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Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago talks with his family during a Nov. 19 reception at the Pontifical North American College after a consistory at the Vatican. CNS photo/Paul Haring.

Cupich family proud of new cardinal

Rich Cupich remembers delivering newspapers on a route that was right next to the one held by his brother, Blase, as they grew up in Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in south Omaha.

"In those days, you needed to collect the money, and we got to know the people," Rich said. People of Croatian, Lithuanian, German and Bohemian descent, an experience that served them well as they learned to serve others, he said.

After a Nov. 19 ceremony in Rome attended by Rich and about 75 other relatives, his brother now is Cardinal Blase J. Cupich – in addition to serving as archbishop of Chicago, an appointment he was given two year ago.

"We both carried newspapers," said Rich, now a teacher at Creighton Preparatory School and a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish, both in Omaha. "Now, he’s in Chicago, spreading the good news to people."

And he will be in Rome more often and more visibly serving the universal church, as one of 17 churchmen elevated by Pope Francis to the College of Cardinals, in a ceremony that left Rich practically speechless.

"The one thing I could think of was ‘wow,’" Rich said in a telephone interview from Rome. "It was quite exciting."

All of Cardinal Cupich’s eight siblings made the trip but one – Madge Cupich of Holy Cross Parish in Omaha had to remain home with an injured left leg. In addition to Rich and Madge, siblings still living in the Omaha area include Margie Altman of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Omaha and Bob Cupich of St. Gerald Parish in Ralston.

Ann Wilson, an aunt of Cardinal Cupich and member of St. Columbkille Parish in Papillion, also made the trip.

His new role did not surprise her and will not change him, she said.

"I knew he was going to be cardinal," she said. "Blase will be Blase."

Madge missed the journey to Rome, but she did not miss the ceremony. It was televised in the early morning hours of Nov. 19.

"I got up, made a big pot of coffee and just watched it," she said. "The whole family is so proud of him."

That includes their late parents, Blase and Mary, who were present in spirit, Madge said.

"My parents were with him," she said. "So were my grandparents. They are so happy for him. All of south Omaha is so happy this is happening."

In Rome, the Cupich family spent time with Cardinal Cupich at a reception at the Pontifical North American College, and enjoyed the good-spirited gifts he received. One, Rich said, was "Go Big Red" socks for the colors of a cardinal and the Nebraska football team.

They also enjoyed dinner together in a large hallway of the Vatican Museums, hosted by Catholic Extension, a Chicago-based organization. And many family members made it to vespers Nov. 20 at Cardinal Cupich’s titular church, the Basilica of St. Bartholomew, Rich said.

Cardinal Cupich appreciated the support of people from Omaha, Chicago, and a group of relatives who made it to Rome from Varazdin, Croatia, honoring their Croatian relatives in the Cupich family, Rich said.

"It’s a testament to what Blase has always said, ‘never forget where you came from,’" Rich said.


Catholic New World Editor Joyce Doriga of the Archdiocese of Chicago contributed to this report.

Omaha Archbishops

"A great responsibility goes along with the great honor of being named to the College of Cardinals. Cardinal Cupich has become a trusted adviser to Pope Francis, helping to shape the pastoral direction of the universal church. His strong Catholic upbringing here in Omaha, along with his broad experiences in positions of leadership and service, have equipped him well to take on this new responsibility."

Archbishop George J. Lucas


"Father Blase Cupich was rector of the Pontifical Seminary Josephinum in Ohio when I came here as archbishop in 1993. He returned to Omaha in l997 and was appointed pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish. Then Pope John Paul II named him bishop of Rapid City the following year in 1998, with my blessing. I knew he would be a bishop one day, but little did I suspect he would eventually become archbishop of Chicago and now a cardinal of the universal church.

"Cardinal Cupich has the temperament to be the archbishop of Chicago with its diversity and complex structures. He is proving to be a wise and pastoral leader according to the example of Pope Francis. He is intelligent and strong as a leader, but with a pastor’s sensitive heart and love for people. He will be a positive force in Chicago and a trusted adviser for the pope in the years ahead.

"The church here in Nebraska is rightfully proud of this Croatian son of south Omaha. We know he will always cherish his heritage and will never forget his roots here. And even though he is now the archbishop of Chicago, Blase Cupich will always be our Omaha Cardinal."

Archbishop Emeritus Elden Francis Curtiss


Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

Born: March 19, 1949, Omaha.

Home Parish: Ss. Peter and Paul, Omaha.

Education: Ss. Peter and Paul School, then-Archbishop Ryan High School, Omaha; then-St. John Vianney Seminary near Elkhorn; College of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn.; Pontifical North American College, Rome; Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.

Ordained: 1975 by the late Archbishop Daniel E. Sheehan of Omaha.

Service as priest: Associate pastor, St. Margaret Mary Parish, Omaha, 1975 to 1978; graduate studies, 1978 to 1979; in residence at Holy Cross Parish in Omaha, 1979 to 1980; secretary to the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington, D.C., 1981 to 1987; pastor of St. Mary Parish in Bellevue, 1987 to 1989; president and rector of the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, 1989 to 1996; pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Omaha from 1997 to 1998.

Bishop: Rapid City, S.D., 1998 to 2010; Spokane, Wash., 2010 to 2014.

Archbishop: Chicago, 2014 to present.

Created cardinal: Nov. 19, 2016


Vespers service planned for Dec. 30

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich will preside at a vespers service at 7 p.m. Dec. 30, on the Feast of the Holy Family, at St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha. A dessert reception and receiving line will be held in the Msgr. Ernest Graham building, just east of the cathedral.

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