USML | The Liturgical Institute

Hillenbrand Exhibit

Early Years

Early Years and Formation 1905-1931

Reynold Hillenbrand was born on July 19, 1904, the second of nine children and the grandson of German immigrants who settled in Wisconsin. Reynold’s father, George, moved to Chicago to earn his degree in dentistry from Northwestern University, marrying Eleanor Schmidt in 1901. The family joined Saint Michael’s parish in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood (right), which like many German parishes, had a strong sense of social justice. St. Michael’s published the bilingual magazine entitled Central Blatt and Social Justice, and participated in events sponsored by the German Central Verein, a Catholic organization which fought Freemasonry and looked after the welfare of Catholic immigrants in the United States. St. Michael's was also known for its rich liturgical and devotional traditions and strong music program. Hillenbrand would later take this formation to his own efforts in uniting liturgy and social justice. 


Hillenbrand's formation remained deeply intertwined with the educational efforts of Cardinal George Mundelein, who founded both Quigley Preparatory Seminary and Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary, insisting on the highest educational standards and using the system to identify men of particular talent. Young Reynold, shown at the left  in his 1923 Quigley Preparatory Seminary yearbook photo (seated, far right), was already known by his lifelong nicknames of “Hilly” and “Reiny.” He evidently showed leadership potential in his educational life, and his high school activities preļ¬gure the many gifts he would use in his priestly ministry. The debate team no doubt prepared him as a preacher and persuasive orator. As founder and editor-in-chief of the school’s daily newspaper, The Candle, Hilly honed his writing and organizational skills, and as a member of the school’s orchestra and choir, he developed his skills in music which would prove central to his later innovations in congregational liturgical participation.



At Saint Mary of the Lake, Hillenbrand excelled academically, and was ordained to the priesthood earlier than the rest of his class as a special recognition of his abilities. He later completed his License and Doctorate at Saint Mary of the Lake and would eventually become its rector. His 1929 ordination picture is shown at the left.

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