The Archivist’s Nook: Father George T. Dennis: Scholar and Engaged Priest

Guest blogger, Professor Árpád von Klimó, of The Catholic University of America History Department teaches Modern European and World History at the University. He has done research in different fields of Modern and Contemporary European history. Most recently, he has edited the Routledge History of East Central Europe (together with Irina Livezeanu) and published two monographs: “Hungary since 1945” (Routledge, 2018) and “Remembering Cold Days. The Novi Sad Massacre, Hungarian Politics and Society since 1942” (Pittsburgh UP, 2018). 

His research on Father Dennis is part of a broader project related to the history of the University’s History Department. He sees this history as a mirror of the past of an institution that has always profited from a fruitful tension between church and world, between priests and laymen. This story has not been told yet but this project seeks to tell it, in the process providing us with profound insights into the identity of the University, knowledge essential for its future. Since 2015, student apprentices, faculty, and archivists have begun to compile, sort, publish, and analyze archival materials related to the department of history, its professors and students. This project is part of a new program of undergraduate apprenticeships in history (course HIST 494) in which students learn practical research, analytical, editorial and publication skills.  Throughout this course, students learn how to manage unexplored mines of “big data,” to hone research and writing skills, and in the process gain insights into how many generations have experienced life and learning on this campus.

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In the 1971 yearbook of The Catholic University of America (the University was informally referred to as “C.U.” at the time), a quotation accompanied the photo of Jesuit Father George T. Dennis, representing the History Department:

Father George T. Dennis, S.J., from the Catholic University Cardinal Yearbook, 1971.

“The Speech and Drama Department represents about all that the rest of the city knows about CU. The University plays little or no role in the development of the community, yet it has facilities, leadership potential, and a great deal more to offer. ‘Neutrality’ is only the position of some administrators and, as is fairly obvious, does not represent the feeling of the University’s faculty or students. If the University does not loudly let its real stand on vital issues be known, it might as well relocate to some remote spot on the planet.”[1]

Father Dennis spoke about the necessity and duty of the University to be present in the District and to be actively engaged in helping to solve its political and social problems. These were immense after the riots and political turmoil of the Vietnam Years and in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. He would do his part, teaching urban youth for many years, while teaching Byzantine and Medieval History and doing research as a renowned scholar. Obituaries in  The Catholic Historical Review and The Dumbarton Oaks Papers have talked about his scholarly achievements and mentioned his activities with urban youth of Washington, D.C. 

George T. Dennis was 44 years old when he came to Catholic University in 1967 from Loyola University, Los Angeles, to work as editor of the Corpus Instrumentorum Inc., while teaching Byzantine History at the department. The Corpus was an international encyclopedic project, based on the re-organized staff of the New Catholic Encyclopedia (published until 1967), which was housed on the campus of the University between 1967 and 1971.[2] When the enterprise fell apart, Father Dennis became a full member of the department which took over his salary which had been mostly paid by the Corpus project.

The case of Father George T. Dennis also shows how a professor of the University could follow his academic career as a famous historian of Byzantium and be an activist on- and  off-campus at the same time. When he complained about the “neutrality” of the administration on questions of social injustice in his quotation for the 1971 Yearbook, he also expressed his conviction that the majority of the faculty and the students were with him in regard to social activism and the metropolitan community.

In the fall of 1970, Father Dennis was elected to head the Neighborhood Planning Council (NPC) for Northwest Washington where he lived in a small community of Jesuits. The NPC was organizing programs to help struggling youth in the area and negotiated with the DC government to improve their situation. Father Dennis jokingly declared that he preferred “to proportion his life between the Northwest Area and the Byzantine Empire.” In 1971, Father Dennis as head of the NPC, protested the declaration of a curfew in the city. Read more about Father Dennis, the NPC , and the curfew in the November 19, 1971 issue of The Tower (p.4).  

On theological questions, Father Dennis came out as a “dissenter” who, in 1968 together with the theologian Charles Curran (who later left the University), publicly criticized Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Humanae Vitae.  Read more on this in The Tower, April 18, 1969 (p.10)     

Later, in the mid-1980s, Father Dennis, spoke out against what he saw as the politicization of the church; he was especially critical of some bishops’ engagement in campaigns against abortion.  See his September 22, 1984 letter to The Washington Post for more.  

Eight years later Father Dennis criticized the founding of a library that served as predecessor to the Saint John John Paul II National Shrine, accusing him of having been “consistently hostile to genuine academic spirit and practice.” See more in the See more in the November 20, 1992 issue of The Tower (p. 6).

