The Archivist’s Nook: Richard John Neuhaus – A Catholic Lutheran in the Public Square

Fr. Neuhaus, then a Lutheran pastor, with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ca. 1960s (Courtesy: National Catholic Register) Neuhaus Papers, box 88, The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Today’s post is guest authored by Undergraduate student in Social Work, Emmanuel A. Montesa, who expresses his thanks to the professional Archives staff.

On October 19, 1999, the Reverend Richard John Neuhaus gave a lecture entitled “My American Affair” here at The Catholic University of America, only a few months after he had converted to Catholicism. As a former Lutheran pastor, he was heavily involved in the liberal causes in American politics of the 1960s such as the Civil Rights and the Anti-War movements. He even considered himself to be a radical, seeing the War in Vietnam as “God’s instrument for bringing the American empire to its knees.”¹ On December 4, 1967, Neuhaus led a service at St. John the Evangelist Lutheran in Brooklyn where over 300 people turned in their draft cards in protest, drawing the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Neuhaus was arrested twice in his life, the first for participating in a sit-in at the New York City Board of Education headquarters demanding for the desegregation of city public schools and the second for disorderly conduct during the chaotic 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. In addition, he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for New York’s 14th Congressional district.

Neuhaus meeting with President Ronald Reagan at the White House, Feb. 26, 1986. Neuhaus Papers, box 88, The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

However, by the time he was invited to speak at the national university of the Catholic Church in the United States, Neuhaus was one of the leading neo-conservatives in America, along with George Weigel and Michael Novak. Neuhaus strongly believed that politics can and should only exist within the context of Christian morality, calling for Christians to find their place in what he called “the naked public square,” a reference to the absence of values emanating from faith-based communities in public life. His 1984 book of that title, which addressed the complex relationship between faith and politics, arguably paved the way for Ronald Reagan’s landslide re-election to the American presidency. In addition, Neuhaus served as a catalyst in the solidification of the political alliance of Catholics and evangelical Protestants. He served as an unofficial advisor to President George W. Bush on social matters which included abortion and same-sex marriage. As the editor-in-chief of First Things from its founding in 1990 until his death in 2009, Neuhaus voiced his discontent with the social liberalism that had taken hold of America. In 2005, Time Magazine named Neuhaus as one of 25 most influential evangelicals in America despite being a Roman Catholic.

Neuhaus’ renunciation of the Lutheran profession and conversion to Roman Catholicism is, in a sense, related to his political shift from the liberal left to the conservative right. His 1999 lecture at the Catholic University offers great insight into his reasoning for his conversion, both political and theological. He saw that the theory of the twofold kingdom of God, on which Lutheran political ethic is based on, “leads to Christian passivity and quietism in the face of social and political in justice.”² This theory holds that God rules the temporal earth with his left hand and the divine world with his right, and in the same way, theology should not muddy itself with human politics. However, Neuhaus believed that the Church should necessarily engage with the world, but the Church must first have a “vigorous ecclesiology” that can stand what St. Paul calls “the principalities and powers of the present age.”³ He  concluded that the only the Roman Catholic Church possessed such a vigorous ecclesiology.

Neuhaus being ordained a Catholic priest, 1991. Neuhaus Papers, box 88, The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Furthermore, in another lecture given at Catholic University in March 2000 titled “A Consistent Ethic of Strife,” which would later be published in CUA’s Journal of Law, Philosophy, and Culture, Neuhaus spoke about what he called the Catholic Moment. He first defined the term as a Lutheran in his 1987 book The Catholic Moment: The Paradox of the Church in the Postmodern World, where he posited that the “premier responsibility for the Christian mission rest with the Catholic Church.”⁴ Now speaking on the Catholic Moment as a Catholic priest, he asserted that the Church should not fall into the passivity that his old profession had fallen into, but should continually play an active role in the world to establish the Kingdom of God. He declared that the Catholic Moment had not passed even 13 years after he first coined the term, because every single day since the first Pentecost until the end of time is the Catholic Moment.  In this framework, he distinguishes that there is a difference between an American Catholic and a Catholic American. The former is a corruption of the religion, but the latter is what we should strive for as Americans. There is a distinctively Catholic way of being an American.

Please see the newly completed finding aid (our 200th) for the voluminous Neuhaus Papers, a recent and welcome addition to the Catholic University Archives, joining the significant papers of other notable public priests such as Bishop Francis J. Haas, Msgr. John A. Ryan, and Msgr. George G. Higgins.


