Today we remember the 42nd year of consecration of a foundational man, and a saint in his own right, within the autocephalous sacramental movement and a shepherd who was near and dear to our hearts in Christ Catholic Church, and certainly to me personally, Bishop Karl Hugo Prüter, of blessed memory.
Karl Hugo Prüter (July 3, 1920 – Nov 18, 2007), was an Old Catholic bishop.
He was raised in the Lutheran church, and was a Congregationalist minister under the name of Hugo Rehling Prüter Sr. from 1945 to 1958. In the Congregationalist Church he was one of the leaders in the liturgical movement within the church during the late 1940s and early 1950s. He was also an opponent of the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ, begun in 1957 and concluded in 1961. As a continuing Congregationalist, he led his church and several other midwest Congregational churches to reject the merger and form a new body, The National Association of Congregational Christian Churches.
In the late 1960s, Prüter became involved in the Free Catholic Movement, an association that lasted until his death. Prüter’s introduction to the Free Catholic Movement and Old Catholicism came in 1963, when he traveled to Europe where he met several leaders of the Old Catholic tradition. When he returned to the United States, he settled in Boston hoping to find an available church or bishop. Not finding any, he arranged with Archbishop Peter A. Zurawetsky to start a new church, in the Back Bay area of Boston, which stressed the contemplative life, mysticism, and a faith based on personal experience.
He was consecrated Bishop of the Diocese of Boston by Archbishops Zurawetsky and Uladyslau Ryzy-Ryski in 1967. The following year, Prüter designated his Diocese an independent communion. After a meeting the following year, the new Christ Catholic Church was recognized when its Constitution and Canons were given it by Archbishop Zurawetsky.
Prüter was a vigorous publisher and distributor of literature in his fields of interest. The press he founded, St. Willibrord’s Press, was a major distributor of literature about the Old Catholic church. He wrote a number of tracts and pamphlets, as well as books such as The Teachings of the Great Mystics and A History of the Old Catholic Church. He also operated the Tsali Bookstore, specializing in American Indian literature, and Cathedral Books which emphasizes literature about the topic of peace.
Christ Catholic Church was founded in 1937 when several independent Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches joined together to create the Polish Old Catholic Church. Most of these churches were within the state of New Jersey, like New Brunswick, South River, Dover, and Dunellen, although individual churches as far away as Tampa, Florida were included as well. They elected Joseph Zielonka to be their first bishop. In 1959, the church changed its name to Christ Catholic Church to more clearly indicate that individuals and churches of all nationalities would be welcome in the church.
The following year, 1960, the church was found to consist of 22 parishes with about 7,200 members.
In 1961, Bishop Zielonka died and his suffragan bishop, Peter A. Zurawetzky, was elected as his successor. Bishop Zurawetzky started a new mission program within the church, and oversaw rapid growth within the church. Among the developments would be the founding of the Church of the Transfiguration in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1965, and, two years later, the creation of the Diocese of Boston under Karl Prüter, who was consecrated as the Diocese’s first bishop. The following year the Christ Catholic Church was formally recognized as an independent entity. It was for many years headquartered at the Cathedral of the Prince of Peace, in Highlandville, Missouri. Bishop Karl Prüter died November 18, 2007. Prior to his death in 2007, Prüter entrusted his ministry at the Cathedral of the Prince of Peace to Bishop Brian E. Brown, a bishop of Christ Catholic Church Diocese of the Prince of Peace, whom he had consecrated sub-conditionally on September 9 of that same year.
After his passing I was given his remaining personal items: books, manuscripts, papers, sermons, vestments, and various other projects he had been working on.
As I lost myself in his private writings the other day I marveled at how many projects the man had planned, started, finished, and re-vamped over the years. There were still many more in the “To Do” file to be sure. He had so many books in the works, some outlines, some drafts, and some finished manuscripts. He devoted his life down to his last moments to the autocephalous sacramental movement. Just an evening prior to his death he was discussing the movement with a fellow roommate at the hospital and made his wife Teresa retrieve a certain book for his new friend to have. Shortly after that conversation he lost the ability to speak and it was only a little while later that he went home to be with the Lord.
He lived a full life, devoted to his Lord through the expression of faith found within the ASM. It was often a lonely life, and it wasn’t without its hardships, pitfalls, and problems, but he was faithful to the end through it all.
We should all live so well and offer that kind of life of faith, dedication, and service to our Lord as did Saint Karl Hugo Prüter. Let us celebrate his ministry on this day, as he rests in peace.