Ring of former archbishop at Rummel High School
“This is to certify that as a souvenir of her devotion to duty and as a personal remembrance in appreciation for her faithful service as my secretary, I gave to Miss Aline M. Stiegler my episcopal ring (as Bishop of Omaha) worn on the day of my Consecration, May 29, 1928.”
These words were written by Joseph Francis Rummel, the ninth Archbishop of New Orleans, on Aug. 2, 1949, when he gifted his episcopal ring with an amethyst stone to his secretary, Aline Stiegler, who had served not only Archbishop Rummel but subsequent Archbishop John Cody in 1964 and then Archbishop Philip Hannan in 1965.
Stiegler’s sister, Irma Stiegler, recalled Archbishop Rummel – who was archbishop from 1935 to his death in 1964 – having two rings, the second given to him when he became Archbishop of New Orleans.
When Aline Stiegler, one of four children, died in the mid-1990s, she had no children, so her family made the decision to donate the ring to the high school bearing Archbishop Rummel’s name.
“We found the ring in her things after she died,” her sister Irma Stiegler said. “One of the nephews was taking care of her house, and he found it and wanted to make sure it went to the proper place.”
On May 7, 1997, several members of the Stiegler family were in attendance at a Mass and ceremony to present the ring to the school and sign a long-term loan agreement to keep it at Rummel High as long as it was kept in a secure place.
“It was going to be donated regardless,” Stiegler said. “It was too valuable to keep because he was archbishop of New Orleans. It should be in a place where it could be appreciated by more people.”
Irma Stiegler and her brother, Jesuit Father Hilliard Stiegler, were among those present as were their great-great nephews Matt and Paul Treuting (who were Archbishop Rummel students at the time) and their mother, Karen Stiegler Treuting, now deceased.
Karen Treuting was the family member who actually signed an official one-page agreement giving the school, under then-principal David Hardin, possession of the treasured ring.
“Paul and I together presented it to the school,” Matt Treuting, a tax law specialist, estate planning and administration specialist with Baldwin Haspel Burke and Mayer, LLC, recalled about the ceremony. Paul Treuting is a 1997 Rummel graduate, and Matt Treuting is a 1999 Rummel graduate and current Rummel alumni board member.
“Part of the agreement was that the school display it but make sure it was in a place where it was secure,” Matt Treuting said.
Matt Treuting remembered his Aunt Aline as the “matriarch of the family” who was treated with deference and respect.
Legacy in archdiocese
During his episcopacy in New Orleans, Archbishop Rummel launched the Youth Progress Program in 1945 to raise money for education and to build new schools in response to the population explosion of Catholic children being born during the Baby Boom Era after World War II. It is estimated that from 1935-60, the Catholic school population in New Orleans grew from less than 40,000 to more than 85,000 students, coinciding with a Catholic population growth from 329,351 to 617,961.
To accommodate the growing number of children entering Catholic schools, Archbishop Rummel launched an archdiocesan-wide campaign in 1958 to open new schools. Among them were four new high schools on the east and west banks of Jefferson Parish: Archbishop Chapelle, Archbishop Rummel, Archbishop Shaw and Archbishop Blenk high schools which opened in 1962.
Archbishop Rummel, who participated in the opening of the Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church, was believed reluctant to have a school named after himself but was overruled by those who wanted a physical reminder of his legacy. He attended Archbishop Rummel High School’s dedication.
In addition to adding schools and parishes, Archbishop Rummel addressed segregation in a March 1953 pastoral letter called “Blessed are the Peacemakers,” which stated “the unacceptability of racial discrimination” and his desire to end to segregation in churches in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision of desegregation in schools in Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954, Archbishop Rummel in 1955 appointed a committee “to study the problem of integration of schools and its application to the schools of the Archdiocese.”
He followed that with another pastoral letter in February 1956, declaring that racial segregation was “morally wrong and sinful.”
On March 27, 1962, he announced an end to segregation of archdiocesan parochial elementary and high schools in the 1962-63 school year. He even excommunicated three local Catholics for “disobedience or rebellion in the matter of opening our schools to all Catholic children.”
Treuting said he began to recognize the importance of history, especially his high school’s namesake, while serving as Rummel’s class and student body president and mingling with students from the other high schools that Archbishop Rummel had founded in 1962.
“It’s hard to imagine your relative would know such a person as Archbishop Rummel,” he said.
Due to its significance, Archbishop Rummel’s ring is only taken out on special occasions such as the annual Rummel Day. Treuting hopes to put it on permanent display and is trying to build momentum to procure a case to properly showcase the ring.
“I look forward to finding the right way to do it, so students can feel that physical connection to Archbishop Rummel,” he said. “I am really proud that my family recognized that it had more value than its price. The value of the ring was that it was Archbishop Rummel’s.”
Archbishop Rummel High not only has Archbishop Rummel’s ring, but his cross and chalice (with the same stone) and his prayer book, “Of the Imitation of Christ” by Thomas A. Kempis.