Fifty years ago this month the Most Reverend Emmet Michael Walsh, Bishop of Youngstown passed away on March 16, 1968. Over 1500 clergy, religious, seminarians, and laypersons attended his funeral mass on March 23, 1968 at the Cathedral of St. Columba. He was later laid to rest in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, where he had served as Bishop of Charleston before coming to Youngstown.
He was born in Beaufort, South Carolina March 6, 1892, ordained in 1916, serving parishes in Atlanta, Albany, and Savannah, Georgia before his appointment as Bishop of Charleston in 1927 by Pope Pius XI. At the time of his consecration as the sixth bishop of Charleston, Emmet Walsh, at age 35, was the youngest member of the Catholic hierarchy in the United States. He exercised vigorous leadership in this role, establishing 25 new parishes and four new hospitals in a southern diocese in a predominantly Protestant religious culture. He also served in the leadership of the National Catholic Welfare Conference Legal Department and served as the secretary of the Bishop’s Meeting at the Catholic University of America.
In 1949, Pope Pius XII named him the Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown and titular bishop of Rhaedestus, Turkey, to assist its aging Bishop James A. McFadden, the first Bishop of the Diocese. During this time, in 1951, President Truman appointed him to the Internal Security and Individual Rights Commission, a body formed to combat Communism, a significant concern in this period (the photo above is of his swearing in to the Commission).
When Bishop McFadden died in 1952, he was appointed the second Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown in 1952. One of the first challenges he faced was the terrible fire that destroyed the first Cathedral of St. Columba in September of 1954. He oversaw the construction of the new St. Columba’s which was dedicated in 1958.
This was a period of rapid growth both of the city and the Diocese. A number of new parishes were formed throughout the Diocese, which extends west to Akron and Canton. Among the parishes formed in Youngstown during his tenure were St. Christine’s on the west side of Youngstown, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Austintown, and St. Michael’s in Canfield. On September 23, 1956 Bishop Walsh presided over the dedication ceremonies for Cardinal Mooney High School, which had reached an enrollment of 600 in its first year, and has educated thousands in the subsequent 62 years, including my wife. He led a three year funding drive, working with Father James Malone, then the Superintendent of Schools, who would eventually succeed him as Bishop.
In 1957, the Brothers of Christian Instruction were looking for a new location for La Mennais College, a liberal arts college for men. Through connections with Monsignor William Hughes, then principal at Cardinal Mooney, they received permission to open a new college in the Canton area. When they discovered that their proposed name, Canton College, was taken, they decided to name the institution, now know as Walsh University after Bishop Walsh.
Bishop Walsh attended the Second Vatican Council from 1962 to 1965. At the funeral mass for Bishop Walsh, The Most Reverend Paul F. Tanner described him as “years ahead of his time in concerted efforts by Catholic Bishops.” In both the Diocese of Charleston and the Diocese of Youngstown, there are vibrant parishes, educational institutions, and health care facilities that trace their beginnings to Bishop Walsh. He presided of the rebuilding of the beautiful Cathedral of St. Columba that looks out over the valley and gave good service to diocese, church, and country during his tenure in Youngstown.
Well done, servant of God. Requiescat in pace.
Wikipedia: Emmet M. Walsh
Find a Grave: Rev Bishop Emmet Michael Walsh
The Vindicator: “Years Ago” – Bishop Emmet Michael Walsh Funeral
Walsh University: Our Foundation: Then and Now
Cardinal Mooney Newsletter: “Cardinal Mooney Celebrates Its 60th Anniversary!”