Catholic News Service
NEW ORLEANS — Retired Archbishop Francis B. Schulte, who served as the 12th archbishop of New Orleans from 1988 to 2002, died Jan. 17 after several weeks in hospice care at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pennsylvania, a Philadelphia suburb. He was 89.
Funeral arrangements were pending, but the funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. Archbishop Schulte will be buried in a crypt near the main altar of the cathedral.
“I think he brought a real fidelity to church teaching,” New Orleans Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond said of Archbishop Schulte, who was leading the New Orleans Archdiocese when Pope John Paul II named then-Msgr. Aymond as auxiliary bishop of New Orleans in 1996.
“He also brought a sense of pastoral care,” Archbishop Aymond added. “He was very committed to Catholic education since he had been a superintendent in Philadelphia and knew a lot about it. He also helped to stabilize the finances in our archdiocese. He redid the structure of our administrative offices. That was something that was needed, and I thought he did it very well.”
Francis Bible Schulte was born Dec. 23, 1926, in Philadelphia. He was ordained to the priesthood May 10, 1952, and from 1960 to 1970 was assistant superintendent of Catholic schools in Philadelphia and then as superintendent 1970 to 1980.
He was ordained auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia in 1981 and was appointed bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, in 1985. He was named to succeed New Orleans Archbishop Philip M. Hannan Dec. 13, 1988, and was installed Feb. 14, 1989.
A year after Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes was appointed coadjutor archbishop of New Orleans in 2001, Archbishop Schulte officially retired Jan. 3, 2002. Archbishop Hughes immediately succeeded him.
“I don’t think there was a time in my life before ordination that I was not thinking of the priesthood,” Archbishop Schulte said in a 2002 interview with the Clarion Herald upon his 50th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood and retirement as archbishop. “From a young age, it was always there,” he told the New Orleans archdiocesan newspaper.
Archbishop Schulte grew up in Philadelphia as an only child. His father, who ran the family pharmacy, died when Frank was only 11. His mother, Katharine Bible Schulte, named for Philadelphia heiress St. Katharine Drexel, who founded Xavier University of Louisiana, imbued in him a love for the church.
Archbishop Schulte said one of the highlights of his tenure was proclaiming to Pope John Paul II the virtues of Redemptorist Father Francis Xavier Seelos, a Civil War-era preacher and confessor who was beatified in St. Peter’s Square in 2000. Blessed Seelos died of yellow fever in New Orleans in 1867 while ministering to the German Catholic immigrants.
Archbishop Hughes said Archbishop Schulte’s biggest contribution to the Archdiocese of New Orleans was “to bring an organizational structure to the archdiocese. He was very consultative, and he introduced consultative bodies as genuine consultative bodies. He developed the cabinet structure. That basic structure I inherited and did very little tweaking of it.”