Bishop Fletcher and 17 Arkansans made a pilgrimage to Rome in June and July 1950 for the Holy Year. They also were able to witness the canonization of Blessed Maria Goretti, the 11-year-old "virgin and martyr of the century" who died in 1902.
Bishop Fletcher met the pope and was among eight American bishops who took part in the procession into St. Peter's Basilica.
The group, including the bishop, six priests and 11 laypeople, sailed from New York on June 13 and arrived in Barcelona 10 days later. The pilgrimage made stops in Florence, Lucerne, Naples, Paris, Rome and Venice. The group visited the four major basilicas in Rome in order to obtain the Holy Year indulgences.
With the trip taking about seven weeks, the families of pilgrims were instructed to contact their family members by radio to the steamers, by cable at various cities in Italy or sending a letter by air mail. When the bishop returned to Little Rock, greater Little Rock clergy were waiting for him at the train station "to tender their respects and welcome."
The "crowning event" of the Holy Year came on the feast of All Saints Nov. 1, 1950, when the dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was proclaimed by Pope Pius XII. It had been 96 years since the last time a pope spoke "ex cathedra" (from the chair).
The dogma was defined "as a doctrine of faith, to be believed and held by every Catholic, that 'after her death, the body of the Blessed Virgin, reunited with her soul, was miraculously taken up into heaven.'"
Life of refugees
"Nearly 500 displaced persons find happiness, new life in Land of Opportunity" was the front-page headline in May 5, 1950, issue. For two years Father Anthony Lachowsky of Conway had been helping to resettle DPs in the state. Farmers sent in requests for DPs, who were allowed to leave Europe if they had a home and job promised to them in the U.S.
"The screening to enter the United State is, by far, the most difficult to pass of that of any country," the article stated.
The DPs had to prove they had good conduct in their home country and passed health examinations. The U.S. spent quite a bit of time assessing whether anyone in the family was associated with the Nazis or Communists. Throughout Germany, Austria and Italy, the Immigration and Naturalization Service processed the people who passed all of the screening instead of bringing them through Ellis Island.
Those with family and friends already in the United States were the ones who were processed first, the article stated.
"There are thousands of them huddled in DP camps, which are dotted throughout Germany and Austria," the article reported. "Today they still have no future. They have little more to look forward to than they had that first year after the American soldiers took them out of Hitler's concentration camps."
Korea and Eastern Europe
The war began on June 25, 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea. In the July 7 issue, Dr. John M. Chang, Korean ambassador to the United States, said, "Since the forces we abhor -- the forces of anti-religion, of dictatorship, of tyranny -- began their onslaught, we have done our part to oppose them."
In the July 28 issue the front page sadly reported that the first Arkansan killed in the conflict was Lt. Louis G. Selig Jr., a member of Holy Rosary Church in Stuttgart. His plane crashed en route from Japan to Korea.
The first chaplain killed by the "Reds" in Korea was Father Herman Felhoelter, who served at Fort Chaffee from 1948 to 1950. His death was reported as the "latest in a long line of Catholic hero-defenders of America."
A day of nationwide prayer was held Dec. 30, 1951, by Catholics for their "persecuted brethren in 17 countries behind the Iron Curtain."
"The heart of the problem of peace is now of the spiritual order," Pope Pius XII said during his Christmas address in 1951. "The problem is a spiritual lack, a spiritual deficiency."
A provincial conference was held for two days in Little Rock in October 1950 to discuss the role of the laity in spreading the faith.
The regional Congress of the Confraternity of the Christian Doctrine closed with a Mass at Travelers' Field in War Memorial Park for 5,000 Catholics. The meeting was held in downtown Little Rock for six bishops and about 1,000 delegates from seven states.
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