third of Illinois, covered a total of fifty-three thousand square miles. At Vincennes, his episcopal city, about one half of the two thousand inhabitants were Catholics. Indianapolis, the State capital, had a population of about fifteen hundred, and Bishop Brute adds: “Chicago and two or three other towns have about three or four thousand people.” Everything was poor and on a small scale. Even the Cathedral was only a hundred feet long; two tiny rooms were his episcopal residence. He lived without a secretary, because it was impossible to have one, and, as he wrote to Rome, his correspondence had become extensive and burdensome for a Bishop living without a companion. So great was the poverty all around him that, when he went to visit his priests, he carried along his own frugal provisions, lest he cause them inconvenience.

VISION OF FUTURE GREATNESS

And yet, face to face with all these privations, and even in the midst of them, Bishop Brute, from the very first moment of his apostolate as Bishop, beheld, as if in vision, the happy and rapid religious development which Indiana and Chicago were to realize in the future. Hardly had he arrived at Vincennes when he wrote to his brother, Augustine: “A great door has been opened to me” (1 Cor. 16 :9) – even though he was forced to add mournfully: “But for the present I have nothing to work with.”4 These visions of the future were not empty dreams, nor the wanderings of a vivid imagination. Because of his love for books, study and teaching, Brute had long been regarded as a very learned and virtuous man, but one with little or no practical sense. And yet, once he set to work, he showed that he was gifted with a most practical approach to the problems of his apostolate. With the spirit of faith which is so characteristic of wise Founders, he saw and appreciated the rich fruitfulness of the Word of God and the works of the Lord. He began at once to devise means of assuring this expansion, and he succeeded in accomplishing marvels. At the Third Provincial Council of Baltimore (April, 1837), presided over by Archbishop Eccleston, Bishop ·Brute proposed the immediate erection of a Metropolitan See in the West, but his suggestion was not acted upon. He also wanted to have another diocese in Indiana. “If I were Pope,” he remarked one day, “I would have no difficulty in placing two more Bishops, one in Indiana, and the other in Chicago.”5

Then he requested the appointment of a Coadjutor for himself. After a life of exhausting missionary labors, worn out by long journeys to reach his faithful, and visits to the sick and needy, after years of privation and sacrifice, his strength began to wane. His health broke down, but not his faith. “My days are vanishing,” he wrote, “but every day my heart experiences great joy at the unremitting progress of the Church”. In the six short years of his episcopate, he had increased the number of his priests from two to twenty five. With no financial resources at his disposal, he had built twenty-seven churches and thirty mission chapels. He had opened a seminary, a college, an academy, and two free schools. Immigration, the establishment of new settlements, the development of those already in existence-all this had brought urgent problems, and Bishop Brute had met all these problems by promoting together religion and education.

“MORE ALTARS”-“AUSPICE MARIA” He never lost heart. In the midst of the most trying difficulties, he lifted his heart to God and to Mary, repeating those mottos which were at the same time his inspiration and his program of action. “Auspice Maria”, “under the auspices of Mary”, and also “Altaria”, “More altars”. He had made the altar the center of his life; in it he saw the source of all grace. When he became Bishop he bent every effort to multiply altars, churches and missions, or even only temporary altars in private homes, in order to provide as many as possible with the Holy Eucharist, to be the food ofl the soul and the wellspring of Christian life, and to keep before them the thought of eternity. This trait of his character had been prominent even in his early years. When only a boy of fourteen, in his native city of Rennes, he had been chosen to be the “Tarcisius of the French Revolution.” With the Sacred Pyx hidden under his jacket, he had carried the Holy Eucharist into the prisons, to the victims of Robespierre and those who were condemned to death. There, in the prisons of the French Revolution, he found his first altars, and from there, steeled in strong resolutions, he carne to America as priest and apostle. In his correspondence with the great Bishops of his day Rosati, Flaget, David, Chabrat, Cheverus, and Purcell-as teacher and spiritual director of countless priests, and counsellor of such noble souls as Mother Seton and Blessed Philippine Duchesne, he ‘always worked for his great ideal: “Altaria”. Here in Indiana he realized his program in a heroic degree, and left behind an indelible impress which marked the start of a noteworthy Eucharistic tradition. We have only to recall the venerated memory of Bishop Chartrand who spent hours every day in the Cathedral and urged frequent and daily Communion. The vision of Bishop Brute has come true. In the two new dioceses we shall have an ever-expanding realization of his program: “Altaria”” More altars”. These new dioceses rise up “Auspice Maria”; the Cathedral of Evansville is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, and that of Lafayette bears the name “St. Mary’s”.

Tomorrow’s ceremony will be both an inauguration and expression of thanks. The Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul will resound with our hymn of gratitude, and the Holy Sacrifice will be offered in thanksgiving. But here, in this magnificent assembly, in which I am pleased and happy to see an expression of your gratitude to His Holiness, Pope Pius XII-a gratitude manifested with such affectionate devotion- I wish to make myself the interpreter of the mind of the Holy See and to pay tribute to the illustrious Prelates, whose cordial and generous cooperation has brought us to the happy event of tomorrow.

  1. The Indianapolis Times VOLUME 55—NUMBER 242 TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1944 p.1 ff []
  2. See: https://blog.newspapers.library.in.gov/digitized-newspapers/ []
  3. Bishop Brute’. Report to Rome in 183G, by Thomas T. McAvoy, C.S.C. (Catholic Historical Review, No.2, July, 1943) []
  4. The Reed and the Rock–Potrait of Simon Brute by Theodore Maynard (Longmans, Green. New York, 1942) page 206. []
  5. Simon Brute de Remur, by Sr, M. S. Godecker, O.S.B. (St. Meinrad, Indiana, 1931) page 329. []
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