A purchase of some 30 WW II censored covers mostly to the University of Notre Dame included 2 covers that were sent to the Most Rev. John F. O’Hara, C.S.C., D.D. The markings on one of these covers were not out of the ordinary with a boxed BRISBANE/ Q’LAND/12-MA / 2 1 OCT 2/ 1944/ POSTED IN/ PILLARS (12 MA was an error for 12 AM) plus a red ‘1. OPENED BY CENSOR’ label and a purple boxed stamping ‘1/ PASSED/ BY/ CENSOR/ 122’. There were no markings on the reverse and I wondered how this cover fitted in with the other Notre Dame covers (Figure 1).
The internet soon provided a possible clue in that a Rev. John O’Hara was the 13th President of the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, but the details of his early and later careers were quite sketchy. A request for help from the Archivist & Curator of manuscripts, University of Notre Dame provided an immediate confirmation of the status of John F. O’Hara on the cover, who had a long and illustrious career at the University.
John was born at Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1888, the son of John W. O’Hara and Ella Thornton and soon after his birth the family moved to Indiana. In Peru Indiana he attended the parochial School and public high school until 1905. That year, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed his father as U.S. Consul at Montevideo, Uruguay where John F. attended the Jesuit school for a few months. He interrupted his studies to take on several jobs including one as a cow “puncher”, and he then returned to the Jesuit school until December 1907.
He first came to the University of Notre Dame (U.N.D.) in January 1909 where he studied for his Batchelor of Philosophy, graduating in June 1911, and he stayed on another year teaching history and English. In the summer of 1912, he entered the Novitate at Notre Dame and the following year he went to the Holy Cross College in Washington D.C. where in addition to his theological studies he took courses at the Catholic University in Washington.
He was ordained as a priest in September 1916 and in the summer of 1917 he received training at commercial houses in New York and the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce. In the fall of 1917, John joined the faculty at U.N.D. in the Commerce Department and he became its Dean of Commerce in 1921.
His next position at U.N.D. (for which he is most remembered) was that of Prefect of Religion, whose “duty was to motivate the students, for reasons derived from their Catholic Faith, to acquiesce with good heart in the enforcement of rules which have no other object than their own Christian formation.” He was a superb Prefect of Religion, a job he held from 1918 until he was made the 13th President of U.N.D. in 1934. As President he had the privilege of welcoming to the campus the President of the U.S.A., Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 9, 1935 (Figure 2).
Father O’Hara was the first President of U.N.D. who was promoted to the Bishopric, as the Bishop serving as military delegate during World War II from 1939-45 (even though America did not enter this war until 1942). It was during this roving tenure that the present cover to Father O’Hara was posted. Honours continued to be bestowed on this remarkable man for he was Bishop of Buffalo 1945-51, Archbishop of Philadelphia 1951-1960 and he was made a Cardinal in 1958. He died in August 1960 and he was buried at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana.
The author appreciates the great assistance of Kevin Cawley, Archivist & Curator of Manuscripts, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana with both the text and the photograph.
This paper was published in The N.S.W. Philatelist, November 2003, Volume 35, Number 4, pages 12-13.