His Eminence George Mundelein

Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, Illinois (1915-1939)

George Mundelein was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to Francis and Mary (née Goetz) Mundelein. One of three children, he had two sisters, Margaret and Anna. His father was of German descent, and his mother was Irish. His grandfather fought in the Civil War.

He attended La Salle Academy and Manhattan College, where he befriended Patrick Joseph Hayes (a future cardinal and Archbishop of New York). He graduated from Manhattan in 1889 with high honors. Mundelein also studied at Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, where he was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Charles Edward McDonnell on June 8, 1895.

Returning to the United States, he then did pastoral work in the Diocese of Brooklyn and served as secretary to Bishop McDonnell until 1897. From 1897 to 1909, he was chancellor for the diocese.

On June 30, 1909, Mundelein was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn and Titular Bishop of Loryma by Pope Pius X. He received his episcopal consecration on the following September 21 from Bishop McDonnell, with Bishops Charles H. Colton and John O’Connor serving as co-consecrators, at St. James Cathedral-Basilica. At thirty-six, Mundelein was the youngest bishop in the country at that time.

Mundelein was later named the third Archbishop of Chicago, Illinois, on December 9, 1915. He was formally installed as archbishop on February 9, 1916, and was appointed an assistant at the pontifical throne on May 8, 1920.

The archdiocese greatly expanded its charity functions during the Great Depression, rivaling that of Chicago’s Associated Jewish Charities. A citywide network of St. Vincent de Paul Societies was established.

Pope Pius XI created him Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria del Popolo in the consistory of March 24, 1924. With his elevation, Chicago became the first diocese west of the Allegheny Mountains to have a cardinal. Several years later in 1926, he presided over the 28th International Eucharistic Congress, which was held in Chicago.

In 1933, he was appointed judge for the apostolic process for Mother Cabrini’s cause for canonization.

Mundelein served as papal legate to the eighth National Eucharistic Congress in New Orleans, Louisiana, on September 13, 1938, and was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 1939 papal conclave, which selected Pope Pius XII.

Mundelein died from heart disease in his sleep in Mundelein, Illinois (a village renamed in his own honor 14 years prior to his death), at age 67. He is buried behind the main altar of the chapel at Mundelein Seminary, which was founded on his initiative.