The Catholic University of America

John T. McNicholas

An inventory of the John T. McNicholas Papers at The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives


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Mailing Address: The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. 20064

Telephone: 202-319-5065

Email: lib-archives@cua.edu

URL: http://archives.lib.cua.edu/

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Descriptive Summary

Repository: The Catholic University of America, The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives
Creator: John T. McNicholas, 1877-1950
Title: The John T. McNicholas Papers
Dates: 1912, 1925-1949
Extent: 1.25 linear foot; 3 boxes
Abstract: Correspondence, reports, and newspaper clippings documenting the life of John T. McNicholas.
Collection Number: ACUA 025
Language: English

Biographical Note

John T. McNicholas was born in Kiltimagh, County Mayo, Ireland on December 15, 1877. He was the youngest of eight children. He emigrated to the United States with his family in 1881 to Chester, Pennsylvania. He attended elementary school at the Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Chester and St. Joseph's Prepatory College in Philadelphia. At seventeen, McNicholas entered the Dominican Order at St. Rose's Priory in Springfield, Kentucky. He was ordained at St. Joseph's in Somerset, Ohio on October 10, 1901.

McNicholas continued his education after his ordination in Rome at Minerva University. After three years at Minerva he earned a doctorate of Sacred Theology. In 1904, McNicholas returned to Somerset to assume the role of master of novices. He then became the Regent of Studies, and professor of Philosophy, Theology, and Canon Law at the Dominican House of Studies, Immaculate Conception College, near The Catholic University of America until 1909. Following this position, McNicholas became the National Director of the Holy Name Society in New York City and the organization's first journal editor (Holy Name Journal). While in New York, he became the pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Church and the first prior of the adjoining convent. After eight years in New York, McNicholas was called to Rome to became the socius (assistant) to the Master General of the Dominicans in Rome. He also taught Canon Law and Theology at Angelicum University. Ultimately he was named Master of Theology and granted an honorary office of provincial of Lithuania.

The next year in July of 1918, McNicholas began his career as a Bishop. He was named the Bishop of Duluth, MN. In May of 1925, he was named to the Diocese of Indianapolis. He did not remain there long and was installed as Archbishop of Cincinnati August 1925. McNicholas remained in this position until his death in 1950.

While Archbishop of Cincinnati, McNicholas raised the level of Catholic education at all levels throughout the diocese. He increased the number of schools and strengthened the education of the area. He also participated in several national Catholic Church matters. Specifically, McNicholas played a role in the ecclesiastics faculty of the Catholic University of America from the 1930s until his death in 1950. McNicholas was a part of a committee to investigate differences between faculty and the rector, Rev. James H. Ryan. The problems stemmed from Ryan's attempts starting in the 1920s to reorganize the graduate education. Ryan's efforts to change the organization of the different departments, in this case Theology, caused members of the faculty to question the actions of the Board of Trustees. In particular the case of JJ Rolbiecki and the case of Franz Cöln and Heinrich Schumacher in 1930 and 1931. Rolbiecki had openly questioned the direction of the department and whether the board was by-passing the constitution of the University and was dismissed. McNicholas and the rest of the committee participated in the investigation that eventually saw Rolbiecki reinstated. Cöln and Schumacher's case was related to accusations of impropriety and they were not reinstated. McNicholas continued his connection with CUA as the Chairman of the Episcopal Visiting Committee to examine the ecclesiastical faculties in 1934. He was a part of this committee, the Pontifical Commission of the Sacred Sciences of The Catholic University of America, from 1934 until his death. He was also a member of the Board of Trustees of the University.

McNicholas was the Episcopal Chairman of the Department of Education of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC) from 1930 to 1935 and again from 1942 to 1945. He served as the President General of the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) from 1946 to 1950 and held a ten-year chairmanship from 1933 to 1943 of the Episcopal Committee on Motion Pictures which later became the National Legion of Decency. McNicholas also held five terms from 1945 to 1950 as chairman of the Administration Board of the NCWC. He was the national chairman of the Catholic Student Mission Crusade and held thirteen year membership on the Episcopal Committee for Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.

McNicholas died in Cincinnati on April 22, 1950.

