There are many ways to connect the present with the past. One of the easiest is through physical objects, such as, say, informing students on the history of the physical space of their university campus. The Archives worked with Campus Ministry this past November on an event which had students playing trivia, doing a campus scavenger hunt, and watching National Treasure, a heist film involving a search for a treasure hidden by the American Founding Fathers. The event, inspired by the film and thus dubbed “National Treasure” itself, had students exploring the Catholic University campus for prizes while learning about the layers of history embedded on the campus itself.
Indeed, the National Treasure reference is not really that far off the mark. Take the first structure built in 1803 on what is now the University campus, Sidney. Sidney, after the political theorist Algernon Sidney, was built and occupied by Margaret Bayard Smith and her husband, Samuel Harrison Smith, who was invited to move to the District of Columbia by then President Thomas Jefferson in order to publish the city’s first newspaper, The National Intelligencer, which he did. Jefferson, James and Dolley Madison, and other political luminaries visited Sidney back in the early days of Washington, D.C. Later, the house was sold to the Middleton family, and in 1887, to the founders of the Catholic University.
The scavenger hunt/trivia night involved exploration of some of the earliest physical aspects of the campus, including two of CUA’s founders: Mary Gwendoline Caldwell’s eponymous Caldwell Hall and its cornerstone, laid in 1888, as well as the ginormous marble statue of Leo XIII that found itself in the foyer of McMahon Hall when it was constructed in 1895 and hasn’t moved since.
More recently built structures are quickly acquiring some local historical significance, too. The Great Rooms of the Pryzbyla Center hosted Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the United States in 2008. And the lower level of the Pryz features a painting of a CUA Cardinal done by the actor Jon Voight while he was a student here in the late 1950s—the painting was originally done on the floor of the gymnasium, which was housed in what is today the Crough Center for Architectural Studies.
It’s Paris in 1889. A 26-year old priest with a doctoral degree in sacred theology named Father Edward Pace is readying himself for a faculty position in philosophy at the newly established Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He happens to come across a secondhand copy of Wilhelm Wundt’s 1874 Principles of Physiological Psychology and is so inspired by this pioneer thinker’s presentation of ideas that he resolves to study with the author himself at the University of Leipzig.
In fact, Pace was the first Catholic priest and one of only six Americans to have studied with Wundt, the founder of experimental psychology. Of one course, he wrote, “For us Americans, the exercises of this seminar have been a revelation of German slowness and German patience. The very men who are preparing to measure sensations by the thousandth part of a second seem quite oblivious to the flight of days and hours.”¹
Shortly after receiving his doctoral degree from the University of Leipzig in 1891, Pace began teaching what he’d learned in Europe as a professor at Catholic University, where he also introduced the earliest psychology laboratory of its kind in any Catholic institution.² In doing so, he was following the advisement of the future Cardinal Desire Mercier, who founded the psychology department at the University of Louvain in Belgium in 1891; as Cardinal Mercier put it: “Psychology is undergoing a transformation from which we would be blameworthy to remain aloof… here is a young, contemporary science, which in itself is neither spiritualistic nor materialistic. If we do not take part in it, the psychology of the future will develop without us, and there is every reason to believe, against us.”³
The first psychology courses offered in 1892 were taught in theology, and later under the discipline of philosophy. In 1905 the Department of Psychology was set up within the School of Philosophy. As onetime department chair Bruce M. Ross noted, the early study of academic psychology was “largely confined to the description and measurement of sensation and perception.” Hence Pace’s work focused on pain and fluctuations of attention.⁴
Pace soon went on to greater administrative duties, which drew him into the field of education at the University, but psychology’s career at CUA continued with one of Pace’s students, Thomas Verner Moore. Moore, a Paulist father, then a Benedictine, and finally a Carthusian monk at the time of his passing, eventually chaired the expanding department, served as a psychiatrist with the Armed Forces during the First World War, became Superintendent of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., and established a school for mentally challenged children, St. Gertrude’s School of Arts and Crafts. Moore’s clinic became a model after which other Catholic clinics were patterned.⁵
By 1960, the Department of Psychology was well established, and housed in the third floor of McMahon Hall. James Youniss, who arrived that year to study in the doctoral program, describes the offices as follows: “At the top of the two stairwells in the center were large mahogany-paneled doors that opened into a vast space with 20-foot ceilings, large glass museum cases containing laboratory instruments going back to Wundt, and book cases with volumes in English, German, and French.”⁶
Aside from the interesting physical details, the description underscores the department’s cosmopolitan roots in experimental psychology. By this time, moreover, the program offered the doctoral degree. The department elected to appoint Hans Furth as department chair and hire faculty for several new programs, including social psychology, personality, counseling and human development. Furth, whose extraordinary background included escape from his Nazi-besieged Austrian homeland, training as a concert pianist at the Royal Academy of Music in London and, coincidentally given his predecessor Thomas Verner Moore’s experience, 10 years in a Carthusian monastery, brought a unique interest to the department: study of the deaf with a deep interest in the work of Jean Piaget, whose works were not yet widely accepted in the U.S. Furth’s publications made accessible Piaget’s largely abstract ideas, including the notion that children left to their own devices continually rethink their understanding of the world and are not empty vessels waiting for educators to fill them with knowledge. He found that far from impeding their development, deaf peoples’ use of sign language, highly discouraged in deaf education at the time, actually spurred healthier development among them. His work underscored the need for sign-language education among the deaf, today commonly accepted.
Furth, Youniss, and Bruce Ross (both Ross and Youniss later went on to chair the department), made Piaget’s theory the centerpiece of the Ph.D. program in developmental psychology, which graduated many influential students, many of whom went on to academic careers. They also established the Center for Thinking and Language, for which they were awarded an NIH grant for a conference on cognition and language in the 1960s. In 1970 the University awarded Piaget an honorary doctorate for his work, a fitting tribute to a scholar whose influence ran so deeply through the department.
The Department of Psychology graduated dozens of students who went on to careers in places like the National Institute of Mental Health, various state mental health institutions, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Covenant House, the Veterans Administration, and in the faculty at universities across the country.
At the 125th Anniversary celebration of the Department of Psychology in October, 2017, James Youniss referred to remarks made by Cardinal James Gibbons during the department’s 25th anniversary celebration a century earlier. Gibbons spoke of the turmoil of the times, the poverty of the immigrants who had recently arrived from Europe, the world war then engulfing Europe and involving America, and the many social issues that needed addressing. He noted that “from the very nature of our condition upon this earth, from our progress in knowledge, our political organization and our economic condition…” the human state has “made possible and necessary the social sciences” and “demanded a more systematic inquiry than ever before into our human relations… the structure of society, the origin and history of institutions, the cases of decline, and the possibility of betterment…” Youniss noted that Cardinal Gibbons’ insightful comments applied then and still do, a century later.
²Helen Peixotto, “A History of Psychology at Catholic University,” Catholic Educational Review , April, 1969, 844-849, 844; Bruce M. Ross, “Development of Psychology at The Catholic University of America,” Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, (September 1994), 141
³Henry Misiak and Virginia Staudt, Catholics in Psychology, A Historical Survey (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1954), 34-35.
⁴Peixotto, 846-847, Ross, 135.
⁵Peixotto, 846-847, Ross, 148-149, 155.
⁶James Youniss, “CUA, Psychology, and the Last Half of the Twentieth Century,” delivered on 125th anniversary celebration of the Department of Psychology, The Catholic University of America, October 14, 2017, in author’s possession.
The Archivist’s Nook recently blogged on Monsignor John O’Grady’s early Catholic charity efforts and how he helped make Catholic Charities USA (called the National Conference of Catholic Charity until 1986) a national organization focused on assisting the poor and needy. With the Second World War, O’Grady, by then an experienced and active leader in professional Catholic Charitable work in the United States, turned his attention to assisting those whose lives had been ruined by war.
