When the Ecumenical Council convoked by Pope John XXIII opened in October 1962 with much liturgical pomp and ceremony, Bishop Thomas K. Gorman of Dallas was not among the 2500 Council Fathers who processed into St. Peter’s Basilica.
He was watching the solemn proceedings on television.
Father Richard Weaver, a retired priest of the Diocese of Dallas, was a seminarian in Rome at the time and relates how he and other seminarians were invited to watch the opening ceremonies on the large television in the apartment of Msgr. James I. Tucek, a Dallas priest who was head of the Rome Bureau of the National Catholic Welfare Conference News Service, now Catholic News Service.
Bishop Gorman, who stayed in Msgr. Tucek’s apartment during the first session, decided at the last minute not to join the procession but to join the seminarians in watching the event on television while enjoying a good cigar instead of subjecting himself to the tedium of waiting for the procession to begin, the long walk to St. Peter’s and an hour or so of speeches in Latin.
What the bishop did not realize was that seat assignments for the entire first session would be made before the procession began. As senior suffragan bishop in the Province of San Antonio, he was entitled to a seat next to Archbishop Robert Lucey in one of the front rows. In his absence the seat was assigned to someone else and when he received his seat assignment, it was high up among the junior bishops.
Msgr. Tucek played a key role during the first session of the council, filing daily news reports on the activities of the Council Fathers. His stories appeared in Catholic newspapers throughout the English speaking world for a year before the council and during the first session.
Under the rules of the council, the proceedings were to be kept secret, but bits and pieces were leaking out. After about two weeks of complaints from the English-speaking press that they were not getting enough material, several American bishops asked Msgr. Tucek to assist in setting up an English language press panel of bishops who would summarize each day’s activities for the media and respond to questions.
Although Msgr. Tucek returned to Dallas after the first session to become editor of The Texas Catholic, the press panel continued for all four sessions and was copied by other language groups.
Beginning with the second session and remaining until the conclusion of the Council another significant presence from Dallas was Dr. Albert Outler, a professor and patristic scholar at Southern Methodist University. Dr. Outler was appointed by the World Methodist Council as an observer, one of 63 observers from other Christian churches. The Dallas theologian was chosen as dean of the observers.
There were others from the Diocese of Dallas in Rome at various times during the sessions of the Second Vatican Council. Msgr. Gerald A. Hughes was a graduate student in Rome during the first sessions. Msgr. Joseph Schumacher was a graduate student during the later sessions. Bishop Thomas Tschoepe accompanied Bishop Gorman during the fourth session.
Three seminarians from the diocese were also in Rome at the time. In addition to Father Richard Weaver, they were now-Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, NM, and Chaplain Lt.Col. Henry Drozd, US Army (Ret), Savannah, GA.