News and Tribune

Floyd County

August 16, 2009

NEW ALBANY: Park dedicated to Cardinal Ritter

A park in New Albany behind S. Ellen Jones Elementary School, between 13th Street, Oak Street and Culbertson Avenue, was dedicated Saturday as Cardinal Ritter Park.

Cardinal Joseph Ritter — the only Roman Catholic from Indiana to be elevated to the level of Cardinal — is known as a progressive member of the clergy and fought for racial integration. In 1947, Ritter integrated five Catholic high schools amid protests in St. Louis.

His birthplace, at 1218 E. Oak St., is across from the park named in his honor, and he was a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, just around the corner on Eighth Street. Despite the status he reached in the Archdiocese, Ritter was known as being a unpretentious person.

“We called him Uncle Cardinal,” said Virginia Lipps, Ritter’s niece and New Albany resident. Though she was very young — she is now 77 — when Ritter was active in the area, Lipps remembers some of what Ritter did for the community.

She also remembers him just as her uncle.

“He very much loved to work in the garden, he gardened all the time,” Lipps said. “You would’ve never recognized him as a bishop [if you saw him in the yard].”

That kind of commonality and willingness to accept all people is the spirit the Cardinal Ritter Birthplace Foundation has tried to evoke in revitalizing his former home and park across the street.

“In trying to restore this house and give it back to the community, we’ve kind of learned more about Cardinal Ritter, and we are trying to do it in the spirit of what we think he would do,” said David Hock, foundation chairman. “He would want outreach to the community.”

That outreach has gotten the neighborhood association involved.

The dedication ceremony coincided with the second-annual S. Ellen Jones community festival.

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