Sister Margaret Ruddy, OSF, Archives
An out-of-the-blue phone call from California brought a welcome surprise to the Sister Margaret Ruddy, OSF, Archives in the summer of 2019. The caller? A man named Francis X. McGuire. His purpose? To find a home for priceless artifacts once belonging to University namesake Samuel Cardinal Stritch and the Cardinal’s good friend, Pope Pius XII.
Now on display in Stritch’s Leadership Commons alongside a portrait of Cardinal Stritch are his red episcopal sandals, scarlet biretta (square cap), and scarlet zucchetto (skullcap). A zucchetto worn by Pope Pius XII is kept in the Archives.
“When the University is entrusted with artifacts like these, it’s just another way of establishing our connection to Cardinal Stritch and helping people today feel his presence not just as a namesake but as a person,” University Archivist Sister Margaret Ruddy, OSF, said. “As part of this community, we’re all called to follow his example—his charity to the poor, his work on behalf of the underprivileged and his tremendous efforts in peacemaking. These artifacts remind us that we have a responsibility to carry on his legacy.”
The stories about the McGuire family’s encounters with the cardinal and the pope and about the origins of the artifacts themselves continue to unfold as Sister Margaret researches the history of each piece.
The signs posted in the display case read as follows:
BIRETTA: The biretta is a square cap with three of four ridges or peaks traditionally worn by Roman Catholic clergy. The biretta of a cardinal is distinctive for its scarlet color and the fact that is does not have a pompom or tassel on the top as do the birettas of other prelates. When the Pope creates a cardinal, he places the biretta on his head. In placing the biretta on the new cardinal’s head, the Pope instructs the cardinal that he must dedicate himself bravely to the faith and to the Church of Rome even to the shedding of his blood. Pope Pius XII gave this red biretta to Samuel Cardinal Stritch when he was created cardinal on February 18, 1946.
ZUCCHETTO: The zucchetto is a small skullcap worn by clerics of the Roman Catholic Church. It originated for practical reasons, to keep the clergy's tonsured heads warm in cold, damp churches and has survived as a traditional item of dress. The zucchetto is most commonly made of silk or polyester fabric. The design has eight triangular panels that join to form a hemispherical skullcap. From the top of the zucchetto is the "stem". It is made of a twisted loop of silk cord and is meant to make the handling of the zucchetto easier. This is a zucchetto worn by Samuel Cardinal Stritch.
SANDALS: Sandals were once official footwear for Roman Catholic clergy. The original color of episcopal sandals was red. In shape, episcopal sandals more closely resemble a pair of loafers than actual sandals. The sole is of leather; the upper part is generally ornamented with gold or silver embroidery. The sandal slips on or closes with silk ribbons or strings, to the end of which are attached small gold tassels often in the shape of acorns. Acorns are considered a symbol of the patience needed to attain goals over a long time. It represents perseverance and hard work. We believe that Samuel Cardinal Stritch wore this pair of sandals.
This is not the first time one of Cardinal Stritch’s artifacts found its way to Stritch out of the blue. In 2016, the Archives received a special donation: the chalice Cardinal Stritch used to celebrate his final Mass. Read about that relic and others on display in the Sister Margaret Ruddy, OSF, Archives plus a brief biography of Samuel Cardinal Stritch at this link.
Archives named for Sister Margaret Ruddy, OSF
In May 2019, University leadership announced the dedication of the newly named Sister Margaret Ruddy, OSF, Archives, honoring the woman who founded, organized and continues to manage the University’s archives.
“This surprise announcement truly humbled me,” Sister Margaret said. “This is not something I would have sought, as these archives are not mine but belong to all the students, alumni, faculty and staff who have made this institution what it is today. My job is simply to highlight our rich history so the spirit of each generation is preserved and passed on.”
A long-time employee of the University prior to opening the doors of the Archives in 2009, Sister Margaret Ruddy previously served for more than 30 years in the Cardinal Stritch University Library, bringing to the Archives not only her professional cataloging and organizational skills, but a reverence for history and an intimate knowledge of and care for Stritch’s past. Through this distinctive ministry, Sister Margaret preserves the legacy of the University founded by her Congregation, the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi.