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REICHER, LOUIS JOSEPH

REICHER, LOUIS JOSEPH (1890–1984). Louis Joseph Reicher, first bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Austin, son of Jacob and Marie (Krebsbach) Reicher, was born in Piqua, Ohio, on June 14, 1890. In 1905 he enrolled at St. James's College in Kitchener, Ontario, where he did high school and college work and received a diploma in 1911. He attended St. Mary's Seminary in Cincinnati for a year. He returned to his hometown in 1912 and worked for the United States Steel Corporation until 1916, when he obtained admission to candidacy for the priesthood in the Diocese of Galveston, moved to Texas, and enrolled at St. Mary's Seminary, then in La Porte. Bishop C. E. Byrne of Galveston ordained Reicher to the priesthood on December 6, 1918, in St. Mary's Cathedral, Galveston, and appointed him chancellor of the diocese, a position he held for the next thirty years. While living at the cathedral, Reicher did local pastoral work, attended nearby missions, was chaplain of the congregation of Dominican Sisters, and commuted as pastor to St. Christopher's parish in the outskirts of Houston. As chancellor, Reicher made the indebted diocese financially sound. At the same time, he started his own business career, using as initial capital $3,000 saved from his earnings as a steelworker; he invested his money wisely and became a millionaire. By making his personal assets available to the diocese while skillfully managing its finances, Reicher made the Galveston see worth several million dollars and ultimately self-sufficient. He became domestic prelate in 1935 and protonotary apostolic in 1940. In 1947 Pope Pius XII established the Diocese of Austin and selected Reicher as its first bishop. Reicher was consecrated by Bishop Byrne in Galveston on April 14, 1948, and installed a month later in Austin by Archbishop R. E. Lucey of San Antonio. St. Mary's Church in Austin became the new bishop's cathedral.

During his twenty-three-year tenure as bishop of Austin, Reicher was instrumental in the building or restoration of over 200 churches and church-related structures. Some examples of the latter are the chancery office, Holy Cross Hospital, Catholic student centers on five college campuses, and six church-sponsored, low-rent housing projects. Reicher's administration brought spiritual and material strength, prestige, and social commitment to the Catholic Church in the Austin area. Reicher was a friendly man who could make ordinary people feel at ease. As a pastor, he competently led the diocese through the changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council. In Rome Reicher contributed to the council's document on religious freedom; in Austin he supported Catholic participation in interfaith dialogues and organizations. Politically, Reicher was a staunch anticommunist who encouraged Catholics to participate in the democratic process and implemented civil rights policies in diocesan affairs. In 1964 Reicher transferred all his personal wealth to a trust fund set up to provide low-interest loans for church building programs and financial aid for poor, disabled, and elderly people. This fund underwrote, among other projects, the ten-county Cancer Treatment and Research Center (next to Holy Cross Hospital) and the Rebekah Baines Johnson Geriatric Center, both in Austin, as well as the Regis Retirement Home in Waco. Reicher's combining of personal and church assets in the fund, however, became a source of conflict for the Diocese of Austin after he resigned as ordinary and was succeeded by coadjutor bishop Vincent M. Harris in 1971. The conflict, which lasted for more than two years and involved the diocese and lay trustees of the fund, was ended by a compromise settlement that cleared all parties involved of any implied wrongdoing. Reicher retired to his ranch west of Austin in 1971 and suffered a stroke the next year. As the years passed, he increasingly relied on the Dominican Sisters to whom he had entrusted his care. He died at his ranch on February 23, 1984.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Austin American-Statesman, November 14, 1971. Catholic Archives of Texas, Files, Austin. Catholic Spirit (newspaper of the Diocese of Austin), Special Supplement, March 1984. Texas Catholic Herald, Supplement, May 24, 1968.

Aníbal A. González

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Aníbal A. González, "REICHER, LOUIS JOSEPH," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fre37), accessed September 02, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.