Father Dennis, indeed, could never have been suspicious of “neutrality” which he thought was the position of “a few administrators” of the university, as he said in 1971. But his critique of what he thought went wrong in church and society, was not his main mission. He was an active reformer who tried to help the most vulnerable members of society. When he engaged with struggling inner-city youth, he did this without revealing his own scholarly and priestly background.  The teenagers he helped with their homework and with their day-to-day problems, called him simply “George”, and “he preferred it that way”, as one obituary stated.[3]

Dr Matina McGrath, who teaches at George Mason University, was a graduate student of Father Dennis. She remembers him as an “academic mentor and a dear friend.”[4] As others, Dr McGrath was impressed by his humility: “One would never know the depth of his scholarly interests or the reputation he had among his Byzantine colleagues if he just met him hurrying to class, winded from riding his bike, straightening his hair. He loved to make his undergraduate classes fun, and was pleased beyond words when he figured out how to incorporate sounds and images in his power point presentations (I can still see him smile when he told me he had lions roaring when he showed a rendering of the imperial throne with all its mechanical contraptions). Even before electronic media, he would show up to class with bits of chain mail, helmets, miniature soldiers and siege equipment to liven up the lessons on Byzantine History. Without a doubt he was one of the most popular professors in the history department at CUA.”[5] 

One of his last wishes was to donate his scholarly library to the Ukrainian Catholic University of Lviv, another sign of his wide-spread interests and his giving personality.

[1] Catholic University of America ’71 Yearbook, Washington, DC: CUA Press,  p. 134.

[2] Choice, February 1979, 1560.

[3] Email from Dr. Lawrence Poos, 7 July 2020.

[4] Email from Dr. Matina McGrath to author, 9 July 2020.

[5] Email from Dr. Matina McGrath to author, 9 July 2020.

The Archivist’s Nook: Conservation in Rare Books

St. Jerome with lion, Epistolae, ca. 1400 (MS 168) Learn more about why Jerome is often pictured with a lion here.

Beginning last year, Special Collections staff began a process of reviewing Catholic University’s Rare Books collection for works facing conservation issues. With over 65,000 works in the collection, we had to focus on the most immediate concerns. Of particular interest was the manuscripts collection, which holds over 200 one-of-a-kind handwritten texts from the medieval to the early modern period, ranging from alchemy treatises to choral books.

After working alongside graduate students and faculty from the Department of Greek and Latin, our staff selected four initial works to send offsite for conservation with local vendor Quarto. The four we chose exhibited serious binding and textual issues that threatened not only the long-term survival of the works but also severely limited their safe access by patrons.

Our goal in Special Collections is to provide both our external and campus patrons with access to the works they need to research and study. And thus, our number one goal in conserving these manuscripts was to render them stable for both eventual digitization and in-person access, without damaging the text or any original materials in the binding.

We would like to keep the campus community informed about the progress of this long-term project, so whenever we finish with a batch of books, we will post a blog on the highlights of the returned works. And so without further ado, we present the four most recently conserved works for your consideration:

1. De emandatione pectoris [and various other works], ca. 1450 (MS 114)

This work from the mid-fifteenth century contains theological and spiritual works from a number of late antique and medieval authors, ranging from Caesarius of Arles to Leonardo Bruni.

MS 114 – before (left) and after (right) conservation.

Comparing the before conservation photos (left column) with the after conservation (right column) reveals a subtle, but important, difference. This late medieval text was rebound sometime in the 18th century, with a leather covering that was beginning to experience red rot (a common degradation in vegetable-treated leather). The leather cover was cracked and loose, most notably along the spine. This cracking made it difficult to access the text without further damaging the leather covering and binding around the spine.

To resolve the issues limiting access, the conservators repaired and reaffixed the damaged part of the spine. They also used treatments to clean the textblock (the stacks of pages inside the covers and binding) of the manuscript and slow the process of decay of the leather binding.

2. St. Jerome, Epistolae, ca. 1400 (MS 168)

This northern Italian manuscript of Jerome’s letters is a beautiful work with a gorgeous miniature (a small illustration) on its opening text page (as pictured above). Sadly, accessing the work was difficult without its stabilizing boards attached.

MS 168 – Top and left center photo show the manuscript prior to conservation, with the bottom and right center image after.

Medieval and early modern books are usually bound with wooden boards over the front and back pages, offering stabilization and protection to the textblock contained between them. The boards, which are bound together with the textblock, are then covered with leather. These wooden boards can experience rotting or damage, but in this case, the binding had loosened, causing the boards to become completely detached from the textblock and spine. This made accessing the text difficult without adding damaging pressure onto the first few pages of the text.

In the collage on the right, you can see what the manuscript looked like a year ago, including how the front and back cover boards were completely loose.  On the bottom and right center photos, you can see the work Quarto did to restore the binding. The conservators rebound the boards to the textblock and added chemical solutions to stabilize the cover’s leather.

