(July 20, 1892-June 10, 1967). Ritter was born in New Albany, Indiana. Upon entering St. Meinrad Seminary in 1906, he began his journey to the priesthood and was ordained in the Abbey Church on May 30, 1917. Father Ritter’s first assignment was St. Patrick’s Church in Indianapolis, but the young priest soon became second assistant at SS. peter and paul cathedral.

Bishop Joseph Elmer Ritter at a Knights of Columbus ceremony, 1940
Credit: Indiana Historical Society

On February 3, 1933, Ritter was appointed Titular Bishop of Hippus and Auxiliary to the Bishop of Indianapolis. He later became the vicar general. He was appointed bishop of the Diocese of Indianapolis on March 24, 1934.

On November 17, 1944, the Diocese of Indianapolis was elevated to the rank of an archdiocese, and Ritter became the archbishop (see Catholics). He was moved to the archbishopric of St. Louis, Missouri, on July 21, 1946. In both Indianapolis and St. Louis, Archbishop Ritter ordered the end of racial segregation in Catholic schools and threatened excommunication for anyone who interfered with the order.

Pope John XXIII elevated Archbishop Ritter to the cardinalate on January 16, 1961. As Cardinal Ritter, he participated in the election of Pope Paul VI and attended the Second Vatican Council. Joseph Ritter died in St. Louis. Ritter High School, established in 1964, is named in his honor.

Revised July 2021

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