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Scope and Contents

While the John T. McNicholas papers focus specifically on McNicholas' associations with the CUA administration, there are also further material related to McNicholas in the National Catholic Welfare Council/Conference (NCWC)/United States Catholic Conference (USCC) Office of the General Secretary (OGS)/Executive Department Records. This collection has a series pertaining exclusively to McNicholas which contains Administrative Board Correspondence from his time as Chairman of the NCWC Administrative Board, 1946-1950. Arrangement is alphabetical with files about countries such as France and Germany, organizations like Pax Romana and the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), individuals including Cardinal Patrick O'Boyle and Bishop Edwin V. O'Hara, and topics such as Federal Aid to Education and international aid to war ravaged countries. There is also correspondence relating to the Episcopal Committee On Motion Pictures. This material spans the dates 1922-1950.

Series 1 contains Correspondence between McNicholas and various staff members of the university, such as Joseph Corrigan, Michael J. Curley, professors within the Theology department, and editors of the Catholic University Bulletin. At the center of this correspondence are letters between McNicholas and James Hugh Ryan, who was Rector of the university 1928 to 1935. The correspondence begins in 1927 and spans the length of Ryan's position as Rector. In his letters to McNicholas, Ryan openly discusses his concerns regarding the need to increase the number of faculty in the Theology Department, his desire to reorganize academic programs, and to instigate changes within the administration of the school, such as altering the university's constitution.

Series 2, Catholic University Records, contains material relating to the Episcopal Visiting Committee and Pontifical Commission on the Sacred Science, of which McNicholas was a member, and the investigation into the disagreements between the CUA administration and the Department of Theology. These records start in 1930 with correspondence between McNicholas and the Board of Trustees. This material contains numerous edits, drafts, and notes of the university's constitution and the By-Laws of the Board of Trustees. These edits and drafts exhibit McNicholas' help in the process of realizing Rector Ryan's desired changes to these documents.

After assisting with altering the primary administrative documents of the university, McNicholas was appointed President of the Special Committee which was formed in 1931 to investigate the problems between the administration and the Department of Theology. The problems stemmed from a letter from the Theology Department in which the department described their concerns with the plan for reorganization of the graduate programs and the changes made to the university's constitution. This series contains the letter from the Theology Department, correspondence responding to McNicholas' request for advice and clarification relating to the specifics of the case, and copies of all related documentation. The correspondence from Rector Ryan displays his frustration with the Theology Department and his anger with the fact that they sent a copy of their letter to the church hierarchy without telling him about their intention to do so. In one of his letters he says that the Dean of the Faculty in the Theology Department should be asked a series of questions about the department such as why their enrollment is so low and why there is a lack of published works coming from the department. The Special Committee held the hearing for the case in May 1931. Copies of the committee's official statement, findings, and recommendations are also included in the series. Ultimately the hearing resulted in a unstable Theology Department, two faculty members leaving the school, and the need to reorganize the relationship between the Theology Department and the seminary.

The series continues with materials relating to the Rolbiecki case. In 1930, John J. Rolbiecki was fired from his position as Associate Professor of Philosophy. In 1931, a committee was convened to research the details of the dismissal and decide whether the school owed him any losses. McNicholas was appointed to this committee. This series contains correspondence to McNicholas from Rolbiecki, Rector Ryan, various faculty and staff, and a myriad of documents that were reviewed over the course of the case. It becomes clear from correspondence from Rector Ryan that the decision to fire Rolbicki may have been influenced by the fact that Rolbiecki had been close to the Theology faculty and had publicly exhibited negative behavior towards the Rector when he had announced his plans for academic reorganization at a faculty meeting. The correspondence from Rolbiecki is filled with his numerous requests for money owed for the year that he was without work, which continued after he was reinstated to his original faculty position. The series concludes in 1932 with the committee's formal recommendations.

Series 3, Newspaper Clippings, consists of miscellaneous clippings by and about Monsignor John A. Ryan, which span the years 1938, 1943-1945. Some of the topics covered include the need for a world peace organization, punishment for the Axis War leaders, Catholics and birth control, labor issues, and obituary pieces following Ryan's death.

Series 4, Childrens' Retreat Notebook, consists of one ring binder notebook of mimeograph material of McNicholas' 1912 notes for childrens' retreat held at Marion, New York?, from October 29, 1912 to November 2, 1912.

Overall, this collection provides a succinct but detailed account of the university's reactions to Rector Ryan's bold new plans of re-organization and the resulting falling out between the Rector and the Department of Theology. This documentation offers poignant insights into one of the university's most turbulent periods. The childrens' retreat notebook is a rather miscellaneous later addition to the collection.

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Arrangement

The John T. McNicholas Papers consists of four series:





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Restrictions

Restrictions on Access

There are no access restrictions.