¹Daniel McCarthy. “Richard John Neuhaus by Randy Boyagoda,” The New York Times, March 26, 2015, accessed December 6, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/29/books/review/richard-john-neuhaus-by-randy-boyagoda.html.
²Richard John Neuhaus, “My American Affair” (speech, Washington, D.C., October 19, 1999), The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.
³Ibid.
Richard John Neuhaus, “A Consistent Ethics of Strife” (speech, Washington, D.C., March 2000), The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

The Sounds of Hanukkah: Flory Jagoda

Flory Jagoda. Image courtesy of the Milken Archive of Jewish Music.

This post is by library technician Rachel Evangeline Barham.

Did you know that one of Hanukkah’s most influential tastemakers lives in the DC area? The multifaceted musician Flory Jagoda, now in her 90s, calls Virginia home. She is known widely as the “keeper of the flame” of the music of Bosnian Sephardic Jews.¹ Here she is sharing one of her most famous songs, the counting song “Ocho Kandelikas” (Eight Candles). (Warning: it’s catchy!) I use the word “sharing” because – you’ll agree when you see her – it is clear that Flory Jagoda is not just performing the music she composed. Sharing her music is her way of transforming unthinkable personal and collective tragedy into a living monument to the special family who raised her and who were robbed of their own lives.

Flory Jagoda was born into the Altarac Singing Family of Vlasenica, Bosnia: her mother and seven aunts and uncles – directed by Flory’s Nona (grandmother) – sang and played instruments at all kinds of public gatherings.² Flory lived with her Nona until she was eleven years old, speaking Ladino (or Judaeo-Spanish), the language that Sephardic Jews took with them all over the world after Ferdinand and Isabella’s 1492 Edict of Expulsion. Both the Ladino language and its songs preserve parts of medieval Spanish but have picked up local flavor wherever people settled: a new spelling of a word here, a new instrument there. Flory’s Nona was an eager teacher of a very willing pupil, passing on all the songs she knew to her granddaughter.

Jagoda in the 1940s.

It was when she had to leave her Nona and move to the city – against her will – that Flory’s stepfather gave the unhappy girl the accordion that would later save her life. Flory became adept at several instruments and adjusted to city life in Zagreb, but her world fell apart in 1941 when the Nazis’ racial policies hit her family hard. They managed to get to the Dalmatian island of Korchula, where they were interned for two and a half years before fleeing to Italy amid the chaos that accompanied the end of World War II in Europe. She found a job as an interpreter for the US Army in Italy, where she fell in love with and married a Jewish American soldier, Harry Jagoda. It was when they returned from their honeymoon that she learned to her horror that out of the 41 members of her beloved Altarac family, only her mother, one uncle, and one cousin had survived. Along with every other Jew left in Vlasenica, the family members were rounded up and brutally slaughtered on May 6, 1942. “Babies, Nona, Nonu, las tiyas (aunts), lus primus ermjanus (cousins) … all of them.”³

The Flory Jagoda Songbook: Memories of Sarajevo (Tara Publications, 1993).

In 1946, Harry and his new wife settled in Virginia and started a family. For years, Flory, noting that silencing the past is a way of coping for many survivors, suppressed memories of her former life. But at some point, she wanted her children – and the world – to share the music, memories, and traditions that had made her childhood so special. She began recording music in the 1980s, releasing three albums and an accompanying songbook including both traditional songs and original compositions such as the joyful “Hanuka, Hanuka,” performed here by the Trio Sefardi, with whom Flory appeared in a 2013 interview with WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi. Always a teacher, she has used her many public appearances to teach this music to anyone who will listen. Many of Flory’s songs are holiday-themed. “Because every holiday song … that I have composed continues the memory of my family in Vlasenica; I am still sharing the holidays with them.”⁴ Through her music, the legacy of an extraordinary musical family will live on from generation to generation. 

Hear Pink Martini’s cover of “Ocho Kandelikas,” or this one by Flory’s great-grandchildren.


¹http://washingtonjewishweek.com/5670/a-keeper-of-the-flame-performs-at-library-of-congress/arts/ and many other sources.

²Much of Flory Jagoda’s life is well documented, but a particularly detailed first-person account of her family and personal history is found in the Introduction to The Flory Jagoda Songbook (Tara Publications, 1993). Many of the facts in that account are noted in this post.

³The Flory Jagoda Songbook, p.14.

The Flory Jagoda Songbook, p.16.

The Archivist’s Nook: From Catholic University to Broadway – The Walter and Jean Kerr Collection

Booklet title page that accompanied the “Sing Out, Sweet Land” album, 1946.

This week’s Archivist’s Nook is by Morgan McKeon, graduate student in the Department of Library and Information Science.

Walter and Jean Kerr, partners in life and art, were figures of the dramatic arts from Catholic University to Broadway. Their work spanned from the stage to the televisions of the American public. Together, Walter and Jean Kerr had a fruitful artistic and familial partnership. Their first collaboration in 1942, the musical comedy “Count Me In,” opened at Catholic University and was produced in New York in 1942. Their Catholic University musical, “Sing Out, Sweet Land,” was brought to Broadway in 1944. 1946 saw their Broadway debut as a team with “Song of Bernadette.”

Walter Kerr alongside Josephine Callan directing Sing Out Sweet Land, 1944.

Walter Kerr became a professor of speech and drama at Catholic University in 1939 after it was founded by Father Gilbert Hartke in 1937. Alongside Hartke, Kerr helped develop the department and supported it through his direction of stage productions as well as writing original works to be performed at the university. By Spring of 1939 Kerr “wrote and directed his first production at the university, a one-act play entitled Hyacinth on Wheels.”¹ While popular among the students, Kerr decided to move on from academia in 1951. Walter Kerr continued to write and direct works for the stage – he also turned his attention to criticism. For his work as a critic, he would win a Pulitzer Prize in 1978. In 1966 he became the chief drama critic for the New York Times. Though hired as the soul critic, Kerr made the decision to only write for the Sunday edition so that he would not be the only opinion. “I saw in advance that the power of the Times, with one man writing both daily and Sunday, would be absolute. I wanted the vote split, and the Times was quick to agree.”² Due to his writing style, he made the theatre accessible to a wide audience – Newsweek even deemed him a “supercritic”.³ Though he was an influential critic, Kerr was not without those who criticized his reviews. In 1965 The Village Voice “presented him with an award for his ‘outstanding disservice to the modern theatre.’”⁴ During his career, Kerr was often critical of work that he though too musically ambitious or overrun with pretension. Despite some critics, Kerr won a Pulitzer Prize in 1978 for his criticism, was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1983, and was honored in 1990 when Manhattan’s restored Ritz Theatre was renamed the Walter Kerr Theatre.

Fr. Hartke and Walter Kerr.

Jean Kerr, was successful in her own right. Her theatrical works and publications were admired for their humor and “unerring eye for life’s everyday absurdities.” She won a Tony Award in 1961 for King of Hearts – but it was Please, Don’t Eat the Daisies that brought her into popular culture. Published in 1957, this collection of essays (based on her life as a mother and wife to an important critic) became a best-seller. It was adapted into a film in 1960 and made into a short-lived television series in 1965. In 1973, Jean Kerr won The National Institute of Social Sciences Gold Medal Award for distinguished service to humanity.

It was not until the processing of this collection that I learned about the contributions of the Kerr’s. The Walter and Jean Kerr Collection is made up largely of awards received by Walter and Jean. The Catholic University of America continues to live the legacy of Father Hartke, Walter and Jean Kerr – as well as the others that were central to the development of the Drama department. Their collection provides an important element to the holdings at Catholic University – providing another look at important figures that found themselves in Brookland. The Kerr’s found in themselves and through each other the desire to create for and support the theatrical arts. With every new production, Walter and Jean Kerr live on both at the Catholic University of America and the Broadway stage.

Jean Kerr and Adlai Stevenson, ca. 1950s.

The Walter and Jean Kerr Collection can be viewed here: http://archives.lib.cua.edu/findingaid/kerr.cfm


¹Mary Jo Santo Pietro, Father Hartke: His Life and Legacy to the American Theatre (Washington: The Catholic University Press, 2002), 70.

²Roderick Bladel, Walter Kerr: An Analysis of His Criticism (Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1976), 1.

³Bladel, 1.

⁴Bladel, 2.

The Archivist’s Nook: Religious School Champion – A Bill Bentley Ball Blog

William B. Ball in his office, c. 1970. William B. Ball Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

This week’s post is guest-authored by Austin Arminio, a graduate student in the field of Library and Information Science.

Currently, about ten percent of students in the United States attend private schools, the majority of which are run by religious institutions. While they likely don’t know his name, many of these students owe their ability to go to these schools to William Bentley Ball. This October 6th is the 101st anniversary of the birth of William Bentley Ball, whose devout Catholicism and passion for constitutional law led to him defending student’s rights to religious education.  

