God’s Bricklayer: Cardinal George Mundelein (1872-1939)

God’s Bricklayer: Cardinal George Mundelein (1872-1939) October 2, 2009

Born on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1872, George William Mundelein contemplated a naval career before graduating from Manhattan College in 1889. Instead he opted to study for the Diocese of Brooklyn, and he was ordained in Rome in 1895. A capable administrator, he soon became diocesan chancellor. At age 34 he was named a Monsignor, and in 1909 he became Brooklyn’s first Auxiliary Bishop. An able fundraiser, in 1910 he set a record for the largest Sunday collection of the time: $47,000. He used the money to build Queen of All Saints Church, one of the most beautiful in Brooklyn. (Located next to Brooklyn’s Masonic temple, Mundelein made sure that the new church was just a little bit taller than the temple.) In 1914, Bishop Mundelein founded Cathedral Preparatory Seminary, the last institution of its kind still functioning in the United States. In 1915, he was named Archbishop of Chicago. At age 43 he was the youngest Archbishop in the country. In 1924, he was named a Cardinal, the first West of the Alleghenies. During his 24 years in Chicago, he built over six hundred schools, parishes, hospitals, convents, and orphanages. In 1937 he started an international incident when he referred to Adolf Hitler as an “Austrian paperhanger, and a pretty poor one at that.” In 1926, he presided over the 28th International Eucharistic Congress outside Chicago. With nearly a million people in attendance, it was the largest gathering of Catholics in the Western Hemisphere until World Youth Day in 1993. For more on the Eucharistic Congress see here:

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