A new chapter in the history of the Diocese of Syracuse was written Jan. 26 as Bishop Robert J. Cunningham dedicated the Carl H. Roesch Archives Museum in honor and memory of the man who helped to create the diocese’s archives more than 30 years ago.
The museum, housed in the lower level of the diocesan Chancery Annex building in downtown Syracuse, displays artifacts from the diocese’s 127-year history, from sacred vessels and vesture to Bishop Patrick Anthony Ludden’s desk and walking stick. The space is quite different from one Roesch first encountered many years ago. The program from the dedication described the scene: “When Carl first entered the chancery basement in 1983, he found it had no heat, a single spare light bulb and a store room of the churches’ histories that was unorganized.”
Roesch, a retired social studies teacher, had been hired as the research assistant to David O’Brien, who was writing a history of the diocese for its upcoming centennial. Over the following years, with the help of a team of dedicated volunteers, Roesch transformed the basement into an organized archives, library and museum.
O’Brien memorialized Roesch and his efforts in the acknowledgements of Faith and Friendship: Roesch “organized the magnificent materials of the diocese into an actual archives, ready for professional use by scholars and Church personnel. He worked at least twice the hours he was asked to, he cared about the project more deeply than anyone, and he showed by love for all of us associated with it something of the meaning of the story…. Carl embodies the strength, wisdom, and grace which are the marks of a healthy Church. Those who may still wonder about the phrase ‘faith and friendship’ after reading this book might stop by the archives to meet Carl.”
Roesch passed away April 2 of last year, but his spirit and memory were alive at the museum dedication.
Longtime archives volunteer Virginia Millert remembered Roesch’s keen sense of humor but said he also “knew how to get things done. He knew what he wanted and what it [the archives] needed.” Roesch would have been happy to see the new museum, she said, but “he wouldn’t have thought that he should be given all the credit. That’s the kind of person he was. He was a good man.”
Margaret Krebs also shared some fond memories of her father, a man who was a loving husband, father of nine, grandfather of 17, great-grandfather of two, and a passionate historian. Family vacations always centered around history, she remembered. One year, Krebs recalled with a laugh, the Roesch family won a trip to Hawaii. Rather than take it, however, Roesch sold the trip and took the family to Gettysburg and Washington, DC instead.
Dedicating the museum in his honor “is a great tribute to my dad and the volunteers and the two loves in their lives: history and the Church,” Krebs said. “It wasn’t a job to them. It was a passion. This was his passion in life. He loved teaching, but he came alive doing this.”
For more information about visiting the Carl H. Roesch Archives Museum or the diocesan archives, call Archivist Mickey Bruce at (315) 470-1493.