The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

U.S. is drawn into war as diocese prepares for its centennial

Time Capsule 1941-1943A 33-part series on history mined from the first 100 years of Arkansas Catholic and its predecessors.

Published: June 25, 2011   

The years of 1941-1943 saw war coverage dominate The Guardian with first the European war and then Japan's attack on America.

The coverage was constant, but it was not your typical news reports of battles. The coverage focused on the Catholic side of things before and after America declared war on Japan -- detailing the work of chaplains, missionaries and later heroisms of Catholic soldiers.

While the war was a mainstay, so were the lives and continuing faith of Arkansas Catholics. The everyday activities of churches and schools continued to run alongside war coverage, often times with money raised going to buy war bonds or for relief efforts. The Church at home and abroad gave funds for war relief and reminded people to help others.

  • In The Guardian 1941-1943
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  • While Catholics in some communities didn't have their own church building, they still found places to worship. In the April 16, 1943, issue the paper reported that Father Bann, pastor in Malvern, held Mass at the local library. Perhaps the most creative use of space was Catholic laywoman Clara Muxen who, The Guardian reported on Oct. 30, 1942, "transformed a filling station into an attractive little chapel and living quarters for the priest" for the "new Our Lady of the Ozarks Mission on beautiful Mt. Gaylord."

    Bishop John B. Morris celebrated his golden jubilee of priesthood in June 1942 with donations to the endowment of St. John Seminary. The diocese ramped up efforts to establish funds to educate priests, called seminary burses, in 1942 with the bishop's jubilee. A seminary burse was complete at $5,000. As of May 29, 1942, 12 seminary burses were completed and at least five more were still accumulating donations.

    The Diocese of Little Rock turned 100 years old on Nov. 28, 1943. A special edition of The Guardian chronicled the history of the diocese. The bishop announced that the celebration would last for a year with special services at churches throughout the diocese. The opening and closing ceremonies would be at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock.

    America at war

    Americans focused on building up the national defense to protect the United States in case of an attack. The sentiment from earlier years still persisted in 1941 that if America stepped in it would do little to resolve the problems between European nations.

    The emphasis on national defense resulted in an emphasis, both in Arkansas and the nation. In 1941, the first of 500 Army chapels opened. A list of services and activities ran weekly for those stationed at Camp Robinson "in Little Rock."

    Coverage of the actual attack on Pearl Harbor was not recounted. The only mention was a small editorial titled "An editorial" on Dec. 12, 1941. "There is a whole day's difference in time between the calendar date in Japan and the United States. Hence it was on December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception in Japan when the nation declared war on the United States. Here one day later when it was December 8th in our hemisphere, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the United States, because of the action of Japan, declared war on that nation. The United States of America is dedicated to the protection of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. Significant? But our prayers must remain as always for an early and just peace according the intention of Our Holy Father."

    Two priests from Arkansas were reported as serving as chaplains during this time -- Father Francis X. Murphy and Father Edward J. McCormick. The first local tragedy reported on by the paper was in the Dec. 31, 1943 issue, when Little Rock flyer Lt. J. Kleuser of St. Edward Parish, who entered the Army Air Force in July 1941, was reported missing in action over France.

    Work of peace and justice

    Pope Pius XII continued to stress the need for peace and just treatment for all people. In a Jan. 3, 1941, issue, he outlined "five points for honorable, just peace." Others would continually refer to these five points as a basis for what should happen after the war ends. The points included "triumph over" five things that hampered peace and justice: "hate, mistrust, false dictum of might make right, two-sided differences, egoism."

    Bishop Morris wrote in a pastoral in 1942 that Arkansas Catholics must support America, but with a mind toward future peace and justice for the world. He reminded the faithful of the importance of the pope's "five points" in bringing peace to the warring world.

    As his predecessor, Pope Pius XI, did in World War I, Pope Pius XII garnered much criticism for his neutrality. An editorial in The Guardian highlighted that while the pope denounced Nazism and atheistic communism, he was father to all people, even those in countries considered "the enemy."

    In the June 12, 1942, issue, "Pontiff asks prayers for a war-torn world. Misguided people will seek consolation," the pope again called for peace and reminded the world that repentance will happen. "The duty of all Catholics to continue to strive unceasingly, through prayer, work and sacrifice, to prepare themselves for that day when a misguided and strife-torn world will turn again to God," the pope said in a discourse to 22 cardinals.

    Nazis war against God, man

    The Nazis were public enemy number one for Catholics, as Hitler persecuted the Church and religion at every turn.

    Many Catholic clergy were targets for the Nazis -- ridiculed, arrested and sent to concentration camps where they were not allowed to say Mass. Elderly priests went to "undisclosed locations" never to be seen again.

    The German bishop of Muenster was outspoken against the Nazis and their barbarism. Bishop Clemens August Count Von Galen gave a series of three sermons that were spread across Germany during the war. He openly charged the Nazis with committing murder of people they felt were "undesirable." In the Jan. 16, 1942, issue, the headline read, "German bishop charges Nazi murder of 'unproductives.'" The paper reported that some in the Nazi regime wanted Von Galen killed, but he was not. Many of his priests that spread his sermons were killed, but it did not stop them.

    On July 10, 1942, an article focused on the "Sacred hosts, smuggled to Nazi camp, bring joy to 400 priests." When new Slovenian priests were brought to a camp where priests were housed (in a stable), a priest had secretly emptied the tabernacle at the monastery and hidden them in his handbag. News soon spread to the 400 priests that they would have Mass at dawn. The handbag hung on the wall throughout the night. Even though it was pitch black, the priests held an unusual adoration. They took turns hearing confessions and praying before the Blessed Sacrament, hidden in the handbag. Early the next morning, they created a makeshift altar with the only white sheet they had among them and a broken box. They finished distributing Communion right before the guard came for the usual rounds that morning, with enough hosts left for another Eucharistic celebration. It gave them hope.

    Next week: Stories from 1944-1946

    In The Guardian 1941-1943



    Religious vocations in Reich now subject to approval of Nazis

    Bishop Morris ordains first priest from North Little Rock. Father Adam Micek offers first Mass Sunday at St. Mary


    Church property suffers aerial attacks in Pacific war zone

    St. Anne's Mission Church, Gillett, perishes in flames

    Poles, Jews face death penalty for minor offenses


    Non-Catholics at Hope help in rebuilding Our Lady of Hope Church

    "Mother Love" Prayerbook is most popular of Guardian religious stock

    Msgr. Gallagher sends in historic chalice in response to call from our most Rev. Bishop for vessels for the armed forces


    Wm. T. Stover Co., Cool Elastic Stockings: Comfortable relief for surface varicose veins, attractive appearance with effective support

    The New Crosley 1941 Glamor-Tone: Give yourself an ear-treat by hearing

    Black and White Food Marts, home-owned -- buy Arkansas: Campbell's Tomato Soup, can, 6½ cents; Fresh Eggs, dozen, 19 cents; Libby's Milk, 6 small cans or 3 tall cans, 18 cents

  • Click here to see the index of stories in Arkansas Catholic's time capsule series.

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