The immediate postwar years saw millions war refugees gathered in camps throughout Europe. Not only had many individuals found themselves homeless and penniless after hostilities ended, but many had been moved to displaced persons camps, often suffering in crowded, diseased conditions. In the immediate postwar period, the United States worked with other western nations to aid these refugees through organizations such as the International Refugee Organization established in 1946, ultimately assisting 10 million of 15 million stranded in Europe due to the war.¹
Monsignor O’Grady, now at the helm of the National Conference of Catholic Charities (later renamed Catholic Charities USA) for 25 years, made it a personal mission to travel to Europe, tour the refugee camps, and attempt to assist the refugees by coordinating his Catholic charity networks with those of other organizations. He found many obstacles to resettling the refugees. Italian resettlement authorities, for example, were criticized for returning those deemed Nazi collaborators to their original countries of origin, particularly in Eastern Europe, where Soviet authority was solidifying. As he toured dozens of refugee camps in Germany, Italy, and Austria, he noted that “displaced persons now were more than a generic term to me. I had actually seen them in the flesh. I had talked to them. I had found employment for them. I had seen them come off the ships with all their earthly belonging[s] on their backs. I had seen not only individuals but families.” A three-hour tour of refugees from Eastern Europe housed in underground shelters in western Germany shocked him: “One day after a 3-hour tour of one of the underground shelters in Stuttgart, I dropped to the ground and had to be taken out by the people who occupied the shelters. These people had no work; they barely had enough food to keep them alive.”²
In 1947, O’Grady visited with officials at the Vatican on the refugee problem. He thought about the work that needed to be done with the refugees in Christian terms. After meeting the Pope Pius XII on the matter, he noted that “I left the audience with a real faith in the educational mission of our Church throughout the world, in a great international program.”³
When he returned to the United States after his overseas tours of the refugee camps, O’Grady became convinced that many of the remaining displaced should be resettled in the United States. One problem with this aspiration was in the stigma some Americans attached to the refugees. After repatriation of millions, he said, opponents claimed “what we had available were the dregs that had been left.” Moreover, where a Presidential Executive Order of 1945 had paved the way for admission of refugees from Europe to enter the U.S., voluntary groups occupied with the admission process did not have the organizational framework nor the information on the refugees necessary to resettling them in ideal locations. O’Grady believed that religious groups—he particularly admired the Jewish organizational structures with respect to resettlement activities—were better equipped to manage the program because they had pre-existing networks overseas. He worked with a range of religious organizations as well as local governments toward resettling thousands of refugees in the United States, particularly in the Midwest, where a need for farm workers was sorely needed. “We were bringing people in to meet occupational needs in the United States,” he notes of the effort. “This is what we had sold the American people. We had sold them on the idea that we could find jobs and homes for the displaced persons without disturbing American workers. This was a new approach to immigration. It was a sound approach.”⁴
¹ See, for example, Mark Wyman, DPs: Europe’s Displaced Persons, 1945-1951 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989).
² John O’Grady, All That I Have Seen and in Some of Which I Have Had a Part, (unpublished memoir) John O’Grady Papers, Box 21, 268, 265, 279, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.
For all of his gregariousness, Monsignor John O’Grady is one of the lesser-known leaders in twentieth century American Catholic history. And yet, he is one of the founders and organizers of what is today known as Catholic Charities, USA, one of the largest charitable organizations in America, and of CARITAS, which carries the mission to serve and advocate for the poor globally.
Like many a priest in the early twentieth-century United States, O’Grady was born in Ireland. “In the beginning there was Ireland,” he once noted, “I smile as I write these words, remembering many of my fellow priests whose behavior from time to time is an assumption that these words are the first words of Genesis.” Indeed, many Irish families of the nineteenth century expected that one of their sons would become a priest, and the O’Gradys were no exception. Upon his birth on March 31st, 1886, Margaret O’Grady later told her son that “then and there” it was decided that young John would be a priest.¹ After attending All Hallows College in Dublin from 1902-1909, O’Grady spent three years serving as Assistant Pastor at the Cathedral in Omaha Nebraska.
O’Grady came from a family of impoverished farmers in County Clare, a circumstance that made him sensitive to the plight of those in similar circumstances in the United States. Even in his earliest years as a priest, his interest in working not only with his parishioners, but with the poorest of Omaha drove him. As he put it, “I had always been very much interested in people and curious about life, and so I found myself sitting around talking to the families which belonged to our parish about many things; their problems, their interests, their hopes, their plans…” Soon, O’Grady found himself frequenting impoverished neighborhoods, courts, juvenile detention homes in search of situations in which he could offer advice and advocacy.²
O’Grady had been told about the work of Monsignor John A. Ryan, the Catholic University professor who had authored an influential book, A Living Wage, and was intensely interested in both the economic and social side of charity. When his Bishop, Richard Scannell, wanted to send O’Grady for further schooling in Germany, O’Grady requested that he send him to The Catholic University of America instead. O’Grady did indeed form an important intellectual relationship with John Ryan at the University, but his first mentor was another professor, sociologist Monsignor William Kerby. Kerby was considered the founder of what was called “scientific charity” in Catholic circles, which is what the emerging profession of social work called training for the field of social work. At the time, the idea of training individuals in sociology, economics and various aspects of charitable care was something that not everyone accepted.
