Archbishop Joseph Cardinal Bernadin

Born on 2 April 1928 in Columbia, South Carolina, to a family of Italian immigrants, Bernardin was the only Catholic boy on his block. These early experiences helped him acquire a great understanding and tolerance for other religions and opposite points of view. Initially intent on choosing a career in medicine, he attended the University of South Carolina for a year. Later, after deciding to enter the priesthood, he graduated with a degree in philosophy from St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore in 1948. He received a master's in education from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and was ordained a priest in 1952. Once ordained, Bernardin's skills shined, as he soon climbed the hierarchical ladder, moving to Atlanta and becoming the youngest bishop in the country by 1966. By 1968 Bernardin made Washington, D.C., his home as he became the general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) and its social action agency, the United States Catholic Conference. In 1972 he was named the archbishop of Cincinnati, Ohio, and was elected president of the NCCB in 1974, serving in that role until 1977. Bernardin brought to every position a strong confidence and a progressive agenda toward church policies. In 1982 Bernardin was named archbishop of Chicago, the largest archdiocese in the nation. This new foothold of power placed Bernardin in a prominent location to express his social activism.