Born in Germany on October 14, 1876, Joseph Francis Rummel was destined for greatness. After obtaining his doctorate in Rome and serving as a priest in New York City and Omaha, NE, for twenty-five years, he headed south on March 9, 1935, when he was named the ninth Archbishop of New Orleans upon the death of Archbishop John William Shaw.
Archbishop Rummel served as the local leader of the Catholic Church for twenty-nine years. During his tenure in New Orleans, the Church enjoyed a period of great growth. From 1935 until 1960, the number of students in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese grew from fewer than 40,000 to more than 85,000. The number of church parishes increased from 135 to 180. Recognizing the need for expansion, Archbishop Rummel launched the Youth Progress Program in 1945 to raise money for education and the building of schools. Some seventy new schools were opened by the Archdiocese under the direction of Archbishop Rummel.
In 1953 Archbishop Rummel issued a pastoral letter entitled “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” In this letter, which was read in every Catholic Church in New Orleans, Archbishop Rummel officially ordered the end of segregation in the Archdiocese by stating, “Let there be no further discrimination or segregation in the pews, at the Communion rail, at the confessional, and in parish meetings, just as there will be no segregation in the kingdom of Heaven.”
During 1958 Archbishop Rummel began an archdiocesan-wide campaign to finance the construction of four new high schools in Jefferson Parish, all of which opened in 1962. Archbishop Rummel High School was one of those schools and was named for him, despite his protests.
Archbishop Rummel’s health began to fail in 1960. Despite his age, his poor health, and an almost total loss of sight, he maintained an active interest in Church affairs. He participated in the dedication of Archbishop Rummel High School in the fall of 1962 and he journeyed to Rome for the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
On November 9, 1964, this strong, determined spiritual leader went to his eternal reward, leaving behind a heritage of good works – including the school that bears his name. The spirit of Joseph Francis Rummel continues to live in the faculty, the student body, and the alumni of Archbishop Rummel High School, a spirit characterized by Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel’s own motto, animam pro ovibus onere, or “to give one’s life for the sheep.”