By DARIAN ESWINE
NEW ALBANY —
Archbishop of Baltimore William Lori might have been born in Louisville, but it’s New Albany that claims him as a native son.
“There’s always some confusion. He was over there a few days for birth, but he’s a New Albany native,” said David Hock, who was one of the key organizers of a reception Wednesday night that welcomed the native son home.
Another New Albany native who rose through the ranks of the Roman Catholic Church shared the spotlight on Wednesday, allowing an occasion to celebrate two favorite sons’ ascension among the faithful.
The reception, hosted by the Knights of Columbus and the Cardinal Ritter Birthplace Foundation, followed a gathering at Cardinal Joseph Ritter’s birthplace home on East Oak Street in New Albany, which has been slowly restored over the past 10 years. The next project on the list is to facilitate a small museum in honor of Ritter.
“Ritter was a humble and quiet man and he would never toot his own horn by a long shot,” Hock said. “The museum, that would be what he would have wanted done last.”
Hock said there were two parts to Wednesday’s agenda — spreading Ritter’s story and reintroducing Lori to the people of New Albany.
“I think that we would like people to know that there is an archbishop of Baltimore that grew up here,” Hock said. “He left 48 years ago to go to high school and seminary, and didn’t meet everybody in New Albany by a long shot.”
Like Lori’s, Hock said Ritter’s story is a remarkable one. Ritter helped to desegregate catholic schools in Indianapolis, when no other schools in the area were desegregated.
“He did it first, it took remarkable courage,” Hock said. “Other than leading the church in a big way, the church also changed a lot and he was one of the main leaders in the whole world.”
The board of the foundation has been doing their best to tell a bit of Ritter’s story at a time. Hock said he hopes the museum will help with this and that there may also be a new display going in at the Indiana State Museum.
“We’ve been trying to fix the house because we know we have a good story to tell and we are quite proud to be able to tell the story,” Hock said.
Members of the Ritter family were also present at the reception.
Lori graduated from Our Lady of Perpetual Help in 1965 and was ordained a priest in 1977. He then became a bishop in 1995 and was in Washington as an auxiliary bishop. He was the bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., in 2001 and then in 2012, became the archbishop of Baltimore.
He said following this path has been his calling since he was a child. “I have known since fourth our fifth grade that I wanted to be a priest. I felt it,” Lori said.
Hock and Lori attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help together and many members of that class were present at the reception.
Mayor Jeff Gahan was in attendance and shared a few words before Lori was introduced. He also named July 17 “Archbishop William E. Lori Day.” When Lori spoke, he talked of some of his childhood memories he shared with Hock.
“I visit mom and dad often and sometimes just for the heck of it, we’ll take a ride around town and once in a while I will say, ‘David and I rode our bikes out here’ and my mom looks at me very sternly and says, ‘I didn’t know that,’” Lori joked.
Lori, who is also Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus, spoke fondly of the organization and their key principles: charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism. “I see those four principles lived out again and again,” he said.
On a more serious note, Lori said religion is in need of defense in these times.
“These days we find ourselves united in an effort to defend religious liberty. If you look a little bit beneath the surface you can see there is a large problem,” Lori said. “In subtle ways, there is more and more control of what churches can and cannot do in regards to their ministry.”
Lori said these challenges to religion are “very real,” but that all that needs to be done is to “work hard, pray hard, and not worry.”
“And know that the Lord who loves us all so much will take care of so many things,” Lori said.
As he closed, Lori said he was happy to be back in New Albany with good friends and family.
After the speakers, dinner was provided along with a dessert bar, as Lori made his way around the room to greet everyone.
“We’re just so proud of the work he does now and the work he has done for a very long time,” Hock said.