After directing his training in sociology, economics and the social sciences at Catholic University and the University of Chicago, Monsignor Kerby set O’Grady to the work of coordinating members of the local Catholic charitable groups, particularly the St. Vincent de Paul Societies, in cities throughout the United States. Monsignor John J. Butler, of Catholic Charities of St. Louis Missouri was a particularly good mentor for O’Grady, who claimed that Butler “is a man who knows how to get things done and he does it quietly.” Bishop Thomas Shahan, Rector of Catholic University, was also a crucial supporter, as were lay Vincent de Paul charity workers Thomas Mulry and Edmond Butler, and Rev. D.J. McMahon of New York.³
Collectively, this group was instrumental in forming the core of the National Conference of Catholic Charities, renamed Catholic Charities, USA in 1986. Over the next decade the NCCC grew into an association of lay volunteers, and to a lesser extent, professional social workers and clergy. Catholic laywomen dominated the early membership, while the leadership was comprised of members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
While the organization’s first president, Shahan, and its first secretary, Kerby, were instrumental in laying out the broader goals of the NCCC, O’Grady, was more aggressive and strategic in his leadership of NCCC. Kerby was courteous and reticent about his role in the establishment of the national organization, and maintained strong organizational relationships with the early leadership and lay volunteers of NCCC. O’Grady, who served as secretary in 1920 and remained at the helm of the NCCC for the next 41 years, sought to extend its influence through further cultivation of professional charity workers and the strengthening of the diocesan branches. A central figure in the professionalization of Catholic social workers, he promoted the establishment of the Catholic University School of Social Work to train them, serving as its first dean from 1934 until 1938. O’Grady, moreover, actively sought to exercise influence in government where public policy affecting Catholic charity was concerned, meeting with countless government figures on issues related to child welfare, housing, and rural poverty. By the time he left the helm of the NCCC in 1961, the organization was a national force in charity work and offered an authoritative voice in public welfare policy. It remains that today.
A finding aid for the papers of Monsignor John O’Grady can be found here.
A finding aid for the papers Monsignor William Kerby can be found here.
A finding aid for the papers of Bishop Thomas Shahan can be found here.
A finding aid for the records of Catholic Charities USA can be found here.
¹Quote from “Come Now, Monsignor,” unpublished memoir of O’Grady by Saul Alinsky, Monsignor John O’Grady Papers, chapter 1, p. 1, box 22, folder 6, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.
²“Come Now, Monsignor,” pps. 19, 24.
³“Come Now, Monsignor,” chapter 4, p. 2; see also Dorothy Brown and Elizabeth McKeown, The Poor Belong to Us; Catholic Charities and American Welfare (Harvard University Press, 1997).
March 29, 2017 saw a gathering of more than 80 archivists, librarians, and information specialists working with religious order archives at The Catholic University of America to discuss the status and future of Catholic religious order archives. The conference marked the third in a series on “Catholic Archives in the Digital Age.”
The gathering began with presentations by four well-known scholars in the field of American Catholic studies discussing the significance of religious order archives in researching and writing Catholic, American, and global history. Leslie Tentler, Emerita Professor at The Catholic University of America, kicked off the day’s first panel, “For Posterity: Religious Order Archives and the Writing of American Catholic History,” with observations on the worth of religious order archives to the scholar seeking to understand basic structures of American Catholic institutions. Diocesan records cannot be used solely to tell the full story of Catholic education in the U.S., for example. Why? Many schools were run by religious orders, and where diocesan records often have little in the way of religious order records related to discipline, pedagogical ideals, student socialization and the emotional climate of schools run by religious orders—these archival materials have historically been kept by the teaching religious themselves.
Carol Coburn, Professor of Religious Studies at Avila University, followed this thread in her talk—religious order records help tell a story that can’t be told otherwise. As Director of the Martha Smith, CSJ, Ph.D., Archives and Research Center at Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri, Coburn works with Archviist Adonna Thompson to preserve records of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet. Coburn maintains that “to fully know the story of American Catholicism, you have to know what religious orders are doing at any given historical time period.” As Mary Beth Fraser Connolly, lecturer at Purdue University, pointed out in her discussion of the journal of Sister Justina Segale of the Sisters of Charity in Cincinnati, resources such as these offer insight into the everyday lives of religious. Sister’s journal entry for April 4, 1968 reads: “While eating dinner, a flash came over the TV that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. Only minutes later a special news report confirmed: Martin Luther King Jr., has been assassinated!” Far from being removed from the concerns and interests of everyday Americans, the journal shows, here and elsewhere, that women religious were of course tied into the daily lives of ordinary Americans. And yes, they watched TV. Malachy McCarthy, Archivist for the Claretian Missionary Archives in Chicago, Illinois, took a different approach in his talk. Using the example of a scholarly monograph on Mexican Americans, he illustrated the pitfalls of not consulting religious order records, in this case the male Claretian missionaries, who were heavily involved in ministry to Mexican Americans. In his otherwise solid Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945 (1993), historian George Sanchez was unable to access records related to the Claretians’ work with a key Los Angeles population in which the La Placita parish is situated. Instead he examined secondary works and diocesan records related to the population with the result that his chapter on religion could not include valuable information from the Claretian archives (not open to the public at the time) in his work.
Our second session featured a panel of some of the most well-respected archivists of materials related to the Catholic experience in the U.S. The Associated Archives at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Maryland is the home of a collaborative effort of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, St. Mary’s Seminary and University, and the U.S. Province of the Society of St. Sulpice, or the Sulpicians, and serves as the repository of these three organizations’ archives. Its archivist, Tricia Pyne, offered the group a genealogy of how several Catholic institutions worked to make that collaboration happen. Ellen Pierce, Consulting Archivist with the Maryknoll Archives offered an overview of holdings there, with an emphasis on the importance of producing value in maintaining archives for institutional stakeholders. Denise Gallo, Provincial Archivist for the Daughters of Charity Archives in Emmitsburg, Maryland, focused her talk on how the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives merged records of that order from multiple locations, emphasizing the role in communications among various stakeholders in achieving optimal archival goals and visibility. Emilie Gagnet Leumas, Director of Archives and Records for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, focused on her Archive’s effort to work out temporary agreements with those institutions or individuals who may want to make short-term agreements with the Archdiocese. Finally, Patricia Lawton of the Catholic Research Resources Alliance (CRRA) at Notre Dame University gave a fine overview of the many unique services offered to the Catholic archival community by the CRRA.
The afternoon session wrapped things up with an overview of a survey of Catholic archives done by Young Choi, Professor of Library and Information Science (LIS) at the Catholic University and LIS Graduate Student Emily Nilson. Many of the issues that have plagued Catholic archives for decades continue to pose as challenges. Most collections, for example, remain hidden and inaccessible to potential users, in part because there is no information on such collections on the internet. Still, almost all Catholic archives have some web presence and staff are eager to gain training in born-records collection, digitization of materials, and to continue processing. The reportage of the results led to a lively discussion among audience members, who eagerly shared and sought out information.
The Archives will be posting a website with resources and the presentations of scholars and archivists this summer—stay tuned!
Catholic religious orders hold a unique place in the European settlement of what is now the United States, indeed some of the earliest Catholic colonial settlers came as members of religious orders. The Jesuits, for example, founded in 1534 by the Spanish Ignatius of Loyola, was the first order to send missionaries to propagate the faith among Native Americans. Franciscans followed soon after. The record of the interactions between these two orders and the Native American populations forms an important record of the early encounter between the two groups.
Women religious, for their part, also settled in the territory that became the United States, with French Ursulines arriving in modern-day Louisiana in 1727 and Elizabeth Seton founding the Sisters of Charity (later the Daughters of Charity) in Maryland in 1809. These two orders played a unique role in the establishment of Catholic women’s presence in the U.S., and helped lay the foundations of the American Catholic education system.
Fortunately, we have well-cared for records and wonderful histories of much of the Jesuit, Franciscan, Ursuline, and Sisters/Daughters of Charity experience. But this is not the case for all religious orders and their records. Religious orders in the U.S. held different missions, locations, and administrators. Many held houses in multiple provinces and countries. As they have expanded and contracted over time, their archival records have experienced a range of fates.
The Catholic Archives in the Digital Age: The Fate of Religious Order Archives Conference is the third in a series of conferences under the theme of how Catholic archives are evolving in the digital age. The specific focus arose as after the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives worked with the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart in Baltimore to preserve their valuable archives as they moved from one location to another, will address aspects of the question of religious order archives in the United States. We figure Catholic University is a great place for such a conference–surrounded by religious houses from its origins, the University has historically served as a center of education for members of religious orders from around the country.
The free conference will be held on the CUA campus in the Pryzbyla Center on March 29th, 2017 and will feature a range of scholars and archivists of the American Catholic experience and archival stewards of religious order records. For the full schedule and to register, visit the website: http://iprcua.com/2017/03/29/the-fate-of-religious-order-archives/. The conference is generously funded by the Our Sunday Visitor Institute, and sponsored by the American Catholic History Research Center/University Libraries, the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies, and the Department of Library and Information Science.
About a month after the United States entered the Second World War, The Young Catholic Messenger, a weekly magazine that could be found on the shelves of Catholic school libraries throughout the country, published an article titled “United We Stand.” The article pledged that Catholics would support the war effort and outlined ways young people could “do their part for victory.” Catholic youth could make “crusades of prayer, sacrifice, Masses and Communions for victory and peace and for our soldiers and the leaders of the country.”¹
This braiding of Catholicism and Americanism occurred over and over again among youth on the home front. It marked a break from the past in that earlier Catholic proclamations of Americanness were often made defensively, amid Protestant accusations that Catholics weren’t fit for American institutions because of their membership in a hierarchical organization headed by the pope. Instead, during the war, a newly confident Catholic Americanism emerged in Catholic educational institutions and popular culture across the country as Catholics were fully enlisted in the effort to win the war.²
As noted in a previous blog post, Pope Pius XI requested that the Catholic University of America establish a series of educational materials that would promote Christian and democratic principles in the wake of rising totalitarian regimes in Europe. The result was the Commission on American Citizenship, which established a series of civic texts blending Catholic teaching and democratic principles and used in thousands of Catholic schools across the country from the early 1940s through the 1970s. This blending of American national identity with Catholic identity found new forms across the U.S. during the Second World War.
