His Eminence 
John Francis O'Hara
Cardinal Archbishop of Philadelphia
See Philadelphia
Enthroned November 23, 1951
Reign ended August 28, 1960
Predecessor Dennis Dougherty
Successor John Krol
Ordination September 9, 1916
Consecration January 15, 1940
Created Cardinal December 15, 1958
Other Bishop of Buffalo (1945-51)
Personal details
Born August 1, 1888(1888-08-01)
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Died August 28, 1960 (aged 72)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Styles of
John O'Hara
CardinalCoA PioM
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Philadelphia

John Francis O'Hara, CSC (August 1, 1888—August 28, 1960) was an American prelate of the Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Philadelphia from 1951 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1958.

Early life and education

The fourth of ten children, John O'Hara was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as one of the eight children of John and Ella (née Thornton) O'Hara. His father operated a small newspaper and was active in Republican circles.[1] He and his family moved to Bunker Hill, Indiana, two months after his birth, and later to Peru, Indiana, in 1889. He was attending Peru High School when, in 1905, his father was named by President Theodore Roosevelt as the U.S. consul to Uruguay.[2] The family then moved to the South American country, where young John studied at the Catholic University of Uruguay in Montevideo and served as private secretary to Edward C. O'Brien, the U.S. Minister.[3]

In 1906, he moved to Argentina and spent six months on a cattle ranch.[3] Returning to Uruguay, he conducted market surveys for the U.S. State Department.[4] He furthered his studies, and then accompanied his father after the latter was transferred to Brazil.

Upon his return to the United States in 1908, O'Hara entered the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, where he also taught Spanish to defray the costs of tuition and board.[2] After earning a Bachelor's degree and graduating in 1911, he entered the Congregation of Holy Cross on August 8, 1912. He also studied theology at Holy Cross College, South American history under Peter Guilday at the Catholic University of America, and at the Wharton School of Commerce of the University of Pennsylvania.[3] He made his profession as a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross on September 14, 1914.


O'Hara was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Joseph Chartrand on September 9, 1916. He then returned to his alma mater of Notre Dame, where he served as prefect of religion and dean of the College of Commerce. O'Hara greatly fostered the practice of daily reception of Communion. He made national headlines when he arranged for two Notre Dame football players, on their way to a game against West Point, to receive Communion in Albany, New York; the team has since had the opportunity to receive Communion on trips away.[2][3]

President of Notre Dame

O'Hara was elected the vice president of the University of Notre Dame in 1933, and its president in 1934. During his tenure at Notre Dame, he brought numerous refugee intellectuals to campus; he selected Frank H. Spearman, Richard Reid, Jeremiah D. M. Ford, Irvin Abell, and Josephine Brownson for the prestigious Laetare Medal. President Franklin D. Roosevelt named him a delegate to the 1938 Pan-American Conference in Lima, and he was later invited by President Eleazar López Contreras to head a social service mission in Venezuela.[1]

Episcopal career

Apostolic Delegate for the Military Forces

On December 11, 1939, O'Hara was appointed Apostolic Delegate for the U.S. Military Forces and Titular Bishop of Milasa. He received his episcopal consecration on January 15, 1940 from Archbishop Francis Spellman, with Bishops John F. Noll and Joseph Ritter serving as co-consecrators, in Sacred Heart Church. A devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he selected as his episcopal motto: "Following Her You Will Not Go Astray."

President Roosevelt later appointed him to the board of visitors of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, becoming the first Catholic bishop to be so honored.

Bishop of Buffalo

He was named the eighth Bishop of Buffalo on March 10, 1945, and was installed on May 8 of that year. Succeeding the late John A. Duffy, O'Hara greatly expanded Catholic education in the diocese, and eliminated racial segregation in schools and churches. In 1946, he and Bishop Michael Joseph Ready were sent to Japan to report on the condition of the Church in that country.[1]

Archbishop of Philadelphia

O'Hara was promoted to the fifth Archbishop of Philadelphia on November 23, 1951. He received the pallium, a vestment worn by metropolitan bishops, from Cardinal Francis Spellman on May 12, 1953.[1]

Differing in style from his austere predecessor, Cardinal Dennis Joseph Dougherty, he often answered his own doorbell, which he explained by saying "How else can I meet the poor?"[5] During his tenure, O'Hara oversaw the establishment of sixty-one new schools, three women's colleges, and special schools for the mentally challenged, blind, and deaf.[1] Beginning in 1955, he also restored and expanded the Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul. He condemned the Supreme Court's ruling against banning the films La Ronde and M.[6] Moreover, not overly favorable of radio and television, he suggested that Catholics sacrifice such entertainment for Lent.[7]

Pope John XXIII created him Cardinal Priest of Ss. Andrea e Gregorio al Monte Celio in the consistory of December 15, 1958. O'Hara was the first member of the Congregation of Holy Cross to be raised to the College of Cardinals. His health failing in his later years, he underwent several operations and took up to twenty-two different pills.[1] O'Hara died following surgery in Philadelphia, at age 72.[5] He is buried at Sacred Heart Church in Notre Dame, Indiana.


Cardinal O'Hara High School in Springfield, Pennsylvania and Cardinal O'Hara High School in Tonawanda, New York in the Diocese of Buffalo, NY were named after the Cardinal.

Further reading

  • McAvoy, Thomas T. Father O'Hara of Notre Dame (1967), a scholarly biography


Episcopal succession

Episcopal Lineage
Consecrated by: Francis Spellman
Date of consecration: January 15, 1940
Consecrator of
Bishop Date of consecration
Hubert James Cartwright October 24, 1956

External links

no:John Francis O'Hara
Academic offices
Preceded by
Charles O'Donnell
President of the University of Notre Dame
Succeeded by
J. Hugh O'Donnell
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Patrick Joseph Hayes
Apostolic Vicar for the US Military Forces
Succeeded by
Francis Spellman
Preceded by
John Aloysius Duffy
Bishop of Buffalo
Succeeded by
Joseph A. Burke
Preceded by
Dennis Joseph Dougherty
Archbishop of Philadelphia
Succeeded by
John Krol

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