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Administrative Information

Acquisition Information

Date Received: 1967

Processing Information

Processing completed in April 2000 by Mary Beth Fraser. EAD markup, as well as a revised and expanded scope and content note, were completed in January 2006 by Leslie Knoblauch. Another revision, to reflect the addition of a third box with a four series completed in February 2009 by William John Shepherd. EAD revisions in 2013 by Michael J. Dobbs.

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Related Material

The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives:

The Records of the Office of the General Secretary, Series 6: Archbishop John Timothy McNicholas

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Index Terms

This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.


Persons:
McNicholas, John T. (John Timothy), 1877-1950.

Organizations:
The Catholic University of America.

Places:
Washington (D.C.)

Subjects:
Catholic education United States.


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Detailed Description of the Collection

                       
Series 1: Correspondence, 1927-1949 (8 folders)
The first series contains letters to and from various clergy, such as Joseph Corrigan, Rector of CUA, Michael J. Curley, Archbishop of Baltimore, Francis Lardone, CUA School of Sacred Theology and editor of the CUA Bulletin, James H. Ryan, CUA Rector, and Maurice Sheehy, managing editor of the CUA Bulletin.
Box Folder
1 1 Letters received and sent between McNicholas and Joseph Corrigan, Rector CUA, 1937
  2 Letters received and sent between McNicholas and Joseph Corrigan, Rector CUA, 1936-1940
  3 Letters received and sent between McNicholas and Michael J. Curley, Archbishop of Baltimore, Chancellor of CUA, 1934
  4 Letters received and sent between McNicholas and Francis Lardone of CUA, 1925, 1940-1949
  5 Letters received and sent between McNicholas and James H. Ryan, CUA Rector, 1925-1934
  6 Letters received and sent between McNicholas and James H. Ryan, CUA Rector, 1927-1934
  7 Letters received and sent between McNicholas and Fr. Maurice Sheehy, Managing Editor, CUA Bulletin, 1927-1934
  8 Letter to Mr. John E. McDonough, 1925
                       
Series 2: Catholic University Records, 1931-1944, nd. (14 folders)
The second series contains correspondence to and from bishops, clergy, and laity regarding financial support of the university; reports and letters to and from the Board of Trustees regarding, by-laws of CUA; and reports and correspondence of the Visiting Episcopal Committee. Also contains reports and other materials of the investigation into the dispuits between the CUA administration and Department of Theology. Reports concern JJ Rolbiecki case file.
Box Folder
1 9 Bishops, Clergy, Laity Committee, 1931-1932
  10 Board of Trustees, 1942
  11 Board of Trustees, 1931-1935
  12 Episcopal Visiting Committee, 1934-1936
  13 Episcopal Visiting Committee, 1934-1936
Box Folder
2 1 Episcopal Visiting Committee, 1934
  2 Episcopal Visiting Committee, 1935-1937
  3 Interrogatories for theology, philosophy, and canon law faculties, n.d.
  4 Investigation of differences between CUA administration and Department of Theology, 1931, 1933
  5 Investigation of differences between CUA administration and Department of Theology, 1931, 1933
  6 Pontifical Commission on the Sacred Sciences at CUA, 1937-1944
  7 Pontifical Commission for Sacred Sciences, 1944
  8 J. J. Rolbiecki case file, 1931-1932
  9 J. J. Rolbiecki case file, 1931-1932
                       
Series 3: Newspaper Clippings, 1938, 1943-1945 (1 folder)
The third series consists of miscellaneous clippings by and about Monsignor John A. Ryan, which span the years 1938, 1943-1945. Some of the topics covered include the need for a world peace organization, punishment for the Axis War leaders, Catholics and birth control, labor issues, and obituary pieces following Ryan's death.
Box Folder
2 10 Miscellaneous clippings written by and about Msgr. John A. Ryan, CUA, 1938, 1943-1945
                       
Series 4: Childrens' Retreat Notebook, 1912 (1 folder)
The four series consists of a ring binder notebook of mimeographed notes of McNicholas for a Children's Retreat held in Marion, NY?, from October 29 to November 2, 1912.
Box Folder
3 1 Childrens' Retreat Notebook, Marion, NY?, 1912

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Descriptive Summary

Biographical Note

Scope and Contents

Arrangement

Restrictions

Administrative Information

Related Material

Index Terms

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence, 1927-1949

Series 2: Catholic University Records, 1931-1944, nd.

Series 3: Newspaper Clippings, 1938, 1943-1945

Series 4: Childrens' Retreat Notebook, 1912

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