St. Rose’s Technical School records contain a gem of an artifact related to this new blending of Catholicism and Americanism in youth culture that is a fitting offering for Pearl Harbor Day. St. Rose’s was established in 1868 for female orphans. After 1895 it was incorporated as school for female students over 14 years of age to learn trades considered suitable for women at the time, namely, “plain and fancy sewing, dressmaking, and the responsible duties of practical housekeeping.” Between the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, the young women remained at the school until they were twenty-one, “at which time they are thoroughly competent to make an honest independent living.” Indeed, one history noted, “our graduates make splendid business women, and they conduct large establishments in all the large cities.”³
Unfortunately, we do not have testimony from the students of St. Rose’s to corroborate such claims. We do know that a classical and business high school curriculum was added to the “technical” curriculum of the earlier period.⁴ And we have a student created journal from 1943, a full year into the Second World War. “Schools at War, A Report to the Nation” was a report on war-related student activities that took place in the school during the war. The report reflects the characteristic blending of Catholicism and Americanism we see among young Catholics on the home front during the war.
The report itself was dedicated to the “Immaculate Mother of God, the Patroness of the United States, the Ideal and Inspiration of every student at St. Rose.” The St. Rose Victory Corps centered many activities around war service. Like many Americans, they prolonged use of their clothing by mending and darning. They saved scrap materials such as old keys, cans, rubber and fat—all in short supply due to war rationing. Like many American youth, they made slippers and bandages for soldiers, donated blood, and collected garments for refugees. Using the title, “Books are Weapons,” they created a school display for National Catholic Book Week, claiming “books shape lives of free people,” no doubt to contrast with Nazi book burnings of the 1930s. The report and its wartime brand of Catholic Americanism can be viewed in its entirety here.
²Maria Mazzenga, “More Democracy, More Religion, Baltimore’s Schools, Religious Pluralism and the Second World War,” in One Hundred Years of Catholic Education, John Augenstein, Christopher J. Kauffman, Robert J. Wister, eds. (National Catholic Education Association, 2003), 199-219.
³Sister Rose, “St. Rose’s Technical School History,” 1909, 14; in Catholic Charities DC, St. Rose Reference File, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, Catholic University, Washington, D.C.
⁴“Saint Rose to Observe 75th Jubilee,” Catholic Review, April 30, 1943.
Nineteen-thirty-eight was not an auspicious year as far as the stability of Europe went. Adolph Hitler’s invasion into non-German territories proceeded at an alarming rate. Benito Mussolini had been running Fascist Italy as a police state for over a decade. The Vatican held uneasy diplomatic relations with both powers. Further east, Josef Stalin presided over a Soviet Union unfriendly toward religion. In short, expansionism and totalitarianism appeared to be consuming Europe and, of course, a war would begin the following year to ensure it didn’t.
The year also marked the Golden Jubilee of the Catholic University of America, which is a fancy Catholic way of saying the University turned 50. Worried about the fate of Europe and, indeed, of Catholicism, Pope Pius took advantage of the University’s 50th birthday to make a request. “Christian doctrine and Christian morality are under attack from all quarters,” he said, adding, “dangerous theories which a few years ago were but whispered in conventicles of discontent are today preached from the housetops and are even finding their way into action.” As the representative educational institution of the American hierarchy, the Pope noted, the University was endowed with the “traditional mission of guarding the natural and supernatural heritage of man.” Toward fulfillment of that mission, wrote the Pope, “it must, because of the exigencies of the present age, give special attention to the sciences of civics, sociology, and economics” in a “constructive program of social action” that fit local needs.¹
Following the Pope’s directive, the Bishops instructed the University to prepare materials of instruction in citizenship and Christian social living for use in the Catholic schools of the United States. The Commission on American Citizenship was organized in 1939 to carry out the Bishops’ mandate. They decided that the Commission would outline a statement of Christian principles as requested by the bishops, create a curriculum for the elementary schools, and oversee the writing of a series of textbooks to embody the social message of Christ. According to Dr. Mary Synon, who oversaw much of the day-to-day operation of the Commission, while the Department of Education and the School of Social Science did much of the Commission’s work, practically every department and school of the University contributed significantly.