3. Johannes Canonicus, Quaestiones supra octo libros physicorum, 1364 (MS 169)

This may have been the most challenging of the works sent offsite. A manuscript reflecting on Aristotle’s Physics, the entire binding and cover boards of the work were warped, pest damaged, and decayed to such a degree that it was virtually impossible to safely open the manuscript. But this was a popularly requested manuscript from researchers!

MS 169 – Top photos are before conservation, with the bottom two after.

To complicate matters, the cover boards appear to be original to the text, dating from the 14th century. However, the spine is coated and bound in a much later (19th century) paper binding, including bits of newsprint. This paper binding had rapidly deteriorated and was marked with evidence of past insect infestation. The binding was effectively non-existent, with the work and its textblock loose. Even attempting to open the book was difficult and caused damage to the text. Serious work was needed to stabilize it for continued use.

You can see the end result of Quarto’s work above. Keeping the original boards and binding was nigh-impossible, so the conservators created replica boards and alum-tawed calf cover (a calf leather prepared with a liquid solution to create a white appearance) — mimicking the style and weight of the original — with new binding.

MS 169 – String and paper binding shown on top, with original board on bottom.

But fear not! We do not toss out book materials in rare books! These pieces can tell us so much about the original production of a work or later restoration, rebindings, or conservation work. So the original boards, spine, and threads have all been kept and added to our collections. Patrons wishing to access the collections may see these pieces, alongside the restored manuscript.

4. German prayer book, 1440-80 (MS 178)

Our final work is a fifteenth-century prayer book from Germany. A small, but bulky text, this work presented an interesting challenge. Not only was the front board missing and the original binding exposed, but several pages were loose throughout the text. The back board was still present and attached, with the original leather partially covering it (but cracking and brittle). With cracking leather and an exposed textblock, handling this work was precarious.

MS 178 – Left column of images are before conservation, with the right after.

In the left column, you can see the manuscript prior to conservation. On the right is the manuscript after conservation. The goal was to stabilize the textblock for access and preserve the original binding, board, and leather. In order to do so, Quarto crafted a facsimile board for the cover, worked to stabilize the surviving leather, and reattach the loose pages. Without modifying or removing the original binding threads, the conservation team attached the new board to the front and developed a paper chemise (a case in which a book is stored) to offer an extra layer of protection to the text and binding. This chemise is easily removable (as seen in the photos) and will allow patrons to study the original binding, board, and leather. When not needed for viewing, the chemise can be slipped back on to protect these original components.

While there are many details that this post did not cover with respect to conservation efforts — especially when it comes to cleaning the textblock’s pages — we welcome all patrons to send us questions about the conservation process or these manuscripts.

As we work on our conservation efforts, we will continue to update the community. In the meantime, if you have any questions about accessing the above manuscripts or any materials in Rare Books or Special Collections, please contact us at: lib-rarebooks@cua.edu

Our digitized manuscripts may also be viewed at this link.

The Archivist’s Nook: Teleworking in the Archives

After a few months away, finally back in the stacks. Something seems different?

During spring break week in mid March, as many of the Catholic University community were away from campus, the Archives staff met to discuss our contingency plans for the spreading pandemic. Our researchers from across the United States and the world were beginning to cancel or delay scheduled appointments, and we began to determine how best to shift our services and resources online. With little time to prepare, we readied the stacks for a possible long-term closure.

Friday, March 13, 2020 would end up being the last normal day of work at the Archives. (Yes, Friday the 13th was when our “luck” ran out.)

When we think of essential workers during the current crisis, we rightly think of medical professionals, delivery drivers, grocery and pharmacy employees, custodians, etc. But even among those professions mostly teleworking, there are those who exercise an essential function. In addition to the facilities staff (a huge shout out to them!), many administrators and librarians at Catholic University have continued coming to campus to assist in the transition to online instruction, to guarantee that students and faculty (as well as most staff) could remain safely at home.

My home office, with a book to prop up my laptop for Zoom sessions and serve as comforting reading when I need a break.

As for the Archives staff, we need to monitor our collections to guarantee that the humidity and temperature levels are maintained at proper levels, that leaks are not occurring, or that bugs are not infesting the stacks! Plus, as many online collections as we have, most of our materials are still only available onsite. Each of our staff received a letter marking us as essential employees, able to come in to protect the collections during the strictest period of the DC shutdown.

Does that mean we took unnecessary risks to visit the stacks? No. Most of us continued to telework, with two of our staff (who live close by or can drive in) stopping in one to two days a week to check the collections. (A special thank you to Archivist, John Shepherd, and Special Collections Technician, Brandi Marulli, for keeping the onsite stacks maintained during the first few months of the pandemic. Not to mention Curator, Maria Mazzenga, and Graduate Library Pre-professional, Amanda Bernard, for expanding our digital presence during the shutdown.) As for me? I began to return to the onsite collections in June.

