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Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P.: The Life and Scholarship of an Immortal Teacher

From: U.S. Catholic Historian
Volume 31, Number 4, Fall 2013
pp. 47-62 | 10.1353/cht.2013.0015

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Apriest and religious of the Passionist Congregation, Carroll Stuhlmueller was an internationally recognized biblical scholar, a revered teacher, lecturer and preacher, and a leading figure in numerous Catholic church movements. He belonged to that unique generation of American Catholic biblical scholars who before and after the Second Vatican Council dedicated their professional lives to making the Bible known and loved by the broader Catholic community.

At the outset I should note that Carroll Stuhlmueller’s life and work influenced me personally and profoundly. We were fellow religious, friends, and close associates and collaborators for many years until his death in 1994. He had taught me Scripture while I was a theology student in 1964–1965 and was instrumental in my assignment to graduate biblical studies after my ordination. He served as a mentor and guide as I began my own teaching and writing at Catholic Theological Union in 1972. Though unavoidably personal, I hope this tribute to Carroll retains a sense of objectivity about his contribution to American biblical scholarship.1

William Ignatius Stuhlmueller was born in Hamilton, Ohio on April 2, 1923, the fourth child and only son of William and Alma (Heusing) Stuhlmueller and baptized in St. Mary’s Church in Hamilton on April 15, 1923. He had four sisters: Mary, Louise, Janet, and Vera. He would remain close to them all of his life, and the strong affection and sturdy piety of his family decisively shaped his character. At St. Mary’s parochial school, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur taught him. Two of his own sisters, Mary and Louise, later joined that community.

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Carroll Stuhlmueller, C.P., illustration by Ray Evenhouse, 1981 (Courtesy of U.S. Catholic magazine).

While in grade school, he had expressed interest in the priesthood. According to Carroll, in 1935 his eighth grade teacher, Sister Aloysius, moved by a parish mission given by two Passionists, Fathers Jerome Reutermann, C.P. (1874–1945), and Matthias Coen, C.P. (1898–1975), decided that young William Stuhlmueller would be happy as a Passionist. So began a life-long association with the Passionist Congregation (Holy Cross Province). He enrolled at the Passionist Preparatory Seminary in Normandy, Missouri in September, 1936. In 1942, after high school and two years of college studies, he entered the Passionist novitiate in St. Paul, Kansas, where he received the religious name of Carroll. He made his first profession of vows July 9, 1943. From there he began studies for priesthood, with philosophy training at the Passionist House of Studies in Detroit, Michigan (1943–1946), and theological studies at the Passionist major serninaries, first in Chicago (1946–1948) and then in Louisville, Kentucky (1948–1950).

Carroll’s love of the Scriptures began at an early age. He recalled as a senior in high school reading part of one of the Gospels each day and writing down a favorite passage. Soon he was reading the Bible in its entirety each year. As a novice, he estimated that he read the entire New Testament twice a year and the Old Testament once—all before he had taken a formal class on the Scriptures. Carroll admitted to not understanding everything he read in the Bible, likening the text to “a good friend”: “We don’t have to agree or understand each other on every point.”2

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A young Carroll Stuhlmueller (Courtesy of Passionist Archives of Holy Cross Province).

His engagement with the Scriptures deepened during his years of theological study. During his training in Chicago and Louisville, Carroll was introduced to biblical scholarship, a force driving his personal and professional life for the next fifty years. His teachers of Scripture included Barnabas Ahern, C.P. (1915–1995), and Roger Mercurio, C.P. (1918–2001), both of whom were trained at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., and participated in the Catholic biblical movement then about to explode upon the scene. Another professor, Joseph Mary O’Leary, C.P. (1889–1972), left his mark on Carroll. O’Leary’s love of learning and great care for books and libraries profoundly influenced Carroll, and they maintained a close friendship. Carroll never met a library he did...

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