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Archivists and Historians

March is a busy month and this year I want to highlight the work of three people who have helped to maintain the information that we rely on. In the case of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, two of those mentioned below were historians first and archivists second.

If you are unaware of the difference it is, perhaps, a dichotomy, but at the same time if one is an historian but has no knowledge of how archivists work, or… if one is an archvist, and has no knowledge of history or how it is studied, then there could be a problem. Historians can identify the importance and context of a document, while the archvist, aware of a document’s context would be able to classify and catalog that document, thus both work together.

The first person I want to mention is Sr. Ann Kathleen Brawley SP. For a number of years the archives of the Archdiocese, for lack of a better word, sat somewhat ‘dormant’. This was probably true of most Catholic archives. There were “keepers” of the archives, but it usually consisted of someone in the Chancellor’s office, which is the office responsible for diocesan archives. It was probably a person who had no inclination toward archival theory or maybe even history. In the case of Indianapolis, a lot of the historical archives were stored in the Cathedral Rectory.

The archives can consist of many things, including, for example, the notes and paperwork of one of the diocesan offices. This is commonly called “Records Management”. That’s not what this site is all about. We are interested in the “historical” aspects of the archives. That is, those documents that tell us of the history of the diocese and or persons involved in that history.

There was a movement that began in the mid 1970’s, and probably even earlier, that began to take the notion of diocesan archives more seriously. In the early 1970’s “The upcoming American bicentennial provided the impetus for the United States National Conference of Catholic Bishops to issue in November, 1974, “A Document on Ecclesiastical Archives”. The bishops lamented that the American Catholic Experience had not been “penetrated to the heart” because of the lack of care given the historical records.” (( History of the Association of Catholic Diocesan Archivists – History of ACDA )) This belief became part of the new Code of Canon Law in 1983. In Canon #486 it was written:

Can. 486 §1. All documents which regard the diocese or parishes must be protected with the greatest care.

§2. In every curia there is to be erected in a safe place a diocesan archive, or record storage area, in which instruments and written documents which pertain to the spiritual and temporal affairs of the diocese are to be safeguarded after being properly filled and diligently secured.

§3. An inventory, or catalog, of the documents which are contained in the archive is to be kept with a brief synopsis of each written document.

Larger dioceses began hiring professionals to organize their archives. Religious Orders too, began to take their collective history seriously. In Indiana, one of the congregations of women religious, the “Sisters of Providence of St. Mary of the Woods” appointed Sister Ann Kathleen Brawley as their archivist in 1976. Much of the work of the SPSMW archives was to help with the work of canonizing their foundress, Saint Theodora Guerin.

While continuing in that job, Sr. Ann Kathleen was asked by the Archdiocese to help organize their archives. This would have been about 1978. At that time, Msgr. John Doyle was listed as the Archdiocesan Historian and Archivist. Sr. Ann Kathleen was listed as his assistant. It is unlikely that Msgr Doyle did much in the way of an archivist — he was a historian. But, it was a good arrangement. Msgr Doyle and Sr. Ann Kathleen worked well together, however, Msgr. Doyle passed away in March of 1985 and Sister Ann Kathleen continued as the archivist, traveling between St. Mary of the Woods and Indianapolis about once a week. She was assisted by other sisters from “The Woods”.

Sister Ann Kathleen died on March 12, 2010. She was an extraordinary woman, gentle, patient. You can read more in her obituary

Monsignor John J. Doyle, who was ordained in 1921, was born and raised in Indianapolis. His family was a member of the near east side St. Joseph, which was full of Indianapolis Irish – immigrants and descendants.

Msgr. Doyle spent much of his priestly career at Marian University. What was then Marian College, the Indianapolis campus was formed in 1937. Msgr. Doyle was one of the first faculty members. In 1967 a new residence hall was named for him. I include his remarks below, to show what kind of priest he was. This article came from the 1967 Alumni Newsletter.

Three-Wing Dorm Dedicated:

The Men’s Residence Center was dedicated and officially named Doyle Hall on May 17. In attendance at the ceremony were students, faculty and friends of the college Officiating at the dedication were Archbishop Paul C. Schulte of Indianapolis. Msgr. Francis J. Reine. Tom Turner, Student Board President. Chuck Calleia. President of Doyle Hall, and Msgr. John J. Doyle. Chairman of the Philosophy Department and mentor to all students of Marian since its founding. The move to name the hall after Msgr. Doyle was inspired by an editorial in the student publication, the Carbon.

