JOHN FRANCIS NOLL WAS BORN IN 1875 IN FORT WAYNE, INDIANA, ONE OF 19 CHILDREN.
When he was 13, he entered a preparatory seminary and went on to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati for his theology and philosophy studies, where he was ordained at the age of 23. Ten years after his ordination, Father Noll bought a printing press for just $1 and hired a team to help him with publications.
On May 5th, 1912, Fr. John Francis Noll created the first 35,000 copies of Our Sunday Visitor which were sent to priests and parishes across the United States. By the end of the year, Fr. Noll had sent out over 200,000 copies of the paper. Over the next two years, Our Sunday Visitor reached a circulation of 1,000,000, becoming one of the world’s largest Catholic Publishers.
Through his various publications and generous financial assistance to Church projects, Fr. Noll became well-known for his astute understanding of Church issues and was consequently asked to join the boards of many national organizations, including the Catholic Press Association and the Catholic Church Extension Society. He was assigned the title of monsignor for only four years until he was named fifth bishop of Fort Wayne in 1925.
Because of his experience with national and international issues, Bishop Noll was named secretary of what is now the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and was a longtime member of its administrative committee. In his role, he again demonstrated his foresight about the coming information age, helping to launch Catholic News Service and the “Catholic Hour” on NBC radio with fellow Archbishop Fulton Sheen. He then began Catholic Charities to aid families and children who were devastated by the Depression and oversaw a massive building program of churches, schools, hospitals, a seminary and an orphanage. As a sign of Vatican esteem, Bishop Noll was given the honorary title of Archbishop in 1953.