William Ball on the steps of the Supreme Court following, Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District, 1993. William B. Ball Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Ball was a patriot and devout Catholic from an early age. When the United States entered World War II, Ball joined the Navy, obtaining the rank of Lieutenant Commander, after which he studied law at Notre Dame. Following college, Ball begin teaching constitutional law at Villanova University, as well as serving as a general counsel for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public policy wing of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. In 1967, Ball worked on his first case before the United State Supreme Court: Loving v. Virginia. On the case that would overturn laws prohibiting interracial marriage, Ball entered a brief on behalf of 25 Catholic Bishops in support of the Loving’s position. This would be the first of many Supreme Court cases Ball would be involved in.

The case the propelled Ball into the national spotlight was 1972 case of Wisconsin v. Yoder. Jonas Yoder was the member of an Amish community in Green County, Wisconsin and following his children’s completion of the 8th grade, Yoder attempted to pull his children out of school, as the Amish believe that high school education unneeded for their way of life. This view led to conflict with state and national compulsory education laws, leading to Yoder being fined by the county. As the case reached the Supreme Court, William B. Ball agreed to represent the Yoders free of charge. Before the Supreme Court Ball argued that forcing Amish children to attend high school was forcing them to violate their religious beliefs. “Whether the Amish religion itself is unreasonable is not relevant, the plain facts are that the state (whether acting reasonably or otherwise) is preventing the defendants from performing their religious obligation.” The Supreme Court agreed with Ball and in a 7/2 decision ruled in favor of the Yoders.

Undated poem and doodle by Ball. William B. Ball Papers, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Besides Wisconsin v. Yoder, Ball’s most famous Supreme Court case was the 1993 case of Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District. James Zobrest was born deaf, and as a result was provided a sign-language interpreter while he attended public school. However, when he began to attend a Catholic high school, the school district refused to continue providing Zobrest with an interpreter, saying they could not provide public education funds to a religious school. The Zobrest family argued that this was religious discrimination, and took the case to court. Ball argued before the Supreme Court that the school district’s refusal was a violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as well as the Free Exercise Clause of the 1st Amendment. In a 5-4 opinion, the Supreme Court sided with Zobrest.

William Bentley Ball died January 10th, 1999 following a short illness. Over the course of his luminous carrier, Ball argued 9 cases before the US Supreme Court, having a win/loss margin of 5/3. Ball additionally served as an advisor on 25 other Supreme Court cases, as well as giving his testimony on numerous state and federal laws concerning the 1st Amendment. When not practicing law, Ball was an artist and poet, loved for his cheeky caricatures and limericks, some of which can be viewed here, here, and here. To find out more information about William Bentley Ball, you can view the finding aid to Ball’s collection here.

The Archivist’s Nook: My Constant Companions – Sisters Justina and Blandina Segale

My History Icons: Sisters Blandina Segale (standing, left) and Justina Segale at the Silver Jubilee of the Santa Maria Institute in 1922. (Image Courtesy of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati)

Guest author, Mary Beth Fraser Connolly, is a lecturer in History at Purdue University Northwest. She received her doctorate from CUA and is a former student worker in the Archives.

My relationship with Justina and Blandina Segale and the Santa Maria Institute has been going on for two decades. It was twenty-one years ago I began my PhD studies in history at The Catholic University of America and that first semester I came across two articles that referenced the Santa Maria Institute: Ilia Delio’s “The First Catholic Social Gospelers: Women Religious in the Nineteenth Century” and Margaret McGuiness’s “Body and Soul: Catholic Social Settlements and Immigration,” both in the summer 1995 issue of U.S. Catholic Historian. That started it. While these two articles helped me develop a dissertation topic, archival research brought me closer to the sisters themselves. (As I write this, a black-and-white photocopy of the Segales is tacked up above my desk, right next to the August 14, 2016 feature story from the Sunday edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer, which examines Sister Blandina’s Search for Sainthood. They are my history icons.) Through colorful letters and frankly written journal or convent chronicle entries, their personalities leapt from the documents. Sisters Justina and Blandina Segale went from two-dimensional figures of some nearly forgotten past to vital, courageous, at times, stubborn, flawed, and faithful Catholic women who had relevance for my work as a historian and in my classroom.

