Remains of Bishop Hubert Cartwright moved to Cathedral Cemetery after closing of Christ Our King
WILMINGTON — Fifty-eight years after being laid to rest at Christ Our King Church, the earthly remains of Bishop Hubert J. Cartwright have a new home. During a graveside prayer service on Dec. 14, Bishop Cartwright took his place next to two other former bishops in the Diocese of Wilmington. The service was led by Bishop Malooly and attended by members of the late bishop’s family.
Bishop Cartwright was assigned to Wilmington in 1956 as coadjutor, or the successor to Bishop Edmond FitzMaurice, who had been in office since 1925. But less than a year and a half after arriving in the diocese, Bishop Cart-wright died.
He was the only bishop in the diocese who was buried at a parish — Christ Our King in Wilmington. But when Christ Our King was closed this fall, it became necessary to disinter his vault and move it to one of the diocesan cemeteries. Mark Christian, the diocesan director of cemeteries, said Cathedral Cemetery was selected because it has a mausoleum named after Christ the King. The bishop was buried next to the mausoleum.
“We felt it was a wonderful way to honor the family,” Christian said.
The vault was removed from the closed church grounds on Dec. 13 and taken to Cathedral Cemetery. There, Bishop Cartwright joins Bishops Alfred A. Curtis, whose remains were transferred there in 1993, and John J. Monaghan, who succeeded Bishop Curtis. Father John A. Lyons, who was vicar general of the diocese for 29 years, is also buried there.
Bishop Malooly said Bishop Cartwright’s vault was “completely intact, so there was no difficulty in moving him.” He said he has never been involved in moving the remains of a bishop before, although he recalled a cemetery in Baltimore where water damage occasionally forced officials to move a few graves.
Bishop Malooly and several other priests joined members of the late bishop’s family at a luncheon before the prayer service.
Two of Bishop Cart-wright’s neph-ews, a niece and her husband traveled to Wilmington on a cold day to represent the family. Alice Curran, who lives in Bucks County, Pa., said they had heard on the news that Christ Our King was closing, and they knew their uncle was buried there, so they contacted the diocese to inquire about the fate of his remains. She said he loved Christ Our King, which he served as pastor while also coadjutor bishop. There was never any question as to where he would be buried when he died in March 1958 at the age of 57, said Curran’s cousin, Joe Cartwright, the youngest of the bishop’s nephews.
“It’s the church that he supervised the building of. It was not uncommon for a pastor to be buried in the church that he built. It’s not common for a bishop to be buried at a church, but in this case he was, and I think that’s just great,” Cartwright said.
Bishop Cartwright grew up in Philadelphia and attended St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, where, in his first years, future Wilmington Bishop FitzMaurice was rector.
In 1936, Father Cartwright became rector of the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul, where he supervised a major renovation.
In 1956, he was assigned coadjutor bishop of Wilmington with right of succession once the bishop, Edmond FitzMaurice, resigned or died.
Curran, whose mother was the bishop’s brother, said her uncle was “a warm, wonderful person” who connected with his parishioners at Christ Our King in the short time he was there.
“This is where he belonged,” she said.
Her cousin, Ralph Cartwright, who is the oldest nephew, remembers his father and Bishop Cartwright driving to Harrisburg, Pa., to pick him up after his U.S. Army service had ended. A combination of the G.I. Bill and the bishop’s friendships in Philadelphia helped Ralph Cartwright land at St. Joseph’s College.
“Through that friendship, I became a freshman at Hawk Hill,” he said.
Ralph and his wife were married by his uncle, as were Joe Cartwright’s parents and Curran’s parents. Ralph Cartwright also remembers driving with Bishop Cartwright to New York to purchase materials for his parish in Philadelphia. One of the bishop’s friends in New York was Bishop Fulton Sheen.
One of the priests on hand for the prayer service was Father John Kavanaugh, 85, who was ordained by Bishop Cartwright in 1957 along with the late Father Howard Clark and 24 Oblates of St. Francis de Sales.
Father Kavanaugh, now retired and living in Charlestown, Md., was from Christ Our King Parish but said he did not know the bishop very well.
It was a surprise when Bishop Cartwright was assigned to ordain him and the other priests in the diocese that year.
“He wasn’t scheduled to do it,” recalled Father Kavanaugh.
“Bishop FitzMaurice called him the night before about eight o’clock to say, ‘I’m sick, take this.’”
During less than a year and a half in the Diocese of Wilmington, Bishop Cartwright presided at confirmations in 12 parishes and two ordinations, blessed new churches, and visited every parish, according to a biography by Father Thomas Peterman.
Bishop Cartwright made his last public appearance a month before his death.
Curran said it’s a shame the people of the diocese didn’t get a chance to know her uncle.
“God had different plans for him,” she said.