One product of this effort was a series of textbooks for elementary through high school students used in most U.S. Catholic schools from the 1940s through the 1970s. For Catholic school students from the first through eighth grades, the Commission designed the Faith and Freedom series of basal readers based on the principles espoused in the curriculum. Aiming to establish Christian principles in the minds of students toward their use in daily living, the writers of the readers–Sister Mary Marguerite for the Primary Grades and Sister Mary Thomas Aquinas, Sister Mary Charlotte and Dr. Mary Synon for the intermediate and upper grades–built a series on social education according to the principles cited as base for the work of the Commission.
According to a 1946 Commission report, these readers were used in more than 6,000 of the 8,000 Catholic elementary schools in more than thirty-five archdioceses and dioceses in the United States. Copies of texts in this series were officially requested by the military authorities who were revising systems of education in occupied Japan and Germany after World War II. Catholic publicists in Belgium, France and the Netherlands referred to this series for their future education plans. Missionaries in the Philippines requested the copies for children there, and nearly every Catholic school in Hawaii used the texts. Also, the Commission received many inquiries from educators about using the series as possible models for books to be used in non-Catholic schools. A key theme throughout the readers is cooperation across cultures and social classes and an emphasis on Christian democratic ideals in creating a less conflicted postwar world.
Which brings us to the significance of one 1943 text story titled “Eddie Patterson’s Friends.” Eddie was an extremely generous and open-minded young man who “finds the queerest people,” according to his rather judgmental sister Mary. Mary worried about Eddie’s strange friends with his birthday party coming up. The girls on the block where they lived would “laugh if we let Eddie ask anyone he wants to the party.” Mary went so far as to convince their mother to throw Eddie a surprise party for which she and her sister would control the guest list to keep out those she felt should be excluded.
Who were the excluded? “The smiling Yim Kee, whose father ran the Chinese laundry… Frank Bell, the boy whose father had been taken away by the police.” And, “Silas Jefferson, whose father worked as porter on a train.”² Clearly these are stereotypes of Chinese Americans, African Americans and a neglected and possibly impoverished child. But consider the year of publication: 1943. The Chinese Exclusion Act passed in 1882 barred Chinese immigrants from citizenship until it was repealed in 1943. African Americans were legally segregated from whites, and in fact segregated virtually everywhere in the U.S. Stories like this one pointed to the end of such practices and customs.
¹Maria Mazzenga, “More Democracy, More Religion: Baltimore’s Schools, Religious Pluralism, and the Second World War,” in One Hundred Years of Catholic Education: Historical Essays in Honor of the Centennial of the National Catholic Educational Association (National Catholic Education Association, 2003); Finding aid to the Commission on American Citizenship Records: http://archives.lib.cua.edu/findingaid/americancit.cfm.
²“Eddie Patterson’s Friend,” from These Are Our People by Sister M. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., M.A. and Mary Synon (Ginn and Company, 1943), 44-56, 46.
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post on Bishop Fulton Sheen and his popularity in the mid-twentieth century as the TV show, Life is Worth Living, gained millions of viewers. Sheen was a well-known presence on the CUA campus from 1926 until 1950, after which he became a nationally known television expositor of the Catholic way of life.
There was another star on campus during these years, and in fact, beyond. About a decade younger than Sheen, Reverend Gilbert Vincent Ferrer Hartke, O.P., served as the founder of CUA’s theater program, and later, the Department of Speech and Drama in 1937. Hartke Theatre bears his name today—a fitting tribute to an educator who initiated and ran CUA’s theater program for 37 years. During his tenure as chair of the Drama Department many celebrities were trained at CUA, including Ed McMahon, Jon Voight, Susan Sarandon, and director Robert Moore.
Born in Chicago in 1907, Father Hartke attended the Jesuit-run Loyola Academy, where he discovered a love for both acting and football—he even stayed on at the academy to coach football for a year. By 1929, he decided that he wanted to be a priest and entered the Dominican Order. After attending St. Joseph’s Seminary in Ohio, young Gilbert, or “Gib” as he was known, found his way to Immaculate Conception College in Washington, D.C. Following his early love of theater, Hartke began writing plays for the Black Friars, a group affiliated with the Dominicans. In 1935 he was sent to the Dominican House of Studies, just across Michigan Avenue from the CUA campus.
Inspired by his work with the Black Friars, and the author of three plays by age 28, Father Hartke thought he might start a theater program affiliated with the Dominicans. This didn’t come to pass, but he began attending CUA when he lived at the Dominican House, and “Within These Walls,” his play about a prison chaplain, was performed by the CUA Theatre troupe in 1936.
Another well-known presence on campus, Vice President for University Relations and Chief of Staff Frank Persico, studied with Father Hartke here at CUA in the late 1960s and early 70s. As he puts it, “Father Hartke was larger than life. When he came across campus from the Dominican House with his white robes and white hair flowing in the breeze, he could not be missed–and would not allow himself to be missed, either! Everyone knew Father and he had an uncanny way of knowing every one, too.” Father Hartke, in fact, was known for his hair. A 1985 USA today poll declared him one of the ten best male heads of hair in Washington!¹
With the launch of the theatre program and the Department of Speech and Drama, Father Hartke proceeded to influence theater in Washington, D.C. as well. He breathed life into local theater, incorporating a group of Shakespearean thespians known as the National Players in the 1940s, and in the 1970s, he was critical in the reopening of Ford’s Theater and was the creator and director of The Olney Theatre in Olney, Maryland. He was, moreover, a key figure in ending discrimination in D.C. theaters. Persico notes “it was a time before the nation’s capital was saturated with theaters,” and a time when Father Hartke brought in leading national theater luminaries to “be part of the CUA drama department family,” among them Helen Hayes, Cyril Richard, Pat Carroll and Stephen Joyce. “I firmly believe,” says Persico, “he is one of the reasons why drama and theater is so popular in the Washington area today. One need only point to Olney Theatre or Arena Stage, to name just two–and you will see Father’s fingerprints all over them.” In 1981, Washingtonian Magazine called him “one of the five most powerful men in Washington, D.C.”²
When I was in graduate school at CUA in the 1990s, I came across the name Fulton Sheen while studying American Catholic culture in the twentieth century. I learned that Sheen taught Sacred Sciences and Philosophy at CUA from the 1920s through the early 1950s, wrote dozens of books and pamphlets, and that he was an extremely popular speaker on the National Council of Catholic Men’s Catholic Hour. These fit with my understanding of a charismatic Catholic priest of the twentieth century. Then I learned that Sheen had won the 1952 Emmy for “Most Outstanding Television Personality,” beating out Jimmy Durante, Lucille Ball, and Edward R. Murrow. I thought: huh?
I figured I’d ask my mom if she’d ever heard of him. After all, she grew up Catholic in the 1950s and watched television, had she seen him when she was growing up? I was unprepared for her emotional response. “Oh, I loved Fulton Sheen. I watched Life is Worth Living every week!” I asked her what she liked about him. “I thought he was very saintly. He was mesmerizing when he talked, and he had this stare. His sermons were very deep. My faith was stronger after I listened to him.”
Sheen biographer Thomas C. Reeves notes that Life Is Worth Living went on the air “at the right time, for the 1950s marked a golden age for American churches.” Polls bore this out: in 1952, 75% of Americans told pollsters that religion was very important to them, and five years later, 81% said they thought religion could answer all or most of life’s problems.¹
Nonetheless, few thought Sheen’s show would succeed: when he first went on the air in 1952 he was set up against Milton Berle (known as “Mr. Television” at the time) and Frank Sinatra in what was known as “an obituary spot” at 8 p.m. as it was believed that no one could compete with those two famous personalities. One agent called Sheen “a dead duck.” Take a telegenic and charismatic Catholic evangelizer like Fulton Sheen to this national mood and you get an entire generation of American Catholics with fond spiritual memories of one of the popular religious shows of its time—Sheehan drew many millions of viewers a week.²
Life is Worth Living didn’t run original episodes for long. Starting on the Du Mont network in , the show ran from 1952-1955, when ABC picked it up and ran it until 1957. The show went into syndication, though Sheen starred on other programs until 1968. And many Catholics of a certain age will remember him with affection, as does my mother.
In addition to pioneering in religion and media, Sheen served in several positions of authority within the church. Known for his evangelical abilities, he was named the national director of the Pontifical Mission Aid Societies in the United States and auxiliary bishop in New York at the behest of Cardinal Spellman, the city’s archbishop. With this appointment, Sheen resigned from the faculty of CUA. This mission was one of the largest sources of funds for the Vatican missions, and under Sheen’s guidance as director, donations from America dramatically increased. Pope Paul VI named Sheen as the bishop of Rochester on October 26, 1966, a position from which he resigned three years later. He continued writing and speaking in New York City until his death in 1979. By the end of his life, he had published sixty-six books and sixty-two booklets, pamphlets and printed radio talks. Sheen died on December 9, 1979 before the Blessed Sacrament and was buried in St. Patrick’s Cathedral beneath the altar.
The archives holds several collections of materials related to Fulton Sheen:
The Sheen papers are reflective of Sheen’s time at CUA and his work with the Second Vatican Council.