Thankfully, I have not been alone in my pursuit of the real Justina and Blandina Segale. M. Christine Anderson, associate professor of history at Xavier University, Judith Metz, SC, historian and former archivist of the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, and I banded together to develop an exhibit for the American Catholic History Classroom hosted by the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives at Catholic University. We bring to this classroom three perspectives on the work of the sisters and the Santa Maria Institute in Progressive-Era Cincinnati. This exhibit looks at the Sisters of Charity’s spiritual foundation and charism and how that informed the Segales work at the Santa Maria (Metz). It also focuses on how the sisters conducted social work in immigrant neighborhoods among primarily Italians, but they also served Irish, German, and other immigrant populations. They provided education, religious instruction, and material aid to children and adults. Understanding the important role that laywomen could fill in social welfare work, they also encouraged young women to move into this growing profession of social work. (Anderson) The exhibit also considers the actions of the sisters as agents of Americanization at a time when the federal and local governments, along with Protestant religious organizations sought to transform immigrants into good American citizens. For Blandina and Justina, Italian immigrants as well, they saw this desire as an effort to deny Italian immigrants their heritage, language, and, most importantly, their Catholic faith. Blandina and Justina sought to shore up and possible restore Italian immigrants Catholicism and in doing so, they articulated a Catholic identity that allowed for assimilation into American life. (Connolly) 

A touch of the Wild West via horseless carriage. Sisters of Charity tour of the order’s missions in the Southwest in 1906 included Mother Mary Blanche Davis and future Mother Superior, Mary Florence Kent, who later directed the sisters not to rise in open cars. Such restrictions were often ignored in practice.

All three of these perspectives make for delightful classroom material. Everything centers on the Santa Maria Journal – the convent chronicle – kept by Sister Justina. Her biological sister, Blandina, may be the more known of the pair, what with her infamous confrontation of the notorious Billy the Kid and her more recent cause for canonization, but Justina’s words provide insight into the day-to-day life of Sisters of Charity steeped in their ministry. They show us their commitment to their faith, vows, and congregation. Those words also provide glimpses into the lives of Italian immigrants, when records are sparse in local Cincinnati archives. I have employed this history in my own classroom by using excerpt from the Santa Maria diary alongside Christine’s excellent 2000 Journal of Women’s History article, “Catholic Nuns and the Invention of Social Work: The Sisters of the Santa Maria Institute of Cincinnati, Ohio, 1897 through the 1920s.” Students, wholly unfamiliar with Catholic history, or what a nun is, have been drawn to the unflappable Sister Blandina and her strong and (somewhat silent) partner, Sister Justina. I have offered these readings with excerpts from Blandina’s At the End of the Santa Fe Trail, recently reissued. What I did not expect, all the while secretly hoped for, was that my students recognized the relevance of the Italian immigrants and these sisters’ experiences to their present lives. (Could it be that history offers something for us to learn today? Shocking, indeed!) Christine, Sister Judith, and I have collaborated to present the work of the Sisters of Charity and the Santa Maria Institute for this American Catholic History Classroom precisely because the exhibit draws together the separate elements of the Santa Maria Institute, the Sisters of Charity, and Blandina and Justina Segale’s work and lives into one place. From this point, a teacher, whether in a Catholic grammar or high school or an instructor in a college or university (both secular and religious) can pull out tools to discuss Catholic women’s spirituality, immigrant history, women’s history, and maybe even a touch of the Wild West. Frankly, I imagine Sister Blandina would love that and Sister Justina would commend our work as righting wrongs done to Italians, the ultimate Americans and Catholics.

The Archivist’s Nook: Farewell and Thanks for All the Files!

“To Build a Stronger Union of Oil Workers”, from the CIO collection, 1950

This week’s post is guest authored by Marielle Gage, a recent CUA graduate in Library Science.

Two years ago, I walked into the American Catholic Research Center and University Archives as a student worker. I thought I would like the job — I knew one of my new coworkers from class, and had approved of John Shepherd’s fine collection of New England Patriots’ memorabilia — but I was surprised by how much. At the time, I was finishing my Master’s in History, and was assuming I would continue on to the PhD. But unexpected circumstances, and my new job, made me reconsider, and this last year has seen me finish a second Master’s, this one in Library and Information Science, and searching for a position in the field of archives rather than academia.

More than once, I’ve been asked, “What is it you do at an archives, anyway?” Normally, I explain what an archive is, and that answers their curiosity, but sometimes I get a follow-up: “Okay, so that’s the use of an archive, but why do you do all day? Just wait for researchers?” That question is actually harder to answer than you might expect, not because there isn’t anything to respond with, but because there’s just so much, it’s hard to describe a “typical” day. There isn’t one, really.