Msgr. Doyle gave a short address al the dedication which was typical of his unflagging wit and his enduring commitment as scholar and Christian. Here are a few excerpts from his talk

“A good many years ago. in Logan County, Ohio, when it was proposed to construct a new road that would take a strip off his farm, my grandfather Brennan strenuously opposed the measure, though he had long before retired and rented his farm. As usually happens the county authorities prevailed and the road was built. My grandfather was considerably mollified in his defeat when the new thoroughfare was given the name of Brennan Road. I cannot deny that it is very gratifying to me to have this beautiful building given the name of Doyle.”I do not wish to insinuate that my attitude toward this hall was a repetition of my grandfather’s opposition to the road. On the contrary, the transformation of Marian College from a women’s school to one that would accept both women and men was altogether in accordance with all that I believe in integration of women and men. of negroes and whites, of clergy and religious and laity, has for a long time been my dream, the Kingdom of God. in which there is no distinction of Jew and Greek, slave and free. This is what Saint Paul tells when he writes. “˜Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised. barbarian. Scythian, slave, free man. but Christ is all, and in all.* ”Even in the earliest years of the college 30 years ago. there were happenings that by hindsight we might see to have been foreshadowing of the development of 1954. when the college became coeducational. So far as I know the first course given in what is now the library and was then the college was a class in French, of which four priests that were to go to the Catholic University the following September for graduate studies were the members and I was the teacher. I do not know* how good a teacher of French I was. but the priests achieved their Masters degrees, as they could not have done had they not previously passed the French examination. This occasion is all the more a happy one in that today, as Monsignor Reine has told you. is the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. Little did I dream on that Pentecost Tuesday 46 years ago that it should be my lot to spend the greater part of my life as a teacher: no more did I dream that I should one day be a judge of the ecclesiastical court. My uncle. Father John W. Doyle, who had died just eleven years previously, had been a parish priest throughout his 35 years in the ministry. 1 had looked forward to a similar life, and indeed for the first nine years I was an assistant and I should have been very happy to continue in parish work for the rest of my life. But there is a divinity that shapes our ends rough hew them how we may. In one of the first talks I gave to the 22 students that constituted the college in 1937, I made the point that they would establish the ideals, the aspiration, the traditions by which the college would live “” only indirectly could the priests, the sisters, and the other teachers contribute to this end. What I neglected in so saying was that such ideals and traditions are not made once for all; they are subject to constant change and growth and development. Hence it is not just what those first students handed down that has made the college what it is; it is those traditions as they have been affected by all the other students in the intervening years. And what the college will be in 1997 will be the result of all these have done and of what you students of 1967 do and think and work and perhaps most of all of how you pray.

It was Mr. Fields that showed me that editorial in the Carbon that suggested the name of Doyle Hall for your residence. I took the matter as a pleasant jest, making the somewhat frivolous objection that two monosyllables would not go well together for a name As time went on. I could not fail to become aware that this thing was said in deadly earnest and was no jest at all. Finally Monsignor Reine came to me with the cold proposal, which could not be sidestepped. Of course, I could not reject it. As I have thought about the matter, I have become convinced that this is not an honor done to me alone, but that it is aimed at all that have taught here – Monsignor Reine and the other priests; Mr. Fields and Miss Malatesta and the other teachers; Sister Gertrude Marie, who along with me constitutes the remnant of the original faculty of 1937. and the other sisters. I am by way of being a symbol for all of these, whereby the devotion and gratitude and respect of the students are shown to all that here seek to find and reveal the truth and to open up the way to the Kingdom of God. I am most happy to serve as such a symbol. I can say with a full heart the verse of the Psalm: My lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage

Msgr. Doyle, known to many as the “Mons” contributed much to the understanding of Indiana Catholic Church History. In 1976 he published “The Catholic Church in Indiana 1686-1814“. In 1978 he published “Genealogical Use of Catholic Records in North America” for the Indiana Historical Society. Msgr. Doyle’s love of history, especially his love of history of the Church in Indiana always showed through. In his history of the earliest days of the Church in Indiana, mentioned above, Msgr. Doyle pays tribute to Father Robert Gorman who actually wrote a history of the diocese, but it was never published. Father Gorman died in 1964.

In many of our posts, we refer to and quote the history that Fr. Robert Gorman wrote. He 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

We close with the prayer from the Funeral Rite, and we apply it to all three of these individuals who worked hard to tell the story of our Church in Indiana and to protect and preserve thos documents pertaining to that history. This work continues today.

“May the Angels lead you into paradise. May the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem.


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