Father Husslein was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June l0, 1873, the son of German immigrants. In 1891 he earned an A.B. from Marquette College (later Marquette University), and that same year he joined the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Missouri.
Husslein received his M.A. in philosophy from Saint Louis University in 1897. He taught classical languages and history, among other subjects, at the University from 1897 to 1899 and at the Jesuit Scholasticate in Florissant from 1899 to 1902. Husslein was ordained a priest in 1905. In 1907 and 1908 he taught English in the Juniorate at the Jesuit Normal School in Brooklyn, then moved on to St. Ignatius College, later John Carroll University, in Cleveland. He was named associate editor of America in 1911, where he labored until 1927. At the same time he was involved with the Catholic Conference on Industrial Problems, associated with the Department of Social Action of the National Catholic Welfare Conference. This experience, combined with an interest in socialism that he had developed in Cleveland, strengthened Husslein's commitment to social reform as a means of combating what he viewed as the complete irreligiosity of such radical tenets.
Husslein, who had earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Fordham University in 1919, continued to teach, lecturing on social economics at Fordham from 1916 to 1921 and from 1927 to 1929. Indeed, he was one of the founders of Fordham's School of Philanthropy and Social Science. Beginning in 1929 he was Professor of Sociology at Saint Louis University, where he taught sociology, social economics, and social work. In 1930 he founded the School of Social Services, serving as its dean until 1941. Interestingly, this school was the first at Saint Louis University to admit a black student.
In Husslein's social thought, the teachings of the Catholic Church held the answers to all social problems. Historically, he argued, Christian morality as reflected in the guild system had served to protect labor. As an antidote to modern laissez faire capitalism, Husslein proposed what he called Democratic Industry, a combination of guild principles with Pope Leo XIII's call for a wider distribution of wealth. Husslein's system was characterized by profit sharing, cooperative banks and stores, copartnerships, and coproduction.
The indefatigable, literary-minded Husslein was well equipped to espouse his agenda, which he did in a phenomenal output of 20 books and hundreds of articles, both signed and unsigned; on social issues and religious devotion. His first published work in 1910 was a play, set in the time of Antoninus Pius, that sought to reach a wide audience with its message of higher education for both priest and layman. Throughout his career Husslein continued his efforts to expose as many people as possible to Catholic philosophy, scripting a motion picture on the Eucharist in 1927, broadcasting on St. Louis radio station KMOX and Saint Louis University station WEW from the 1930s to the 1950s, and guiding his great project of a "university in print."
In collaboration with the Bruce Publishing Company of Milwaukee, Husslein devised three series of books that covered such diverse topics as biography, history, literature, the social and natural sciences, art, psychology, philosophy, and scripture. Husslein solicited manuscripts on specific themes from Catholic authors around the world who combined the best of Catholic thought with literary ability, then had the works vetted by authorities in those fields before editing them himself. The series--Science and Culture (1931), Science and Culture Texts (1933), and Religion and Culture (1934)--were acknowledged at the time as an important part of the Catholic literary revival, and were instrumental in helping Bruce survive the Depression. Husslein single-handedly edited 212 books for the series and had 5 others ready for the press at his death.
Husslein died on October 19, 1952 of a stroke. His concentration on social problems that seem less relevant today, his lack of interest in the issues surrounding the New Deal, and his call for a return to Christian morality, a stance that modern society labels naive, have helped consign him to an unwarranted near oblivion. Surely Husslein deserves the recognition and renewed study due a visionary who labored all his life to guarantee justice and opportunity for all men within the framework of his faith.