Cardinal Joseph Ritter Childhood Home

Born in New Albany on July 20, 1892, Joseph Elmer Ritter is the best known of the religious leaders with roots in New Albany. Ritter served as Archbishop of St. Louis from 1946-1962 and as a Cardinal from 1962-1965. During that time, he advocated for African American equality and civil rights. Ritter also became the first American bishop to direct a Catholic mission in Latin America. As a native of southern Indiana, Ritter assumed a prominent role in the religious, cultural, and political life of the lower Midwest.

On May 30, 1917, the Diocese of Indianapolis ordained Ritter as a priest. The following day, Ritter returned to St. Mary of the Annunciation at 415 East Eighth Street to lead his first mass. Ritter received his first parish in July, when he was transferred to St. Patrick Church in Indianapolis. Ritter remained in Indianapolis for decades. He became bishop of the city in 1934 and was elevated to archbishop in 1944.

In October 1946, Ritter became the first archbishop of St. Louis. A year later, he desegregated five of the city’s Catholic high schools. When confronted by white parents who supported segregation, Ritter threatened them with “the serious penalty of excommunication.” Ritter established a diocesan mission in Bolivia, the first mission in Latin America directed by an American Catholic bishop. On January 19, 1961, Pope John XXIII promoted Ritter to cardinal at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. From 1962-65, Cardinal Ritter served during the Second Vatican Council as a leader of progressive reforms in the Catholic Church. Ritter died on June 10, 1967. He is buried in St. Louis Cavalry Cemetery.

In 2009, the Cardinal Ritter Birthplace Foundation began renovating Ritter’s childhood home at 1218 East Oak Street. The site includes a memorial rose garden and a museum that chronicles Ritter’s achievements. The Ritter family opened a bakery at the location in the 1870s and attached a house around 1890. Ritter attended school at St. Mary of the Annunciation in New Albany. He reportedly decided to become a priest in the seventh grade.

Images

Cardinal Ritter

Cardinal Ritter

Cardinal Joseph Elmer Ritter shown in a photo taken about 1960, during his tenure as Archbishop of St. Louis. Image courtesy of New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collections | Source: New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collection View File Details Page

St. Mary's Catholic Church

St. Mary's Catholic Church

Cardinal Ritter attended church in his youth at St. Mary's Church of the Annunciation at 415 East Eighth Street in New Albany. On May 31, 1917, he delivered his first mass at St. Mary's. Image courtesy of New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collections | Source: New Albany-Floyd County Public Library Digital Collections View File Details Page

Cardinal Ritter Historic Marker

Cardinal Ritter Historic Marker

In 2007, the state of Indiana erected a historical marker at the Cardinal Joseph Elmer Ritter Birthplace and Childhood Home at 1218 East Oak Street in New Albany. Image courtesy of Daniel Vivian | Source: Daniel Vivian | Creator: Daniel Vivian View File Details Page

Cardinal Ritter Historic Marker

Cardinal Ritter Historic Marker

The marker recounts Ritter's life and accomplishments. Image courtesy of Daniel Vivian | Source: Daniel Vivian | Creator: Daniel Vivian View File Details Page

Childhood home of Cardinal Ritter, 2015

Childhood home of Cardinal Ritter, 2015

The Ritter house is now a museum that commemorates Ritter's life and achievements. Image courtesy of Daniel Vivian | Source: Daniel Vivian | Creator: Daniel Vivian View File Details Page

Childhood Home of Cardinal Ritter

Childhood Home of Cardinal Ritter

The Ritter family originally operated a bakery at this location. The residential wing was added sometime before the beginning of the twentieth century. Photo courtesy of Daniel Vivivan. | Source: Daniel Vivian | Creator: Daniel Vivian View File Details Page

Bishop of Indianapolis

Bishop of Indianapolis

Ritter shown while serving as Bishop of Indianapolis, 1934. Image courtesy of Photographs of Dubois County, Jasper Public Library | Source: Henry Verst, Floyd Knobs, Indiana: A History of St. Mary Parish and a Story of Floyd Knobs (New Albany: FLoyd County Printing Co., 1938). View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Carl Creason, Hannah O'Daniel, Katherine Gann, Daniel Michael, and Leanna Smith, “Cardinal Joseph Ritter Childhood Home,” Discover Indiana, accessed October 22, 2017, http://indyhist.iupui.edu/items/show/139.

Share this Story