Take just this last month, as I finish my time at ACUA. I’ve processed a collection, including moving files into acid-free boxes and folders and giving everything labels, as well as fully organizing it, coded the Electronic Archival Description for it (using html), created a preliminary listing for another collection, scanned images for independent researchers and CUA staff, updated records, introduced researchers to our archives and rules, pulled boxes, created PDFs of hundreds of pages of original documents, taken phone calls, compiled a list of previous commencement speakers by reviewing old commencement handouts, moved artwork from our stacks to the vault, and more. Sometimes I arrive at the archives not sure what I’m going to work on that day; and even if I think I do, that could change with a phone call from the Registrar or some other university office, or with the arrival of an unexpected researcher. In my two years here, I have very few memories of being idle or without anything to do, even for twenty minutes.

Marvel’s “Mother Teresa of Calcutta”, from the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa collection, 1984

Even more than keeping me busy and out of the proverbial pool halls, my work at ACUA has been incredibly rewarding. Contrary to any stereotypes of librarian-type students, I am very much a people person, and take great satisfaction in helping people along their way: especially if they are seeking information and knowledge. I wish sometimes I had the ability to read the final version of every researcher’s book or article assigned by their investigations here, and it makes my day when we are able to provide something above and beyond the expectations of our visitors. That’s not really to our credit, necessarily: our records really are amazing. Not just highly informative — such as our various labor collections or the USCCB files — by sometimes really fun; we have, for example, a copy of a comic book Marvel produced about Mother Teresa. Even if it is simply her biography (and not, as I was hoping, a team-up with The Incredible Hulk to defeat Professor Poverty) it’s still a delightful record of the cultural impact she had even during her lifetime. There’s dozens of more items and collections I could talk about, but that’s not the point here.

Really, the point is to thank Dr. Meagher, Dr. Mazzenga, Mr. Shepherd, Shane MacDonald, and everyone else at the Archives for such a wonderful opportunity. They took a chance on a bookish girl, knee-high to a grasshopper even in her twenties, and trusted that she would be an asset to their community. I hope I have paid back that trust at least partially, but truly I owe all of them a debt I may never be able to repay. I very much doubt I ever would have sought that second Master’s, or sought a career in this field, if I hadn’t worked here. Now, as I move on to (hopefully), bigger and better things, I’d like to take this final chance to wish them all the very best. So here’s to you, ACUA: may your donors be plentiful and your HVACs never leak.

The Archivist’s Nook: Catholic Textbooks Beyond the Classroom

Madonna Speller, Grade 7, 1960. Commission on American Citizenship Records, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

This week’s post is guest-authored by Austin Arminio, a graduate student in the field of Library and Information Science.

For the past three months, I worked on a project to digitize publications of the Commission on American Citizenship of The Catholic University of America. During the 1938 Golden Jubilee of The Catholic University of America (CUA), Pope Pius XI sent a letter of congratulations to the American hierarchy. In this letter, he also gave the church leaders an assignment to create a curriculum for Catholic school students giving special attention to civics, sociology, and economics. The Bishops heeded the call, prompting CUA to create the Commission on American Citizenship. The Commission’s goal was to develop a school curriculum that educated elementary students on how to be both good American citizens and moral Catholics.

This is Our Parish, New Edition, 1952. Commission on American Citizenship Records, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

The Commission, founded by CUA faculty members Fr. Joseph M. Corrigan, Msgr. Francis J. Haas, and Msgr. George Johnson, went about creating textbooks to educate children on American history, literature, mathematics, citizenship, and Christian morals. Some of these works, such as the Madonna Speller series, would not be out of place in a public school, teaching writing, grammar, and spelling; while others like Faith and Our Freedom: This is Our Parish, dealt exclusively with Catholic religious teachings and how they apply to everyday life. Some books contained messages that were considered astonishing for their time. Faith and Freedom: These are Our People has the story of Eddie Patterson inviting his Chinese-American and African-American friends to his birthday party. While some of the language would be considered stereotypical today, CUA archivist Dr. Maria Mazzenga notes that at the time of the books publishing, Jim Crow and the Chinese Exclusion Act were still enforced.

During my time on this project, I was glad for the opportunity to create metadata and use a digital document repository such as Islandora, the software used by the Washington Research Libraries Consortium (WRLC). I had previously only worked with the scanning of documents, leaving the later steps to others, so it was interesting to deal with this part of the archival process. While it was time-consuming and required attention to detail using coding systems such as HTML and XML, the overall process was fairly simple. I believe that alone is an important and vital part of digital archiving. If these systems are to be adopted by libraries and archives, it is vital they be easy to use by both those who create them and those who use them for research.

A heartwarming scene, Faith and Freedom: This is Our Home, 1942, p. 26-27. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

At the same time, this project made me painfully aware of the limitations of digital technology. This project, which only involved scanning 19 works, the longest of which was around 250 pages, took me almost three months to complete. In contrast, the actual creation of metadata and uploading the files to Islandora only took around two days. While obviously larger digitization projects would involve more than just one person working on scanning, it is clear to me time and resources are the main obstacles for digital archiving. To remedy this, institutions might instead benefit by only focusing on certain collections for online digitization. Those items that are most visually interesting, such as the brightly colored and illustrated CAC texts, are some of the best candidates for digitization, as they are likely to draw attention and interest to the larger collection.

The Archivist’s Nook: College Theology Society Offers a New Voice for Teaching Theology

Certificate of the Title Change of the College Theology Society, 1968

This week’s post is by Elizabeth Siniscalchi.

Theology had a marginal status as an academic discipline for undergraduates until the mid-twentieth century.  Most colleges and universities offered undergraduate courses that taught religion rather than theology, which incited clerics and members of religious orders to create a national organization, the College Theology Society in 1954.  CTS began as the Society of Catholic College Teachers of Sacred Doctrine until 1968 when they decided to become ecumenical and change their name.

They continue to grow today by building a community of theologians through regional and national meetings, annual conventions, and publications.  As a society, CTS exchanges ideas on the variety of ways that scholars can approach theology and religious studies as academic disciplines.  The CTS Records in the Archives at the Catholic University of America show the dynamics of CTS as they have sought to guide the direction in the interpretation of theology and religious studies for undergraduate students, as it aligns with Catholic values in colleges and universities.

Officers of the Society of Catholic College Teachers of Sacred Doctrine. Brother Luke, treasurer; Brother Alban of Mary, president; Most Reverend John M. Fearns, Auxiliary Bishop of New York; Reverend Thomas Donlan, former president; and Sister Rose Eileen, secretary, ca. 1955 (front left to right).

Directing such a path, however, has not been easy.  CTS tackled controversial issues such as autonomy and academic freedom, particularly in 1986 when tension arose with the doctrinal interpretations of Father Charles Curran at CUA.  CTS has initiated a dialogue with other theological societies such as the Council for the Society of Religion, the Joint Committee of Catholic Learned Societies and Scholars, and the International Federation of Catholic Universities in order to define the role of theology as a field that evolves.  Some of the CTS presidential letters in the CUA Archives show that CTS also contacted hierarchs, including Cardinal William W. Baum and Timothy Cardinal Manning as a way to bridge a few of the differences in opinions and perspectives among scholars and bishops.

Within the Society, the variety of perspectives is enriched as well by the extent of CTS members who consist of theology and religious studies professors and students from over 60 colleges and universities in America, Canada, and Europe.  CTS members met throughout the year in nearly every region of America to discuss theological issues that seem to affect the course curriculum from each member’s academic institution.

Fr. Freeman, Fr. Tkacik, Fr. Finn, Fr. Schwegel, Miss Bown, and Sr. Leontine (from left to right) at the second day of sessions of the Organizing Committee for the Missouri-Kansas Region, 1954

In the Washington, DC-Maryland region, for example, CTS members gather from Dumbarton College of Holy Cross, the Dominican House of Study, Immaculata College, Georgetown University, Mount St. Mary’s University, Catholic University, and Trinity College.  Additionally, CTS held a number of their national events in Washington, DC as early as their first national meeting in 1955 at Trinity College.  The national meetings, however, have not been limited to one city by any means, whether they took place in Chicago or Philadelphia, and the national meetings soon turned into Annual Conventions as of 1961.  The Annual Conventions have included noteworthy speakers such as David Tracy and Raimon Panikkar.

As a result of the Annual Conventions, CTS publishes an Annual Volume.  The Annual Volume is a collection of academic papers on the theme from an annual convention, but it considers papers that were not delivered as part of the proceedings as well.  The academic paper, Teologia De La Liberacion Y Marxismo by Enrique Dussel is just one of the typescript drafts that is in the CTS Records.  CTS also publishes an award-winning peer-reviewed journal, Horizons that includes articles, roundtables, and book reviews on a wide range of religious studies and theological topics and their intersection with other fields such as anthropology or ecology.

Delegates to the Second National Meeting at Notre Dame University, 1956

This year, CTS will host its sixty-third Annual Convention on June 4, 2017 at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island where they will discuss American Catholicism in the 21st Century: Crossroads, Crisis, or Renewal?


Elizabeth Siniscalchi processed the CTS Records at the CUA Archives as a graduate student in Library and Information Science at the University of South Florida.  She works with texts and manuscripts in theology and religious studies.

The Archivist’s Nook: A Different Aria – Opera, NBC, and CUA

Costuming prep for The Juggler
Costuming prep for The Juggler. School of Music Records, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

This week’s post is guest authored by Marielle Gage, a CUA graduate student in History.

“My, how times have changed!”

Who hasn’t heard some variety of that phrase, if perhaps not in as stilted, “proper” phrasing as above? It’s often an overwrought sentiment, immediately followed by a “when I was your age…” or nostalgia of times past (that everyone complained about at the time) now seen through golden lenses. But in some cases, the sentiment is more than fair.

Take, for example, television. A hundred years ago, no one owned a television. Even thirty years later, during World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt relied on the radio, not television, to broadcast his “fireside chats” to the nation. And ten years after that, there were three regular channels broadcasting, one of which had no problem dedicating four Sunday afternoons to opera in the summer of 1959.

A scene from The Cage
A scene from The Cage. School of Music Records, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

That’s right. The same year the Grammy Awards were first broadcasted on NBC, that same station approved the broadcasting of four one-act operas, written by and starring CUA faculty, students, and alumni, at 12:30 pm on each of the four Sundays of May. The impetus wasn’t from the higher-ups within the National Broadcasting Channel, but rather from the National Council of Catholic Men, who had a partnership with NBC to broadcast, on radio and on television, a weekly “Catholic Hour” in which presenters could explain, examine, or defend the Catholic faith. CUA’s own Fulton J. Sheen was a frequent participate in the broadcasts; he and others would expound on themes such as the Virgin Mary, racism, the last words of Christ, labor, or marriage. Perhaps wishing to change up the formula, the NCCM commissioned the four one-act operas from CUA’s music department faculty in late 1958. While a couple of different themes were suggested (the early correspondence hints frequently of a retelling of Guadalupe, but is frustratingly vague on any details, and the idea was later dropped), the final four operas were: Dolcedo, the last day of an atheistic philosopher now in the care of nuns (music by Emerson Meyers, libretto by Dominic Rover, O.P.); The Cage, the story of an elevator operator who desperately wishes to travel, but feels trapped caring for his invalid and verbally abusive mother (music by George Thaddeus Jones, libretto by Leo Brady); The Decorator, a glimpse into the life of a middle-class mother trying so hard to be fashionable (music by Russell Woollen, libretto by Frank and Dorothy Getlein); and The Juggler, a retelling of the “clown of God” legend (music by William Graves, libretto by Arch Lustberg).

Filming Dolcedo. School of Music Records, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

While none of the operas, perhaps, are must-see classics (The Decorator, in particular, is a bit heavy-handed), it still must have been an adventure for the CUA students who participated and watched the productions. Unfortunately, little remains of any publicity or retrospectives within the CUA community concerning the operas. The surviving letters and photographs, then, remain a tantalizing glimpse at a curious moment in CUA’s musical history, and of American cultural history in general, from a time when it was not inconceivable that a portion of the American population would choose to spend their Sunday afternoons watching opera.

The Archivist’s Nook: Meticulous Mittmen – CUA Boxing and the Undefeated 1938 Season

Boxing Team Drills
Boxing Team Drills. CUA Athletics Department, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

This week’s post was written by Dallas Grubbs, a graduate student in History.

More than four thousand people pack into the gym in what is now the Crough Center Architecture building. The gentleman are dressed in black tuxedos, the women in fine silk dresses. Murmurs of excitement fill the hall. These spectators have arrived more than two hours early to ensure their place at this most recent performance of “Eddie’s boys.” “Eddie’s boys,” by the way, are not an all-male a cappella group. They are, in fact, the fiercest boxers on the east coast.

The year is 1938. The decade has witnessed the rise of CUA’s “mittmen” to dominance under the tutelage of coach Edmund “Eddie” LaFond, who has guided his teams to almost forty wins in their last fifty bouts. These bouts, composed of three two-minute rounds, were undoubtedly the longest and most punishing six minutes in the lives of those lads who had to compete against “Eddie’s boys” in the packed arenas. Yet despite their successes, two goals continue to elude LaFond and his punishing pugilists. The first is an undefeated season. The second, an NCAA boxing championship. The year is 1938. And this year LaFond and his boys have decided that they’re going to have both. Continue reading “The Archivist’s Nook: Meticulous Mittmen – CUA Boxing and the Undefeated 1938 Season”