Königin der Apostel



Cardinal Theodore Innitzer, Archbishop of Vienna

Dr. Theodore Innitzer was born on 25 December 1875 in the parish of Weipert in Bohemia, which at that time was Austrian territory, now Chech Republic. He was the second son of William and Maria Innitzer, a humble family engaged in carpet-knotting. The young Theodore attended the village school in Weipert, a two­ hours journey away from his home. This distance did not prevent the boy from rising daily an hour earlier to attend Holy Mass and serve as an altar boy in the parish Church. His parents were deeply religious. What wonder, then, if the young boy, at an early age, formed a desire to become a priest. Already in the primary school, Innitzer was an excellent pupil.

But his parents could not afford to send him to a secondary school as their financial means were too limited. It was with a heavy heart that Theodore submitted to his father's decision and became an apprentice in a weaving factory to contribute his mite to home expenses and for the education of other children. His parish priests and the teachers, however, were very sorry, since they saw the boy's intelligence and still more his piety. They finally persuaded his father to send him to the gymnasium at Kaaden. His mother had already saved every penny earned by Theodore to pay his fees for the first year. Fourteen families "adopted" the young student and provided his meals in rotation.

In 1898, he graduated with Magna cum Laude. Again, it was divine providence which promoted him to enter the seminary in Vienna to study for priesthood In 1902, he was ordained a priest. In 1906, he completed his doctorate in Theology. He became, in succession lecturer, Pro­fessor of Theology and Professor of the New Testament at the University of Vienna. For two years he was its Rector. In those politically troubled times, he came to be known among the students as the "Rector of Peace”.

In 1929, he was called upon by the Chancellor of Austria, Dr. Schober, to become a member of the Austrian Cabinet, as Minis­ter for Social Welfare. He distinguished himself in this office as the friend of the poor and the working dass. Then came the great day, when on 19 September 1932, he was consecrated Archbishop of Vienna. The following year, on 13 March, he became Austria's Cardinal.

As a young priest, and later as a University Professor, Dr. Innitzer co-operated enthusiastically with Paul Sonntag and his co-workers, who had been sent to Vienna by Fr. Bodewig in 1905. It was with his assistance that Bro. Sonntag was able to establish in 1908 the "Publishing Agency for India", which later in 1916, became an "Association for the Catholic Mission Work for India". Professor Innitzer was elected as the vice-president of this association. He kept dose contact with the Brothers and with/ the Zanana Mission Sisters. In order to make the missionary endeavours more efficient, Dr. lnnitzer co-operated in the effort of transforming the "Catholic Mission Work for India" into a missionary Congregation of Priests, Brothers and Sisters who should become active in India. Pope Benedict XV approved the plan, when he said "It is good to give the work a more permanent foundation".

On the recommendation of His Eminence Cardin Gustav Piffl, the Congregation for the Propagation of Faith gave its final approval in 1923 to set up the Missionary Congregation of "Queen of Apostles". On 1 July 1923, the Congregation was canonically erected by the Archbishop of Vienna and Prof. Innitzer was appointed the Superior of the Congregation and since then  he remained the spiritual father of the Sisters until his death. Thus, Prof. Innitzer was considered a Co-Founder of the Congregation. In 1932, when Innitzer was made the Cardinal, the Congregation had more than 60 male and 150 female members. These included seven priests, four students of theology and twelve students of anthropology.

Cardinal Innitzer expressed keen interest in the work of the Sisters in India. He personally presented the revised version of the Constitutions of the Congregation to the Sacred Congrega­tion for the Propagation of Faith and secured their approval with the "Decree of Praise" on April 7th 1949.He rejoiced at the progress the Congregation was making in India. At every visit to the Mother House, he reminded the Sisters not to forget their missionary ideals.

Cardinal Innitzer died at the age of 80 on 9.October 1955. ‘To serve in love’ was his motto. His personal life of poverty and simplicity, with his great love for the poor and the youth remain as outstanding qualities and an inspiration for all of us.