All Souls Day, Nov. 2, marked the 45th anniversary of the death of Cardinal Richard Cushing. Born in South Boston, Aug. 23, 1895, Cardinal Cushing attended public elementary schools and later graduated from Boston College High School in 1913. Following graduation, he attended Boston College for two years before entering St. John's Seminary in Brighton, and was later ordained by Cardinal William O'Connell on May 16, 1921, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
Following his ordination, Cardinal Cushing felt the call to become a foreign missionary, but his petition to do so was denied by Cardinal O'Connell. Being sympathetic to his calling, Cardinal O'Connell appointed him assistant to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, where, in 1928, he would become director. His desire to increase the Catholic presence in foreign countries never ceased, and in 1959 he created the Society of St. James the Apostle for priestly service in Latin America.
As it was decided that he would remain in the archdiocese rather than perform his work abroad, he was appointed assistant pastor at St. Patrick's Church, Roxbury. For the next 23 years he served several other parishes in the Boston area, including St. Benedict's in Somerville; the Cathedral of the Holy Cross; and Sacred Heart Church in Newton; until Sept. 25, 1944, when Pope Pius XII appointed him Archbishop of Boston. His installation as archbishop took place on Nov. 8, 1944, and he was elevated to cardinal on Dec. 18, 1958.
During Cardinal Cushing's tenure as archbishop, the Archdiocese of Boston underwent a period of significant expansion. According to the Official Catholic Directory, there were 1.11 million Catholics in Boston the year he was installed as archbishop, and when he stepped down in 1970 the Catholic population had increased to 3.3 million. Thanks to Cardinal Cushing's efforts, this increase was matched by the building of over 80 new churches, the introduction of 60 new religious orders of men and women, and the establishment of six hospitals during his tenure.
Sadly, Cardinal Cushing was plagued with a number of health problems, prompting him to retire in September 1970. He passed away shortly thereafter, on Nov. 2, 1970 at 75 years of age. Five days later, his funeral Mass was held at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
In the days following his passing the Archdiocese of Boston received countless messages of sympathy, many of which are preserved in the archive. These include a telegram from Pope Paul VI, and letters from the Boston Police Commissioner, Notre Dame University, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As a whole, these messages are a testament to his character and inspiration felt throughout the nation and, no doubt, the world. In his telegram, Pope Paul VI expressed his "profound emotion [that he has] just learned of the death of our venerable and beloved brother Cardinal Richard James Cushing... we are intimately united with the Church of Boston and of the United States in mourning this great priest and bishop."
THOMAS LESTER IS THE ARCHIVIST OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON.