Archbishop Rudolph A. Gerken

The Gerken-Larson Heritage:
The 19th and 20th Centuries
A Family History

Herman Gerken (1819-1875)
Henry Gerken (1855-1914)
Ewald Gerken (1895-1956)
Joan (Gerken) Larson (1926-1994)
Thomas Larson (1962-)

Researched and written by
Tom Larson

Archbishop Rudolph A. Gerken (1887-1943) was born to William and Elizabeth (Sudmeier) Gerken at Dyersville, Iowa. He served as the first bishop of Amarillo before being named the seventh archbishop of Santa Fe. Archbishop Gerken was a grandson of Herman Gerken, a nephew to Henry Gerken, and a first cousin to my grandfather Ewald Gerken.    T.L.

Archbishop Rudolph A. Gerken

Rudolph Aloysius Gerken was born on March 7, 1887, at Dyersville, Iowa, on the Gerken family homestead east of town. He was the sixth of seven children born to William and Elizabeth (Sudmeier) Gerken. His mother died, however, when he was only one and a half years old, and the person whom he knew as his mother was William's second wife, Carolina Gerken née Wuebbelt. William and Carolina Gerken had six additional children. His siblings were Adelhide (Addie), John, Leo, Frank, Henry, Amelia (Molly), William (Bill), Laura, Oscar, Thecla, Ludwig, and Oliva.

The boy, known as Rudy, grew up on the family farm and received his early education in the rural school of the district and later attended the St. Francis school of Dyersville. He attended Pio Nono College at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, [Catholic Normal School at St. Francis, Wisconsin,] and graduated from St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Indiana.

Becomes teacher, decides to enter priesthood.
Mr. Rudy Gerken was a teacher in the public schools of Texas of Muenster, Windthorst, and Scotland (northwest of Dallas) from 1910 to 1912. Through the encouragement of Bishop Joseph Patrick Lynch of Dallas, he began studies for the priesthood while teaching at the old University of Dallas from 1912 to 1913, where he studied philosophy.

Not only Rudy but also his older brother Leo had decided to enter the holy priesthood of the Catholic Church. Coincidentally, their decisions to become priests occurred at the same time, but neither knew of the other's plans. And so it happened that one day their father William received a letter from one son informing him of his intention to become a priest, and the very next day William received a letter from the other son informing him of the same thing. Rudy's studies for the priesthood took him from the University of Dallas to Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, where he taught languages, from 1913 to 1917. While there, Rudy studied theology and completed his studies for the priesthood.

On June 6, 1917, he left St. Louis for Dallas, and it was there that Rudolph A. Gerken was ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Church on June 10, 1917, by Bishop Lynch in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Three other young priests were ordained at the same time, two being from Dallas, Texas, Rev. Jos. O'Donahue, a convert, and Rev. Frank O'Brien. These two priests have the distinction of being the fourth and fifth natives of the state of Texas to be ordained to the priesthood. The other priest ordained was Rev. Chas. Dvorak of Ennis, Texas.

Young Priest is Son of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Gerken.
Joins Diocese at Dallas, Texas.

Wednesday, June 13, 1917, marked another chapter in the history of St. Francis Xavier Parish of Dyersville, Iowa, for it was the day on which another of its sons entered into the vineyard of the Lord, giving his life to the cause of religion. The Reverend Rudolph Gerken, son of Mr. and Mrs. William Gerken, on that day offered his first Holy Mass, in St. Francis Church, in the presence of a large assemblage of relatives and friends.

Promptly at 10 o'clock, a procession consisting of little girls in white, acolytes, members of the clergy, and Tonner's Concert Band escorted the newly ordained priest from the parochial residence to St. Francis Church where he approached the altar and officiated for the first time at the sacrifice of the Holy Mass. Father Gerken was assisted by Very Rev. Theodore Warning as arch-priest; Rev. William Kunkel of Raymond, Iowa, a cousin, as deacon; and Rev. Dr. August Thier of Dubuque College as subdeacon. Leo Gerken, a brother, was master of ceremonies.

Sermon by Rev. Bumholt.
Rev. Father Bumholt preached the sermon. He spoke of the duties of the priesthood and the ideals of the life devoted to the cause of religion. He also dwelt upon the obligations and support due the parish priest by the members of the congregation. Cooperation is one of the essential factors, said the speaker.

The little bride was Elizabeth Gerken, niece of the newly ordained, and the flower girls were Lea Tegeler and Alma Gerken, also nieces of the young priest. The two acolytes were Elmer Willenborg, nephew, and Master Arthur Ament.

Other priests present in the sanctuary were Monsignor George W. Heer of Dubuque, Ia; Rev. Frederick W. Pape of New Vienna, Ia; and Rev. Frederick W. Oberbroeckling of Luxemburg, Ia., assistant priests; also Rev. Henry P. Rohlman, Dubuque, Ia.; Rev. J.G. Heiring, Tulsa, Okla.; Rev. F. Scherbring, Shaw, Ore.; Rev. Aloysius J. Thole, New Vienna, Ia.; Rev. Henry J. Dunkel and Rev. Mathias M. Hoffman, Dyersville, Ia.; and Rev. Joseph H. Schilmoeller, Worthington, Ia.

The beautiful gold chalice used by Father Gerken was a gift from his parents and sisters and brothers. Besides this valued gift, he was presented with other presents in remembrance of the event and tokens of admiration and esteem.

Guest at a Banquet.
Immediately following the Mass, Father Gerken was the guest of honor at a reception and banquet at St. Francis Hall. The following program was rendered:

  • Duet "Blake".....Dorothy Luehrsmann, Isabelle Schnieders
  • Welcome Song.....St. Francis Boys' Choir
  • Address.....Edmund Schieders
  • Playing Dragon Flies, "Gaenschala".....Theresa Mayer
  • Congratulations.....Elizabeth Gerken
  • Duet "Fearia".....Isabelle and Esther Schieders

Covers were laid for two hundred at the banquet, which was an elaborate one. It was served in three courses. Wm. Warren, caterer, was in charge, and the serving was done by the members of the Young Ladies' Sodality. The hall was beautifully decorated.

Father Gerken has joined the Dallas Diocese where his future field of labor will be. Rev. Gerken enters upon the duties of his new state of life with the best wishes of numerous friends. He is popularly known and admired for his high ideals in his life's work.

Rev. Rudolph Gerken, with his acolytes, little bride, and flower girls, the day of his First Holy Mass, St. Francis Church, Dyersville, Iowa.
Image contributed by Gary Goedken.
Cards commemorating, in English and German, the first Holy Mass said by the Rev. Rudolph A. Gerken.
Images contributed by Gary Goedken.

From 1917 to 1927, the Reverend Rudolph A. Gerken served as pastor of churches at Abilene and Ranger in the Diocese of Dallas and was instrumental in building new churches, schools, missions, and rectories in various sections of West Texas and the Panhandle.

Father Gerken was appointed pastor of Sacred Heart Parish at Abilene, Texas, in 1917. While there Father Gerken built his first church, and it was there that he instituted and erected a Mexican school.

He became pastor at St. Rita’s Church at Ranger, Texas, in 1919, where he served until 1927. After using different homes and buildings as a church, he began the construction of St. Rita’s Church, one of the finest churches in the Dallas diocese. St. Rita's Church at Ranger is a large red brick edifice, in the Cooper addition, is one of the prettiest best furnished churches in Ranger. A tent had served as the church during construction. In addition, a parochial residence and two handsome school buildings were built. All told, the buildings represent a value of something like $100,000. During his pastorate at Ranger, he also erected new churches at Eastland, Cisco, Breckenridge, and Pioneer.

With the help of his brother Bill, he had a two-story building moved onto the church grounds to be used as a school and convent. The Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word of San Antonio, Texas, staffed the school and lived on the second floor. The parochial school employs six sisters as teachers and includes in its curriculum the primary and grammar grades and four years of high school work.

In addition to his parish duties, Father Gerken was named dean of the Colorado River Deanery and also Consultor of the Dallas Diocese in 1924. Also in 1924, the Reverend Gerken, with the special permission of Rome, named a chapel in honor of the yet "Blessed Theresa." This was the first place that her picture was displayed for public veneration. Father Gerken also constructed churches throughout the mission area of Ranger, Texas.

Father Gerken returns to Iowa for funerals of father and brother.
The Reverend Rudolph Gerken made a sad trip home to Dyersville, Iowa, to assist his brother, the Reverend Leo Gerken, at the funeral services on Saturday morning, September 2, 1922, for their father William Gerken, who had died on August 30 at the age of 68 years. Less than a year later Father Rudolph Gerken again made the journey home, this time to officiate at the funeral service for his brother, Father Leo Gerken, on July 13, 1923.

Raised to Office of Dean and Consultor in November 1924.
Bishop Gerken's first special recognition in church circles came quite unexpectedly and as a pleasant surprise in November 1924 when the Rt. Rev. Joseph Lynch, bishop of the Dallas diocese, announced the appointment of the Very Rev. R.A. Gerken of Ranger, Texas, to the office of dean of the Dallas diocese and a diocesan consultor.

The deanery over which he presided consists of Ranger, Eastland, Cisco, Abilene, Bomarton, Rhineland, Sweetwater, and several other West Texas missions. The appointment was considered an unusual honor by reason of the fact that the Very Rev. R.A. Gerken was the youngest man ever to have received the dual appointment of dean and diocesan consultor, the distinction being conferred on him by reason of his extraordinary accomplishments in the Dallas diocese. In the entire Dallas diocese, there are only four deans and four consultors. The duties of the dean are the general supervision of the parishes in his deanery and the duties of the consultor are to advise the bishop of the diocese.

Appointed Bishop to Newly Created Diocese of Amarillo.
It was in the height of his church work that Father Gerken received word of his appointment of bishop of the newly created diocese at Amarillo. The appointment came as a surprise to Father Gerken, who could scarcely believe the honor that had come to him. With the same order from Pope Pius came the appointment of Right Reverend Arthur John Drossaerts, bishop of San Antonio for eight years, to archbishop.

With reference to Father Gerken, the Ranger, Texas, Times says, "In all the parishes he has been untiring in his efforts to build up the church property and promote the spiritual life of his people. He is a man of a most happy disposition, always smiling, simple in the conduct of his life and affairs, avoiding any show of ostentation, and the only thing that in any mars the joy of his people and his friends outside of the church in Ranger is that in his new appointment he will be transferred to Amarillo."

Provinces in United States Now Increased to Fifteen.
First Bishop of New Diocese.

In August 1926 the Holy See created a new eccliastical province in the United States known as the Province of San Antonio. The number of provinces in this country was thus increased from fourteen to fifteen.

The diocese of San Antonio by this decree became an archdiocese and the Rt. Rev. Arthur Drossaerts, D.D., the present bishop of San Antonio, became the new metropolitan of the new province with the title of archbishop. The new archdiocese has as suffragan sees the dioceses of Galveston, Corpus Christi, Dallas, the newly formed Amarillo, and Oklahoma. The new ecclesiastical province is formed of territory formerly attached to the ecclesiastical province of New Orleans. The new province comprises much of the state of Texas and Oklahoma. The diocese of El Paso, Texas, remains part of the province of Santa Fe.

The new diocese created, which has for its see the thriving city of Amarillo, Texas, is made up for its greater part from territory formerly within the dioceses of Dallas and San Antonio, with a small portion of territory formerly part of the El Paso diocese.

Reasons for Creating New Diocese.
The Holy See was led to establish this new diocese chiefly because of its solicitude for the welfare of the Mexicans who have located in this territory in quite large numbers and will undoubtedly be greatly increased as a result of the persecution of the Church now raging in Mexico.

The new diocese includes a little over seventy counties of the state of Texas. It has an area of 72,000 square miles and a total population of 516,240. Amarillo, according to the census of 1925, has a population of 25,000. The second city of the new diocese is San Angelo, with a population of 10,000. The entire Catholic population of the new diocese of Amarillo is 24,533. Of these, 5,000 are Americans and over 19,000 are Mexicans. The parishes with resident priests number 15; parishes with schools, 10; mission churches, 26. The total number of priests is 22.

Amarillo is the seat of Potter County and is on the main line of the Santa Fe and of the Fort Worth and Denver railroads. It is called the "Queen City of the Plains." It has a strategic commercial position, its commercial territory extending through the Pan Handle, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Colorado. If the great Canadian river power and irrigation project is developed, its center will be near Amarillo.

San Antonio, the seat of the new archdiocese, is historically famous in Catholic annals. The presbytery of the present cathedral was formerly one of the old mission churches. The city may rightfully be called a center of Catholic life in Texas. It is noted for its Catholic institutions of learning, among which are the College of Our Lady of the Lake, conducted by the Sisters of Providence, and the College of the Incarnate Word, conducted by Sisters of the same name.

Archbishop Drossaerts received his pallium at the consistory October last. The archbishop was at one time pastor at Baton Rouge, La. From there he was appointed bishop of San Antonio, succeeding in that see the present archbishop of New Orleans.

Because he has so many former Mexicans in his diocese, Archbishop Drossaerts has been keenly interested in religious conditions in Mexico and has made a close study of the causes underlying the recent developments there. Since the issuance of the Calles decrees, some of the most understanding and forceful statements on the persecution in Mexico have come from the new archbishop of San Antonio.


Tuesday, April 26, 1927, marked another big event in the life of a former Dyersville, Iowa, boy, in the person of the Right Reverend Bishop Rudolph Aloysius Gerken, who was on that day elevated to the dignity of a bishop. Although very few Dyersville people had the priviege to attend the impressive ceremonies, their thoughts were centered to Texas on two days, the day of his consecration and the day of his installation on Thursday, April 28. Bishop Joseph P. Lynch, who had ordained Rudolph Gerken, now consecrated him, and he also officiated at Bishop Gerken's installation as bishop of the See of Amarillo. The Most Rev. John J. Keane, archbishop of Dubuque, in which diocese Father Gerken was born, was present in the sanctuary at the installation.

The consecration ceremonies were at 9:30 o'clock Tuesday morning in the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart at Dallas, Texas, the Right Reverend Joseph Patrick Lynch, D.D., Bishop of Dallas, being the consecrator. The Right Reverend Christopher Edward Byrne, D.D., Bishop of Galveston, and the Right Reverend Francis Clement Kelly, D.D., Bishop of Oklahoma, were the co-consecrators.

The other officers of the consecration ceremonies were as follows:

  • Notary: J.F. Byrnes, read the Papal Bulls in Latin and English.
  • Assistant Priest: Very Rev. Msgr. Robert M. Nolan.
  • Deacons of Honor: Rev. William. A. Kunkel and Rev. Anthony Gerken.
  • Deacon of the Mass: Rev. A. Bumholt.
  • Sub-deacon of the Mass: Rev. J.G. O'Donahue.
  • Sub-deacon of the Cross: Rev. C. Dvorak.
  • Masters of Ceremonies: Rev. Wm. Robinson, Rev. A. Danglmayr, Rev. Nold, Rev. J.F. Burns.
  • Special Chaplains to the Consecrator: Rev. V. Graffee, Rev. M. Gregory, C.M.F.
  • Special Chaplains to Bishop-elect Gerken: Rev. M. French, Rev. J.J. Delje, Rev. Kelly, Rev. D. Fletcher,
  • Rev. J. Sullivan.
  • Chaplains to Bishop-elect Gerken:
    • Ring: Rev. F. Higgins
    • Miter: Rev. J. Krukkert
    • Crozier: Rev. H. Knufer
    • Chrism: Rev. F.W. O'Brien
  • Chaplains to the Consecrator:
    • Book, Pontifical: Rev. I. Parroccini
    • Book, Missal: Rev. M. Collins
    • Book, Canon: Rev. L. Monasterio, C.M.F.
    • Bug[i or l]a: Rev. J. Neifert, S.S.J.
    • Miter: Rev. I. Meyer
    • Crozier: Rev. P. Malley
    • Gremlate: Rev. G. Redfern
  • Bearers of Offertory Gifts: Rev. E. Diege, C.M.F.; Rev. T. O'Friel; Rev. A. Boeding; Rev. B. O'Brien; Rev. F. Koerdt, O.S.B.; Rev. P. Niedzieia.
  • Chaplains to Archbishop Drossaerts: Very Rev. T. O'Brien, Rev. T. Pokluda

His Grace, Archbishop Drossaerts of San Antonio, Texas, preached the sermon for the occasion.

Following the consecration ceremonies at the cathedral, a banquet was held at the Adolphus Hotel at Dallas at 1 p.m. and covers were laid for 800 guests. Bishop Lynch of Dallas acted in the capacity of toastmaster. Msgr. Wm. D. O'Brien of Extension Society, Chicago, spoke on "Our Holy Father and Our Church." Msgr. Robert M. Nolan of Fort Worth, Texas, spoke on "Our President and Our Country."

In behalf of the clergy of the Dallas Diocese, Rev. James F. Byrnes made an address of presentation, to which Bishop Gerken made the closing remarks.

The following is the menu served at the banquet:

Supreme of Fruit Marachino Grenadin
Amander SoleAlmonds
(Individual) Planked Sirloin Steak Bourgeoise
with Stuffed Tomatoes, Stuffed Peppers, Asparagus Tips, Green Peas, Spinach, String Beans, Fresh Mushrooms, Potato Bordure, Special French Dinner Rolls
Long Island Salad
Adolphus Secret Dressing
Swedish Waters
Ice Cream Soule Fantasio Migmardises
PercolatedPetit Cafe Noirs

Made Confirmation Tour Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in Mission Places.

Rt. Rev. Bishop Rudolph A. Gerken, the newly consecrated bishop of Amarillo, Texas, sang his first Pontifical High Mass in his parish church at Ranger, Texas, last Sunday morning, May 1, 1927, at 10:00 o'clock. Bishop Gerken was assisted by Rt. Rev. Wm. D. O'Brien as Presbyter Assistant; Very Rev. Father Warning as first deacon of honor; Rev. Father Hagemann as second deacon of honor; Rev. William A. Kunkel as deacon of the Mass; Father Ruano as subdeacon of the mass; and Rev. Father Robinson as master of ceremonies.

Immediately after the high mass, Bishop Gerken administered the sacrament of confirmation to his first class of children. At five o'clock the same afternoon, he administered confirmation to a class of Mexican children and delivered the sermon in the Spanish language to them. At 7:30 o'clock that evening, Bishop Gerken was tendered a banquet by his parishioners at the Gholson Hotel in Ranger, and the menu served was as follows:

Queen OlivesCelery en Branch
Fried Milk Fed Chicken
Cream Potaoes
June Peas
Fruit SaladHoney Dew Ice Cream
Assorted Cakes
CoffeeCigars, Cigarettes

After the banquet the following program was rendered:

  • Invocation: Rev. M. Collins, St. Rita's Church, Ranger, Texas
  • Toastmaster: Mr. Edw. R. Maher
  • Greetings: Rev. Jno. W. Thurman
  • Our Mayor, Our Holy Father, and the Church: Rt. Rev. Msgr. W.D. O'Brien, L.L.D., president, Catholic Church Extension Society, Chicago.
  • Our Fellow Citizen: Hon. L.H. Flewellen, member, Ranger School Board
  • Our Prophesy Realized: Very Rev. Msgr. Robt. M. Nolan, dean of Fort Worth
  • Our Fellow Iowan: Rev. William A. Kunkel, Raymond, Iowa
  • Our Altar Boy: Very Rev. Msgr. Geo. W. Heer, Dubuque, Iowa, and Very Rev. Warning, Dyersville, Iowa
  • Our Response: Rt. Rev. R.A. Gerken, D.D., Bishop of Amarillo

The school children rendered a welcome program to the newly consecrated Bishop on Sunday afternoon and presented him with the precious Mitre. The parishioners presented him with a well-filled purse after the banquet on Sunday evening.

On Confirmation Tour.
On Monday Bishop Gerken went to Breckenridge where he confirmed a class of Mexicans and the same evening confirmed a class of whites. After confirmation, he was again tendered a banquet by his parishioners there.

On Tuesday he confirmed a class of Mexicans at four o'clock in the afternoon and at eight o'clock a class of whites. The parishioners of Cisco also had a banquet in his honor.

On Wednesday Bishop Gerken confirmed in another of his former mission places, the parish at Eastland, Texas. The ceremonies took place at four o'clock in the afternoon when he confirmed a class of Mexicans and in the evening a class of whites, after which he was given another banquet by the parishioners of Eastland.

Bishop Rudolph Gerken has the distinction of being the youngest bishop of the Catholic church in the United States. He was forty years old in March. He was ordained a priest when he was thirty years of age, ten years ago.

Bishop Rudolph A. Gerken, bishop of Amarillo

Bishop R. A. Gerken, Dedication of St. George's College, later known as Price Memorial College
Bishop Rudolph Gerken, at the dedication of St. George's College (later Price Memorial College).
      Ray Goedken, at the far left in photo, was a son of John Theodore Goedken, a cousin of Bishop Gerken through his mother's lineage.
Photo contributed by Gary Goedken, Ray's son.
At the invitation of Bishop Gerken, Ray Goedken had moved from Iowa to attend Price College in Texas for his high school years, and in 1978, he wrote a memoir recounting his years there and his times with Bishop Gerken, which he entitled High School and Cousin Archbishop Rudolph Gerken.

During his six-year administration of the diocese, Bishop Rudolph A. Gerken built twenty churches, thirteen rectories, six schools, three hospitals, a convent, and four homes for teachers. In Amarillo he also established a boys' school known as St. George's College in 1928 and served as its first president.

Bishop Gerken had purchased land northeast of Amarillo for St. George's College, an all male preparatory school. Anxious to begin classes, Bishop Gerken opened St. George's College on September 12, 1928, before construction of the school had even been completed. Lacking a building, the thirty-five students who enrolled attended classes in the basement of the old Sacred Heart Cathedral.

"Soon after classes began, Bishop Gerken received alarming news. Cardinal Mundelein (for whom the school was named) failed to secure the funding that was promised. So, Bishop Gerken began a frantic search for money. Almost immediately the bishop encountered good fortune. Mrs. Katherine E. Price, a widow from Connecticut, wrote to him in November inquiring about the needs of the Diocese. Mrs. Price was intent upon aiding the church in the Southwest in the form of donations from the estate of her late husband, Lucian B. Price. Bishop Gerken informed Mrs. Price about the need for money to finish construction of the new school, and Mrs. Price responded by agreeing to finance St. George's College and to add two wings to the building. The first school year ended with the graduation of three students. And in honor of Mrs. Price, the school was renamed Price Memorial College."
      from Holy Cross Catholic Academy: History
      Online at
      Accessed February 6, 2007.

For ten years St. George's College was run by diocesan priests. Its name was changed to Price Memorial College in 1930 to honor Katherine E. Price, the widow of merchant Lucien B. Price, a major benefactor of the school. The word Memorial was dropped from its title when the Christian Brothers took over the school in 1936. Two years later Price added an eighth grade to the four high school years. In the 1950s, Cardinal Francis Joseph Spellman, a former archbishop of the archdiocese of New York and the top Catholic prelate in the early 1950s, went to Amarillo to dedicate a dormitory and recreation hall as Gerken Hall. In 1964 the school was renamed Price Catholic High School, to avoid confusion caused by the word College. The brothers withdrew from the school in 1966, and the school was renamed Alamo Catholic High School, after a merger with St. Mary's Academy and grades seven and eight from Amarillo's other Catholic schools, and the school was now co-educational. The school was renamed Holy Cross Catholic Academy after a complete renovation, and it was newly dedicated on October 11, 2000.
      See Holy Cross Catholic Academy: History for more about the school.

In the six years of his administration of the Amarillo diocese, Bishop Gerken faced many serious difficulties brought about by the vastness of his episcopal territory and the exigencies of what he on one occasion called "a pioneer mission field in the United States."

Immediately after his installation, Bishop Gerken undertook to meet the many difficulties presented by the new diocese of Amarillo. In an interview given to the N.C.W.C. News in Washington in 1928, he revealed a plan to invite properly equipped young women throughout the country to volunteer a year of free service, under the direction of the Sisters, to teaching Catholic children in the mission schools of the diocese.

Bishop Rudolph A. Gerken, on the step of the new Episcopal Residence.
Photo contributed by Gary Goedken.
Pioneer Mission Field.
"The new diocese of Amarillo," he said at the time, "embracing a vast territory of over 70 counties represents a pioneer mission field in the United States. Four-fifths of the faithful are poor Mexicans driven from their native land by bitter persecution. They are scattered over this extensive territory where, for the greater part, they are deprived of the Catholic Church and school, with the result that thousands have already been lost to Mother Church. Missionary workers of every other denomination find a fertile field among them."

He then explained how the plan would relieve partly a situation created by the large territory and the scarcity of priests and Sisters.

A few weeks later, His Excellency paid a high tribute to the Catholic Press in announcing that his request for volunteer lay teachers had met with wide response.

A joint memorial passed by the New Mexico legislature following Archbishop Gerken's death adds the following: "Possessing a magnetic personality and great sincerity, which attracted people to him and resulted in the formation of many lasting friendships, the then Bishop Gerken participated actively in community affairs at Amarillo. He belonged to the Rotary Club of that city, and participated in enterprises which had for their aim the upbuilding of West Texas, all regardless of faith or creed, but looking only to the elevation of his fellowman, and the solution of social and economical problems."

Other Gerkens migrate to Texas; Bishop says funeral mass for his mother.
In 1928, his mother Carolina and sister Oliva moved to Amarillo to be with Bishop Gerken, and it was at his home that his mother died on November 23, 1929. The deceased was taken home to Dyersville, Iowa, for burial, and her son, the Right Reverend Rudolph Gerken, sung the Pontifical Requiem High Mass, assisted by his cousin, the Reverend William Kunkel, among others. Bishop Gerken also officiated at the wedding of his sister Oliva to William P. Janssen at Dyersville on March 3, 1931; the Janssens returned to Texas to live.

Other Gerkens migrated to Texas and the Southwest, following in the footsteps of Bishop Gerken. His brothers Bill and Ludwig both moved to Texas, with Ludwig later moving on to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Both their brother Oscar and their uncle Louis Gerken spent some time in Texas as well.

Giles Gerken recalls his Uncle Rudy.
Giles Gerken, a son of Frank Gerken (Rudolph Gerken's brother), recalls some visits from his uncle Rudy, which follow: "In 1934 he came to visit us at Colby, Wisconsin. I remember Dad and me meeting the train at a town called Owen. After a week there he convinced Dad to drive him to Iowa. So Dad and Mom, Rita and I, and Uncle Rudy started out in a Model T. Roads were mostly still gravel as I remember a headlight rim and glass fell off at one point and rolled down the road ahead of us. I ran ahead and retrieved them, and Dad put them back on. We had to keep the right rear window rolled up as since he chewed tobacco and regularly spit out the window in front, it would come back into an open rear window.

"Later in Dyersville the relationship gathered at Uncle John B. Gerken's house in town. He had just returned from a European trip (Not sure if it were a round-the-world trip or just Europe). Anyway I remember him telling about a visit to Germany--of the fact that young people's camps were built with male and female across the road from each other to encourage fraternization (to increase troop supply). His statement was 'Something is going to happen over there--watch out.' He gave small gifts to us younger children from Europe.

"At some other visit everyone was at Aunt Thecla's farm, and the kids were playing ball in pasture. He came out and removed his cross, hung it on a hay loader, and played ball with them."

Bishop Gerken Named To Succeed the Late Most Rev. Daeger.

News was received in Dyersville, Iowa, late Wednesday afternoon, June 7, 1933, that Bishop Rudolph Aloysius Gerken had been named as archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, by His Holiness, Pope Pius XI, according to word received from the Holy See. The appointment came on June 2, 1933. Archbishop-designate Gerken succeeds the late most Rev. Albert T. Daeger, O.F.M., who died as a result of a fall in December 1932.

The See of Santa Fe, of which Archbishop-designate Gerken will be the seventh ordinary, was established in 1850 and became an archbishopric in 1875. The archdiocese covers an area of 104,168 square miles and has a Catholic population of 136,385. Fifty-four secular priests and 52 priests of religous Orders labor in the See in 56 churches with resident priests, 84 mission stations, 23 chapels, and 306 missions with churches.

Time magazine included an article about the appointment of Rudolph Gerken as archbishop of Santa Fe and the following are some quotations from the article:

"To [Amarillo] went scores of priests, monsignori and bishops ... In Amarillo they made processions, held solemn ceremonies in the Cathedral, all in honor of a plump prelate whom they presently escorted by train to Santa Fe, there to install him as Santa Fe's seventh archbishop. He was Most Rev. Rudolph Aloysius Gerken, 47, bishop of Amarillo since it was first made a diocese six years ago. To him it was 'an adventure with God.' "

"Archbishop Gerken has been a builder. ... In his Abilene parish he built ten churches, among them the first in the U. S. dedicated to St. Therese de Lisieux ("Little Flower"). In Amarillo diocese he built 35. In Santa Fe he now looks toward restoring old churches and shrines, installing their relics and treasures in proper fireproof vaults and cases. He will also apply himself to education ... ."

"Tall, plump and blond, Archbishop Gerken is a Rotarian, fond of quoting Aristotle and St. Francis (Santa Fe's patron) at weekly luncheons. He drives his own automobile ... ."

Online source:,9171,745984,00.html. Accessed February 6, 2007

Archbishop Gerken Installed as the Seventh Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Relatives from Dyersville and the Vicinity Were Present at Colorful and Solemn Ceremonies.

Impressive ceremonies marked the installation of His Excellency, the Most Reverend Rudolph Aloysius Gerken, D.D., L.L.D., Archbishop-elect of Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Wednesday, August 23, 1933, in that city.

Archbishop Gerken arrived in Santa Fe from Amarillo at 6:30 o'clock, a.m., and he was accompanied by the Most Reverend Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, D.D., Apostolic Delegate in the United States, of Washington, D.C., and dozens of other prelates including 30 priests.

They arrived at Santa Fe by special train, and the Pullman bearing the distinguished religious delegates was drawn by two engines to the depot in that city. Among the passengers on the special were the apostolic delegate; the new archbishop; Bishop C. Byrne, Galveston; Bishop Lynch, Dallas; Monsignor R.H. Diamond, Dallas; Monsignor O'Brien, Chicago; Monsignor J.F. O'Connor, Fort Worth; Monsignor A. Amirault, Amarillo; Monsignor V. Graffeo, Corsicanna, Texas; Abbot Augustin Antoniolli, New Orleans; Abbot Edward Burgert, O.S.B., Subiaco, Ark.; Father A. Danglmayr, secretary to Bishop Lynch; Father F.M. Kaminsky, chancellor of the Amarillo diocese; and Father Steinlage, rector of Price Memorial Colloege at Amarillo.

A large crowd was at the station to welcome the new archbishop. A door of one of the Pullmans opened, and he appeared smiling warmly upon the crowd, so reports the Santa Fe New Mexican, from which we have a good report of the installation ceremonies. A volley of "vivas" went up and the 111th cavalry band struck up. As the new archbishop passed through the narrow lane, which the police, sheriff, and state motor patrol had difficulty in clearing through the throng, the men and women grabbed his hand, bowing, and kissing his ring.

The arrangements for the reception of the archbishop-elect and his escort to the cathedral when he arrived Wednesday were in the charge of the K. of C. transportation committee and approved by Maj. A. Esvelt. All cars in the march met at the Santa Fe depot at 6 a.m. as the train arrived.

The dignitaries were escorted to waiting cars, and the procession was on its way to the archbishop's residence. Leaving the depot, the line of march went east on Montezuma Avenue to Galisteo Street, north on Galisteo to San Francisco to the cathedral. Sheriff Jesus M. Raca headed the procession as it wended its way through the streets. Crowds lined the sidewalks. The new state motor patrol acted as outriders. Troop 28 of the Boy Scouts assisted in handling traffic. From the cathedral the drivers took the different dignitaries to their respective reservations. Nearly all of the visiting prelates, including the apostolic delegate, were housed at St. Vincent's sanitarium while in this city.

In the first car, decorated with yellow and white, the papal colors, was the apostolic delegate, Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, accompanied by the Rt. Rev. Monsignor Estvelt and Gen. Osborne C. Wood, personal represntative of Governor Seligman. In the next, similarly decorated, was Bishop Gerken. Bishop Joseph Patrick Lynch of Dallas rode with him.

Other prelates and priests came in the following cars, who were in turn followed by the 111th Cavalry Band and Battery A, 158th Field Artillery, newly motorized with big trucks drawing its field guns. Many more cars were swung into line, bringing up the rear.

The Private Ceremony.
The private ceremony was held at the archbishop's so-called "palace," the old brick two-story house on Cathedral Place, and consisted of the new archbishop presenting his credentials from Rome to the diocesan consultors, who were the Rt. Rev. Monsignor Estvelt of Tucumari, Father Edward Paulhan of Pecos, Father Joseph Giraud of Taos, Father Joseph Gautheir of Manzano, Father Julius N. Stoffel of Albuquerque, and Father Camillus Fangmann, O.F.M., of Farmington.

Immediately after presenting these documents, the Bishop of Amarillo became the Archbishop of Santa Fe. At age 40, he was the youngest archbishop in the United States. These papers were the Latin Order from Rome. Before the Pontifical High Mass celebrated by Archbishop Gerken, the documents from Rome were read in Latin and English to the congregation by Monsignor Estvelt, administrator.

Program Moves Smoothly.
At 9 o'clock the impressive services began in the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe. Admission was by card only. The carrying out of the consecration exercise entailed a program of over three hours, in a packed cathedral with chairs in the aisles, but due to the efficiency and executive ability of Father Leonard and Father Bernard of the parish, it moved to its conclusion with perfect smoothness, with rare beauty and solemnity.

The Procession into the Cathedral.
Vested in a cope worn by the Archbishop, head of the province composing Colorado, Arizona, northern Texas, and New Mexico, the new prelate was led to the main altar by the apostolic delegate from Washington.

As the procession entered the main door at the rear, first came three Franciscans, the one in the center carrying a tall brass cross. Following them came hundreds of priests, the other orders in their distinctive robes and secular priests in their black cassocks and white surplices. When the new archbishop stepped within the doors, the procession halted. At this time all of the priests had been seated, but still it reached from the altar rail to the door, The main aisle was filled end to end with the red-garbed monsignori, bishops, and archbishops. There was a brief ceremony as the archbishop first placed foot across the threshold of his cathedral. The monsignori marched two and two. Each of the bishops had an escort of two priests, one on each side.

Just ahead of the archbishop came Archbishop Ruizy Fibres, exiled apostolic delegate to Old Mexico,; behind the new archbishop came Archbishop Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, apostolic delegate to the United States. As they passed up the aisle, the apostolic delegate gave his blessing to the congregation, making the sign of the cross, and the crowd, which had been standing, knelt momentarily.

It is estimated that 7 archbishops, 24 bishops, 44 monsignors, 2 abbots, and 2 provincials (heads of religious orders in a province), and 200 priests attended the ceremony, as well as many visitors, members of the laity, also coming to Santa Fe from Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico points. The hundreds of priests, who many times have officiated at the high altar themselves, were seated with the congregation in one of the chapels, in the transept.

Governor Present.
Governor Seligman and other state officials occupied the front pews in the nave. Behind them was row upon row of black-garbed nuns.

Only the highest prelates were on the altar, aside from the "padres" who assisted at the Most Rev. Rudolph A. Gerken's first mass as archbishop. There wasn't room even for the monsignori and the visiting abbots. At the "Sanctus" of the mass, the monsignori in their red capes took up a position in front of the altar railing. They stretched across the space just in front of it from one side to the other.

Never has Santa Fe seen so many of the dignitaries of the church gathered together at one time. Seldom has a march larger city seen such a magnificent spectacle.

At the altar the new archbishop donned his vestments of the mass on this feast day of Saint Philip Benicius. The new archbishop occupied his seat on the throne on the right as one faces the episcopal throne, to the left of the main altar, the gospel side. The apostolic delegate was on the epistle side.

Features of the Ceremony.
Highlights of the ceremnoy were the reading of the new archbishop's credentials by the Rt. Rev. Monsignor Estwelt, in Latin and in English; the address by the apostolic delegate from Washington, Msgr. Amleto Cicognani, representative of the Holy Father in Rome, defining the duties of the archbishop and mentioning the outstanding historic character of the Santa Fe archdiocese.; the procession of the priests before their new leader, as they kissed his ring and rendered their vows of obedience to his spiritual direction; and the pontifical high mass with His Excellency officiating; the beautiful music by the cathedral choir; the address of Bishop Lynch of Dallas, who pictured the church standing immovable, immutable through the centuries of war and peace, ministering to souls of high and lowly, man's sanctuary and God's dwelling place. It was a tremendously brilliant and eloquent discourse acceptable and inspiring to all people of the Christian faith.

There was an innovation. For the first time for many years the Gregorian chant was heard inside the walls. The Christian Brothers of St. Michael's College chanted the "proper" of the mass. El Coro de San Francisco sung a choral mass.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the new archbishop gave his blessings to the clergy and the laity. Archbishop Gerken spoke to the vast multitude in both English and Spanish, which in part is as follows:

"I hope to succeed in the great task of promoting God's honor and glory by the salvation of souls," said the archbishop. "Well do we realize the heavy responsibility of the task with which we are entrusted, in taking over this great, historic, mission archdiocese."

He reviewed conditions in the vast area under his archepiscopal care and especially mentioned the hardship and the multiplying problems which have come with the depression of the past few years.

"But we are no more discouraged than the apostles of old," said he. "These are world conditions. It shall be 'Not I, but Thou, O Lord.' We shall ever remember that He has said, 'Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.' "

It was an unforgettable scene which marked the induction into office of the successor of the late lamented and beloved Father Albert Daeger of blessed memory. It took place in the presence of a papal delegate, of monsignori, of bishops and abbots, of hundreds of secular priests, of lines of brown-gowned Franciscans, of rows upon rows of black-habited nuns, of hundreds of the faithful, of prominent men and women of Santa Fe and all over the state and distant places.

For all the brilliant robes of purple and gold and white, for all the sonorous Latin and the stately dignity of the Roman Church, the simplicity of the pioneer Santa Fe church tradition pervaded the ceremony. It was solemn, dramatic, colorful, but it was inherently simple. A significant token was the fact that the new archbishop, as each priest of the diocese knelt to kiss his ring, shook hands cordially with every one; and another was the fact that his address was in both English and very fluent and musical Spanish.

The earnestness and sincerity of the speaker's pledge to carry out the great tradition of soul-saving in the field made famous by the labors of of such shepherds as Archbishop Lamy impressed his hearers deeply.

Is Seventh Archbishop.
Archbishop Gerken is the seventh archbishop of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and metropolitan of the province comprising Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Texas. The others were:

  • John Baptist Lamy, first archbishop, 1875-1885; died 1888.
  • John Baptist Salpointe, second archbishop, 1885-1894; died 1898.
  • Placid Louis Chapelle, third archbishop, 1894-1897; archbishop of New Orleans 1897-1905; died 1905.
  • Peter Bourgade, fourth archbishop, 1899-1908; died 1908.
  • John Baptist Pitaval, fifth archbishop, 1909-1918; died 1928.
  • Albert Thomas Daeger, sixth archbishop, 1919-1932; died 1932.

The archdiocese was established in 1850 and created an archbishopric in 1875.

Tragedy Marks Prelates.
Tragedy has marked the lives of the prelates who have "reigned" as heads of this archdiocese, a position second in authority to that of the Pope, who is the spiritual father of300 million Catholics. Of the six archbishops, three had to resign for one cause or another. It was generally considered due to old age or poor health, making it impossible for the prelates to visit such a vast diocese--considered the largest in the United States. Its area is 104,168 square miles. The prelate is required to give the sacrament of confirmation once a year and the hardships of a journney around New Mexico were great. Since the building of good roads and the popularity of the motor car, this problem of transportation has been solved.

Most of Them French.
As seen by their names, most of the archbishops have been natives of France. they were pioneers as missionaries in the arid Southwest. Lamy, the first, came out here via New Orleans and did not battle with the Indians crossing the Santa Fe Trail. Salpointe long was a bishop in Arizona, and according to stories, lived in extreme poverty.

The new archbishop is a man of scholarship and is of German descent, the second with a German name. He is the only archbishop who has affiliated with a business and professional men's organization; he is a Rotarian.

Visiting prelates and clergy in Santa Fe for the installation of the new archbishop were taken for drives in and about town under the auspices of the N.C.C.W., Miss Clara Berehtold, chairman of the committee, announced today. The cars left the Cathedral place at 3 p.m.

They were given the choice of two routes: First, to the bishop's lodge to see Archbishop Lamy's chapel and then to Tesuque where the Indians put on a dance; second, around the city to the San Miguel Chapel and Guadalupe Church, the Laboratory of Anthropology, and back to St. Francis Cathedral to see the records. Professor and Mrs. Sylvanus G. Morley have thrown open their home for an exhibition of ecclesiastical antiques, including vestments and ivories from Mexico and Guatemala. The second drive included a visit to their place.

In the evening a banquet was given in honor of Archbishop Gerken at the LaFonda Hotel, under the auspices of the Knights of Columbus. The archbishop gave a brief talk, which is as follows: "My heart is filled to overflowing, my mind running over with thoughts, as a result of the magnificent reception given me. I wish I had words to express my thanks, my appreciation of your kindness, your hospitality, your courtesy. Your Governor Seligman has opened to me a field for cultivation. I promise that the plow is ready, and that it will 'Plow deep while the sluggards sleep.' "

Dyersville friends and relatives of Archbishop Gerken extend to him congratulations and best wishes and God's Choicest Blessings in his new field of duty. Among the relatives and friends who attended the installation services were John Gerken, Dyersville; Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Gerken and family, Amarillo, Texas; Ludwig Gerken, Amarillo; Mrs. Clem Bruggeman, Petersburg, Iowa; Mr. and Mrs. William Janssen, Umbarger, Texas; Louis Gerken, Sr., Amarillo; Rev. William Kunkel, Norway, Iowa; Rev. Father Warning and Rev. Thier of Dubuque, Iowa; and Rev. Forkenbrock of New Hampton, Iowa; and Vincent Gerken, Amarillo, Texas.

Perhaps most noteworthy among the rites of marriage performed by Archbishop Gerken was one he presided over on November 9, 1935, when he performed the wedding ceremony of Jane Wyatt and Edgar Ward at his home in Santa Fe, with only immediate relatives and close friends as wedding guests. Jane Wyatt would become perhaps most well known for her role as Margaret Anderson on the television program Father Knows Best, in which she starred with Robert Young.
Source: Jane Wyatt and Edgar Ward Marriage Profile
The joint memorial passed by the New Mexico legislature tells the following: "In the prime of life, fired with the zeal of the men who had gone before him in his exalted position, Archbishop Gerken immediately began and carried forward an intelligent program for the furtherance of the religious efforts of his church in the Archdiocese, following day by day in the footsteps of the sainted Lamy, the heroic missionary, Salpointe, the scholarly Chapelle, the zealous Bourgade, the energetic Pitaval, and the humble, Christlike Daeger. Soon Archbishop Gerken became known in the picturesque plazas and placitas, in the Indian pueblos, and in the cities and towns of New Mexico, on confirmation tours, and in his endless quest of the Holy Grail. He was equally at home with the man of the world and with the poor and needy. Wearing mitre and crozier and episcopal robes in his churches, he preached the gospel of Christ with zeal and apostoloic vigor. Outside of the church, Archbishop Gerken never hesitated to don working clothes and overalls and actually do manual labor in connection with the construction of new schools, new churches, new institutions, notably in connection with the building of the Lourdes School at Albuquerque, and the Montezuma Seminary at Las Vegas, New Mexico. Recognizing the great number of Spanish speaking people in New Mexico, Archbishop Gerken, long before he came to New Mexico had mastered the Spanish language, and spoke it with adequate vocabulary and an accent of a scholar of Castille.

"To recite the many splendid things done by Archbishop Gerken for his church during his residence in New Mexico, or the many fine things he accomplished in the everyday world in which he lived, with no thought of creed or faith of those who might be the beneficiaries of his bounty, would require an undue extension of this resolution. When, inspired by reasons beyond human calculation, some of the leaders in our sister republic of Mexico insisted that the churches in that country be closed, and clergymen of all faiths were banished from their altars, Archbishop Gerken, with characteristic determination and energy, assumed the leadership in the establishment of the Montezuma Seminary in Las Vegas, in our own state, where hundreds of worthy young men of Mexico have received an education, preparing them for the priesthood of their church, each one returning to Mexico an ambassador of friendship and good will from America to their homes in that wonderful republic where now, fortunately, freedom of worship is permitted.

"Believing that no child in New Mexico should go without an education, Archbishop Gerken on every occasion demonstrated his desire to help foster and further the education, not only of the children of the people of his faith, but of all the faiths, and he constantly encouraged furtherance of education in private, parochial and public schools, as well as in the institutions of higher learning in our state."

About Lourdes School.
The following article about Lourdes School appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on April 30, 1940.

Five miles south of Albuquerque is located the Lourdes School, an institution to develop young men of physical vigor, sound scholarship and fine moral character to be "loyal sons of Church and State."

Soon after coming to Santa Fe as archbishop, the Most Rev. R.A. Gerken, D.D., visualized the need of a school for young men under the auspices of the Catholic church, in which would be taught a practical high school course, and at the same time be provided with a vocational education such as would tend to equip them to take their places, on graduation, as scientifically trained farmers and mechanics.

The archbishop purchased the property of the former Rio Grande Industrial School and invited the Brothers of Our Lady of Lourdes of Oostacker, Belgium, to take charge of the work. In December 1937, however, the Brothers were recalled to Belgium, and the archbishop has placed a number of secular priests at the school who are fitted for this type of work.

The greater portion of the 90 acres of ground in under cultivation and about 15 acres have been reserved for parks, recreation and athletic fields, which are being developed rapidly. The school buildings are electrically lighted, steam heated, provided with hot and cold running water, fire escapes, fire extinguishers, and other appliances that belongs to modern convenience, comfort and safety. The most recent addition to the group of buildings is the beautiful new chapel of Our Lady Lourdes.

At Lourdes School, the boys are trained not only in agriculture, but there are excellently equipped machine shops, carpenter shops, a printing plant, poultry yards, dairy and, of course, adequate instruction in athletics is given.

The young men who elect to attend Lourdes School, and they came as far away as West Virginia, are placed under a disciplinary guidance that has at its end the "golden mean between severity and laxity." Those in charge of discipline are the faculty, a student body, and all final decisions rest, in major cases, with the Dean of Discipline. Such major offenses as habitual disobedience, gambling, dishonesty in examinations, immorality, profane or obscene language, habitual laziness, and constant and ill-founded criticism, inevitably involve dismissal. The students are permitted to come to Albuquerque during specified hours on Saturday providing there are no "black marks" chalked up against them during the week.

Taught in the Classical course are religion, English, algebra, history, science, Latin, plane geometry, business arithmetic, Spanish and Greek. The Carpentry-Mechanics course includes religion, English, algebra, science, mechanical drawing, shop work, plane geometry, history and business arithmetic. In the course covering Agriculture and Tanning are taught religion, English, algebra, science, farm work, plane geometry, business arithmetic and history. Other courses offered include pre-Philosophy, General Education, Scientific and Algebra. With the archbishop as president of the administrative board, the other members include the Rev. R.W. Atkinson, B.A., rector, the Rev F.A. Reinberg, B.A., registrar and treasurer, the Rev. Gerald J. de Bruyn, B.A., dean of studies, the Rev. Bernard Burns, B.A., director of athletics and the Rev. George L.J. Schneider, B.A., dean of discipline.

The faculty, with their subjects, is composed of Fr. Atkinson, teaching Latin, Greek and Spanish; Fr. Reinberg, Latin, science and agriculture; the Rev. Fr. Cassidy, B.A., Latin and English; the Rev. Edwin Kirwin, B.A., mathematics, English; the Rev, Andres Hagenauer, Spanish, Latin, German; Fr. De Bruyn, science, mathematics; Fr. Schneider, English, religion; R.C. Munro Jr., mechanical drawing; Frank Gatignol, mechanics; Jess La Badie, carpentry, and George Stiefvater, printing. This faculty is considerably enlarged over the prior scholastic year.

The farming has been successful in its experimental work and crops have included corn, alfalfa, mixed vegetables and sugar beets. The printing shop is continually busy and the machine shop is especially busy in farming time as it repairs all the school's machinery. The bee-hive of industry is the carpentry shop where expert work is done not only for the Lourdes School, but for other institutions and mission, new and old, in the diocese.

The Lourdes School site in 1999.
Lourdes School no longer exists; on its site today is found Joy Junction, Albuquerque's largest emergency homeless shelter, but on its ground is still found the former, and now derelict, Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel. A campaign is being waged today to renovate the chapel so that it may once again be used for church services and Bible studies. The traditional adobe building with its massive vigas was last used for services during Christmastime a dozen years ago, circa 1987. Soon after, the 60-year-old building's basement flooded, damaging the structure's roof, walls and floor. The chapel was part of a Catholic training center for boys that was established in the 1930s off Second Street in the South Valley. When all the pews were in place, the chapel could seat several hundred people.

Archbishop Gerken also founded a teachers college at Albuquerque and St. Mary’s Convent at Santa Fe.

St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Albuquerque's southeast heights area was first created on June 13, 1934 by announcement of Archbishop Rudolph A. Gerken. On March 21, 1935, St. Charles was dedicated as the fifth Catholic Church built in Albuquerque. Following the laying of the church's cornerstone on October 12, 1934, St. Charles' most tangible "birthday" came quite appropriately at midnight on Christmas Eve. Much as Jesus was celebrated born in the humble surroundings of a stable, the first mass was celebrated in the shell of the St. Charles building then under construction. Among other accomplishments, St. Charles parishioners participated in the construction of a mission church, which is now Our Lady of Fatima Parish. They built Heights Catholic School (now also named Our Lady of Fatima) at the Mission Church. They sponsored creation of the Newman Center at the University of New Mexico.

Work done on the Santa Fe Cathedral.
Cathedral of St. Francis, Santa Fe, 1990 A history of the Santa Fe Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi tells of the work on the cathedral itself during Archbisbop Gerken's tenure: About a year after his arrival, the ceiling vaults of the Cathedral began showing signs of cracking, as though the upper clerestory walls were separating outward. For safety’s sake, steel rods were installed to tie thes upper walls together, as may be noticed at each vault section of the main nave. Outside, two concrete pilasters were poured against the jagged masonry ends from where Archbishop John Baptist Lamy’s transept walls were meant to start someday. The pastor at this time was Fr. Bernard Espelage, who in 1940 became the first bishop of Gallup.

But the steel rods in the nave did not remedy the situation. Some five years later, engineers realized that the continued cracking at different points and levels was caused by a definite sinking of the great pillars of the nave. The Cathedral was vacated for several months, and services were held at St. Michael’s Gymnasium behind old San Miguel chapel in Analco, while the delicate work went on placing steel jacks beneath each pillar and pumping tons of cement to provide secure footings. Metal reinforcements at the base of each big arch, just above the capitals, were rounded out with cement, and these give the round Romanesque arches the suggestion of Moorish horseshoe ones. Not only had the pillar foundations been defective, but the cylindrical columns themselves had been constructed of uncut rubble instead of carefully cut stone like the outer walls nad other sections. This induced buckling in places which earlier in the century were remedied with forged iron bands, and later on with metal sheaths into which concrete was forced.

Outside, the long gabled roof, which originally had metal shingles painted a dullred, was covered over with flat metal sheets which were painted in the same hue; but now the current pastor had the entire roof painted in a gleaming aluminum, as well as all rain channels and spouts. He also covered the front terrace with flagstones, and planted evergreens to replace two dying acacias which Lamy had planted long ago. He also planted the spruces and cedars along the side which, now grown to large size, help blend the old stone work with the most recent additions in modern concrete.

Inaugurated the annual pontifical procession and solemn Mass.
As for ceremonial, Archbishop Gerken did not think that the religious phase of the Santa Fe Fiesta should be confined to the Franciscans with their simple candlelight procession to the Cross of the Martyrs, and so he inaugurated the long pontifical procession around La Fonda and up into the Cathedral for a pontifical solemn Mass. Several bishops were invited annually to lend color and pageantry, and one of them preached the sermon at the Mass and another at the Cross of the Martyrs.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe and its suffragan sees.
When Archbishop Gerken arrived, Santa Fe was one of the biggest archdioceses in the United States with suffragan sees at El Paso and Denver, embracing Colorado and Utah and other areas of the Southwest in those earlier days. At one time, because of the tremendous amount of work involved in the administration of this vast territory, Archbishop Gerken was given an auxiliary, the Most Rev. Sidney M. Metzger. After Bishop Metzger was made Bishop of El Paso, the Santa Fe archdiocese was reduced: Denver was made an archdiocese with a suffragan see at Pueblo. Previously a new diocese had been carved out of it in New Mexico and eastern Arizona, the Gallup diocese, with Bishop Bernard Espelage, O.F.M., at its head. The Gallup and El Paso dioceses remain suffragan sees of the archdiocese of Santa Fe.

Diocese of Gallup carved from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
In 1936 Pope Pius XII, then Cardinal Pacelli, visited the Southwest portion of the United States by air. He saw the vast expanse to be served from Santa Fe and wondered how the scattered Indians in the area would be adequately served. Soon after, when he was named Pope, this matter was pursued and the Archbishop of Santa Fe, Rudolph A. Gerken, was advised to give thought to the division of the area.

Night after night when the Chancery staff had left, and behind locked doors, Archbishop Gerken would get out a map and try to figure out how a Diocese could be formed that would carry out the Holy See's wishes that the Indians receive better spiritual care. A similar process was going on in the Diocese of Tucson. The thought was that the northern part of Arizona and the Northwestern part of New Mexico, which contained more Indians than any other similar area in the United States, needed a Bishop who could coordinate the missions and give an episcopal presence to the Indians. At least, they would then have their own advocate whose attention would not be centered in one of the large cities.

The newly formed diocese contained 90,000 square miles and held a population of 50,000 Indians. There were 30,000 Catholics in the total area, including 23,000 Spanish-Americans, 6,000 Anglos and 1,000 Indians. There were 32 priests, 16 of them Franciscan, serving 17 parishes and 56 mission churches. There were three parochial schools, two high schools, an academy, and two hospitals.

The territory covered all of San Juan, McKinley, and Catron counties and the parts of Rio Arriba, Sandoval, Bemalillo, and Valencia counties in New Mexico west of the sixth meridian, and all of Mohave, Coconino, Yavapai, Navajo, and Apache counties in Arizona. These areas were previously in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and the Diocese of Tucson.

The details of the formal erection of the diocese are contained in a Papal Decree issued by Pope Pius XII on December 16, 1939. It named Gallup as the See City and the Church of the Sacred Heart as the Cathedral. It ordered that the Cathedral Church be under the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, and the Bishop of Gallup subject to the Metropolitan rights of the Archbishop of Santa Fe.

The Archbishop of Santa Fe and the Bishop of Tucson continued to govern their respective areas which were given up to the new diocese until a bishop could be named and installed. At this time, they then turned over all documents pertinent to the new Diocese.

On July 20, 1940, the Papal Delegate issued the decree naming Father Bernard T. Espelage, O.F.M., as Bishop of Gallup and setting forth the rules for his ordination. On October 30 of the same year, he presented his documents of appointment to the administrators of the Diocese of Gallup, the Archbishop of Santa Fe, and the Bishop of Tucson, thereby formally taking possession of the Diocese.

views of Cristo Rey, including reredos, Santa Fe, 1990 Founding of Cristo Rey Parish.
Of all his works, Archbishop Gerken probably was fondest of the Cristo Rey church--the biggest adobe, Spanish mission-style church in the country. Built to mark the Coronado Cuarto-Centennial celebration (1540-1940), which commemorated the very first exploration of New Mexico, Archbishop Gerken founded the parish of Cristo Rey (Christ the King) and had the great adobe church designed in authentic New Mexico (Pueblo) Mission style to house and display the great stone reredos or altarpiece which originally graced a long-disappeared Military Chapel of Our Lady of Light (built on the Plaza of Santa Fe in 1760) and which had stood hidden in the old adobe apse behind the Cathedral sanctuary for half a century.

Carved of native New Mexico stone, delicately tinted and showing influences of the religion of the Aztecs as well as Christianity, it is prized as probably the most valuable work of liturgical art in North America. In designing Cristo Rey, the archbishop, having had a high sanctuary built to accommodate the reredos, placed a row of windows across its east wall, above the roof of the nave, so that the morning sun rising over the Sangre de Cristo mountains, illuminates the huge backpiece at high mass.

The Archbishop's Coat of Arms.
The coat of arms chosen by the Most Reverend Rudolph Aloysius Gerken, D.D., in 1927 embodies features symbolic of the Catholic Church and features pertaining to the trades and services of the archbishop’s ancestors.

Archbishop Gerken's coat of arms Surrounding Archbishop Gerken’s armorial shield are features of the prelate's ceremonial garb and accessories. The banner below the shield expresses the archbishop’s life motto and dedication, "Not me but you, O Lord." Above the heraldic shield is the Lorraine processional cross, the tiara, the mitre, the crosier, and the cincture with twenty tassels.

The bearer's right portion (dexter) of the shield is a cross, also pierced hands symbolic of the crucifixion, and a chapel of worship. The crossed pierced hands are also symbolic of St. Francis after whom the cathedral of Santa Fe is named.

The bearer's left portion (sinister) of the shield is the personal shield of the archbishop. It contains symbols of ancestral significance or personal ideals. The carpenter’s square found in the shield tells of the carpentry trade the Gerken family has followed for generations. The three bees placed with the square recall the military service that the archbishop’s great-grandfather rendered under Napoleon during the ill-fated March to Moscow. To Archbishop Gerken the bee represented "A laborer whose labor converts to sweetness." He added two bees, thus the three bees are representative of the archbishop’s devotion to the Blessed Trinity.

The coat of arms used during Bishop Gerken’s tenure at Amarillo is different than the one he used as archbishop. Superimposed on the gold cross was the red Sacred Heart, symbolic of the Sacred Heart Cathedral of Amarillo. The cincture has twelve tassels, symbolic of the twelve apostles. In the upper section was a roundel as part of the Pope’s coat of arms, signifying the Pope’s creation of the new Amarillo diocese.

Archbishop Gerken helps his sister Thecla.
Thecla Bruggeman, one of the Archbishop's sisters, told how her brother Archbishop Gerken helped her keep an eye from afar on her son Paul while he was serving in the navy. When Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, which led the United States to enter World War II, Thecla, worried about her son, contacted the Archbishop the next day and asked him for help to find news of her son. He was able to ascertain that her son was okay--Paul Bruggeman would arrive at Pearl Harbor on December 8, 1941, the day after the attack.

Archbishop Gerken was not just concerned about his own relations during World War II; the memorial passed by the New Mexico legislature following his death notes that "When the word was flashed to the United States that thousands of young men of New Mexico in the fighting forces of the United States Army, of every faith, had been imprisoned in the Philippine Islands following Bataan and Corregidor, none was more zealous, more active, than Archbishop Gerken in striving, through the channels of the Apostolic Delegate in Washington, and diplomatic avenues available through the Vatican, to extend prompt relief to our soldiers held prisoners by the Japanese."

St. Anne Catholic Church, Santa Fe St. Anne Church.
St. Anne Catholic Church in Santa Fe was built in 1942 under the leadership of Archbishop Gerken, and he told his brother Frank's wife, Anna (Regal) Gerken, that he had named it for her.

Word was received in Dyersville, Iowa, Tuesday announcing the sudden death of His Excellency Archbishop Rudolph A. Gerken from cerebral thrombosis at St. Vincent's hospital in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at 1:15 p.m. that afternoon, March 2, 1943. Sunday would have been the archbishop’s 56th birthday and plans for a celebration were being made as he was stricken. The news of the death of the beloved archbishop was received in Dyersville, his youthful home, with deep sorrow.

Newspaper clipping announcing the death of Archbishop Gerken.
Image contributed by Gary Goedken.
The last rites of the Roman Catholic Church were administered shortly before death by the archbishop's close friend, Monsignor Joseph Giraud, who resides at the hospital.

The last illness of the archbishop was of little more than five hours. The victim of a stroke, he was found unconscious at 8 a.m. in his bedroom at 219 Cathedral Place, and rushed to the hospital. He was in the act of dressing when he was stricken, said members of his household who found him after hearing him fall. His right side was paralyzed.

For a time it was believed by attending physicians that he had a chance to recover. Dr. Robert O. Brown, at mid-morning, issued the first bulletin on the prelate's condition: "The Archbishop has had a stroke, apparently suffered while dressing this morning. Although several hours later he appeared a little better, it is still too early to tell conclusively as to his condition. We sincerely hope for the best." Although the archbishop showed signs of improvement and had partially recovered speech, after the noon hour he began to sink rapidly and failed to rally when paralysis spread to the respiratory system.

It was the first stroke he had suffered although he had known for some time that he had high blood pressure, physicians said, and had known that death might come at any time.

The body lay in state at the cathedral with a guard of honor made up of members of the Knights of Columbus, and Betty Carter Duffy was specifically requested to sing at that time.

The Pontifical High Funeral Mass wrote finis Wednesday to the story of Archbishop Rudolph A. Gerken, former Texas school teacher who became a noted Catholic leader in the Southwest and head of the largest archdiocese in the United States.

memorial card Archbishop Rudolph A. Gerken was buried Saturday, March 6, 1943, with all of the solemnity of the Roman Catholic church, the seventh metropolitan of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

100 Participate in Rites.
More than 100 archbishops, bishops, monsignori, and priests participated in the pontifical high Mass of requiem at 10 a.m. in the Cathedral of St. Francis together with hundreds of laity from all over New Mexico and more distant points. The church was jammed to the door; many persons, unable to crowd their way in, stood outside during the ceremonies.

Archbishop Urban J. Vehr of Denver, in the black vestments of the church in mourning, chanted the Mass. A choir of 50 Mexican students for the priesthood from Montezuma seminary, Las Vegas, New Mexico, which Archbishop Gerken had a leading role in founding, sang the Latin responses. Bishop J. P. Lynch, Dallas, who had ordained the deceased archbishop and consecrated him as a bishop, gave an eloquent English sermon of a biographical nature. Sidney M. Metzger, El Paso, who was to have given the Spanish sermon, was grounded in Kansas as he was flying to Santa Fe and Bishop Mariano Garriga, Corpus Christi, spoke in his place.

Before Bare Altar.
After several misty days the sun broke through the clouds in Santa Fe this morning and its rays slanted down upon the altar and main aisle lighting up the clouds of aromatic incense hovering over the archbishop’s casket. The altar was bare of decoration except for several tall candles, according to the custom at a requiem Mass. The only flowers were two tall baskets of Calla lilies, one on each side of the casket. Long streamers of purple and white descended from the apse to the sanctuary rail forming a canopy under which the officers of the Mass intoned their frequent "Requiescat in pace’s" over the bier.

Gregorian Chant.
In the choir loft at the rear of the church the seminarians from Montezuma enhanced the solemn grandeur of the Mass with their Gregorian chant. It was evident to those who listened in the otherwise hushed cathedral that the youths were seeking to repay a debt of gratitude to a benefactor who made it possible for them to follow their religious vocation at a time when Mexico banished education by the church.

Archbishop Vehr was escorted from La Fonda to the cathedral, mitred and in pontifical vestments, by all of the bishops and priests here for the ceremonies. There were 104 of them.

Guard Band Plays.
The State Guard with its band, playing a funeral march, stood beside the cathedral doors as the procession entered. The church was already filled with parishioners and visitors except for the pews reserved for Governor Dempsey, his staff, the clergy, and orders of the religious.

Tu es sacerdos in aeternam (a priest forever), the archbishop who by virtue of his ecclesiastical office was pastor of the cathedral parish here, will remain in his church even in death. Immediately after the Mass, the casket was lowered beneath the high altar to be placed in the last vacant space of the crypt reserved therefore the dignitaries of the diocese. His casket was placed in the space over the one of Archbishop Bourgade and next to his predecessor, Archbishop Daeger. Only the prelates and clergy remained for this rite aside from Charles Digneo and a helper employed to seal the crypt.

Brick and mortar followed, as with previous burials, to complete a giant buried block of cement and brick with six coffins sealed inside. Charles Digneo finished a work begun by his father. The elder Digneo, Carlos, was one of the progenitors of the Italian families prominent here and in Albuquerque today who were brought across by Archbishop John B. Lamy to finish the cathedral.

Hotels Filled.
All hotels in the city were reported filled with clergy and friends of the late archbishop here for the obsequies.

Relatives from Iowa present for the late prelate’s funeral were his brothers Frank and Henry Gerken of Dyersville; his sisters, Mrs. Ed (Laura) Klostermann, Dyersville; Mrs. Clem (Thecla) Bruggemann, Petersburg; Mrs. Ben (Molly) Willenborg, Independence; and his brothers-in-law, Alois Tegeler of Nashua; and Ed Klostermann of Dyersville; and a niece, Mrs. Dick Westhoff, of Monticello.

Archbishop Gerken was preceded in death by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Gerken; his brothers, Rev. Leo Gerken and John B. H. Gerken; and one sister, Adeline, Mrs. Louis Tegeler, of Nashua, Iowa. The following brothers and sisters survive: Henry Gerken and Frank Gerken, both of Dyersville; Molly, Mrs. Ben Willenborg, of Independence; Thecla, Mrs. Clem Bruggemann, Petersburg, Iowa; Laura, Mrs. Ed Klostermann, of Dyersville; William Gerken, of Amarillo, Texas; Oscar Gerken and Ludwig Gerken, both of Happy, Texas; and Olive, Mrs. Wm. Jansen, of Umbarger, Texas. All of his brothers and sisters departed via train Wednesday evening for Santa Fe to attend the funeral.

The Sixteenth Legislature of the State of New Mexico passed a joint memorial following the death of Archbishop Gerken. The concluding paragraph of the memorial serves as a fitting conclusion to this brief biography of the Archbishop's life; it reads as follows:

"BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that in the death of Archbishop Rudolph A. Gerken our state has sustained a loss well nigh irreparable, and our only consolation is that he has been called to his reward, his work here having been finished, and that he has received the accolade promised centuries ago to all those who would persevere unto the end, 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant.' Rudolph Aloysius Gerken, an exponent of the democracy that is America, rose, in his lifetime, from humble farm boy to wear the purple ceremonial robes of his church. Now he has joined the immortals of New Mexico, his adopted, well-beloved State. It may be said of him as of the Great Emancipator, 'Now he belongs to the Ages.' "


The information presented here has been pieced together from various sources, primarily from news reports and obituaries that appeared in the Dyersville Commercial (which thoroughly reported Rudolph Gerken's ordination to the priesthood, his later installations as bishop of Amarillo and as archbishop of Santa Fe, and his death), the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, and a Santa Fe newspaper following Archbishop Gerken's death in 1943 (the Dyersville newspaper also included a story taken from a newspaper of Santa Fe, New Mexico); The Santa Fe Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi (Fray Angelico Chavez, Santa Fe, N.M.: Schifani Bros. Printing Co., 1987); and Dyersville: Its History and Its People (Rev. Arthur A. Halbach, Milwaukee, Wisc.: St. Joseph Press, 1939, Rpt. 1983.); and "Gerken, Rudolph Aloysius" (Sister M. Claude Lane, O.P., The Handbook of Texas Online, [Accessed July 12, 1999]).

Information about Cardinal Spellman's dedication of Gerken Hall at Amarillo came from the Amarillo Globe-News, online at [accessed January 9, 1999]. Information about Lourdes School came from "Joy Junction - Chapel Renovation," online at [Accessed July 17, 1999]. Information on the formation of the Diocese of Gallup came from "History of the Diocese of Gallup" from Roman Catholic Diocese of Gallup, online at [Accessed July 17, 1999]. Information about St. Charles Borromeo Parish Church History online at [Accessed August 21, 1999].

Other sources included a personal interview with Thecla Bruggeman, the archbishop's sister, in 1978, who related the story of how both Rudy and Leo had decided to become priests at the same time without knowledge of each other's decision; an August 21, 1999, e-mail from Giles Gerken, nephew of Archbishop Gerken, who shared some childhood memories of his uncle Rudy; a July 17, 1999, e-mail from Peggy Loucks, granddaughter of Thecla Bruggeman, who related the story of how Thecla was able check on her son Paul (Peggy's father) while he was in the navy at the time of World War II; a family tree of the William Gerken family updated to 1986 by Sister Margaret Gerken, a niece of the archbishop (who based her information on a family tree compiled by Walter Steger, a first cousin of the archbishop, and re-edited by Daniel and Geneva Gerken; interestingly some of the the information has come full circle now as I was the source for Walter Steger as far the early history of the Gerken family in the Dyersville area is concerned); and other pieces of information derived from the Dyersville Commercial and The Handbook of Texas Online.

Giles Gerken also graciously mailed copies of "Senate Joint Memorial No. 6" of the Sixteenth Legislature of the State of New Mexico, "A Joint Memorial Memorializing the Late Archbishop Rudolph A. Gerken, Seventh Archbishop of Santa Fe" and a correspondence from Leroy T. Matthiesen, Retired Bishop of Amarillo, which included a photocopy of articles from a Santa Fe newspaper following the Archbishop's death. Bishop Matthiesen, who was confirmed by the then Bishop Gerken in 1933, is gathering material for a biography of Archbishop Gerken. Some early information indicates that Archbishop Gerken was not always well-received by those expected to serve under him. In Amarillo, Bishop Gerken, of German heritage, is said to have had enemies among the Irish clergy because they had expected one of their own to be appointed the first bishop of Amarillo; in Santa Fe, Archbishop Gerken seems to have had trouble with some French priests who did not feel any accountability to the Archbishop. Bishop Matthiesen plans to further research these events and include them in his book.

Images of Archbishop Gerken and his coat of arms were scanned from The Santa Fe Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, noted above. Images of the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi and Cristo Rey Church in Santa Fe were scanned from 1990 photographs taken during a visit to Santa Fe in 1990. Photograph of St. Anne Church was furnished by Giles Gerken.


Gerken family history contents

© 1999-2017
Tom Larson
Last revised May 10, 2017.

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