“Stay Home” signage lines the streets of my neighborhood. One morning, I found one such sign sitting like this just outside my house. Cleaning up or an artistic statement?

Overall, I have been fortunate thus far. I’ve been able to mostly telework, have kept my livelihood, and been healthy. As a current graduate student, despite my displeasure at endless Zoom sessions, my remote classes have kept me busy. (Knitting during Zoom classes tends to help me stay focused on the lecture/discussion!)

With that said, I do live alone. Many days are long, with my small basement apartment becoming the center for my entire life. For over four months, often the only outdoor activity I may get is an occasional walk or an early morning trip to the grocery store.

My family is back in central Nebraska, and they reside mere blocks from a meatpacking plant forced to remain open, despite becoming a hot spot for the virus. My family had no options for teleworking and the local authorities seemed unwilling to take the pandemic seriously. For months, almost every morning, before logging into my laptop to work remotely, I would talk to my relatives on the phone to see how everyone was doing and check in myself. (So far, so good!)

George Avenue in late March, after the Maryland and DC “stay at home” orders went into effect. This is at the height of rush hour, when this road is usually bumper-to-bumper traffic.

All this has made me reflect on my short- and long-term plans. Every year, I visit my family several times. But not in 2020. Maybe not in 2021. Wherever I have been in life, I have always found my way back to Nebraska every Christmas and New Years, to see my family and childhood friends. This may be the first time in my life I must skip that journey, for fear of risking my family’s safety by traveling.

I worry about finances, as so many schools and businesses face tough economic choices. I consider my meager savings now as not only a cushion for myself but possibly for my distant family and friends.

While taking graduate coursework during a pandemic is a challenge unto itself, I am relieved to have the distraction. But also taking these courses has helped provide a sense that my life is not stagnating in quarantine, that I am advancing in some capacity while sitting at home most of the week.

I have friends and family who are public school teachers, rewriting their wills as they are potentially put back into classrooms too early, grocery store workers and truck drivers on the “front lines” for months on end with no breaks, and childcare workers furloughed. I know people who (incorrectly) claim the virus is a hoax, and others who will never leave their homes out of fear of getting sick. I know people afraid, people struggling, and people offering hope.

I live mere blocks from a food pantry. One to two days a week since late March, a long line has stretched down the street from it. It is heart-breaking to see, but it is also encouraging that the pantry keeps helping. Volunteers still go in, despite any personal risks to health. Food is still being handed out to each person in that line. Donations keep coming in.

Mullen Library main stairwell, with not a soul around.

Collecting stories can be exhausting – reliving my own experiences of the pandemic or empathizing with those submitting their own accounts – but it is crucial work to preserve our tales for the future, to vocalize our experiences, and to help us understand that we are part of a broader web of human experiences during challenging times.

There are millions of stories during this pandemic. Many negative, some positive, and most still being written.

Keeping a journal myself, I want to end with one short reflection I wrote a few weeks ago, after I came to campus and had entered the still-closed library:

As I entered Mullen Library at 6:30 in the morning to check on the collections, I found myself alone in the building. Staring over my face covering and fogged-up glasses, I found a sight I usually love – a quiet, uncrowded library.

But not like this.

Not for these reasons.

Not due to a pandemic keeping patrons away and staff at home. Not from an economic crisis forcing us to make hard choices about what services we can provide. Not due to BIPOC students feeling targeted on campus, thus feeling unwelcome in their own library.

So many of us as individuals, groups, and localities have sacrificed to slow this pandemic, have helped those hurting economically, and have protested and started the long-term processes of confronting our own internalized and institutionalized racism.

Staring around me at dawn, this quiet library served as a reminder of both these challenges facing us and the collective actions we are taking to address them.

It is shuttered to help us control the spread of a virus. It is quiet due to staff mostly teleworking, with the Library working to maintain their employment and health in uncertain times. It is a time in which libraries are further reflecting on and working to address institutionalized racism in the profession, while providing (usually digital) sources to help others learn about these issues.

What will define this empty library – the challenges of the present moment or the work that hopefully helps and changes our culture? I’m a historian, not a seer, but I’ll do my best with my small platform in this currently quiet library to help.

In a few short weeks, there may be more people going up and down these stairs. While I’d like to see that, I do have concerns. So I’ll keep my mask and hope handy.

Just one account among many during these times of pandemic, social change, and economic upheaval.

To learn more about submitting your own story, please see this form. Questions or concerns can be addressed to: lib-archives+covid19@cua.edu

The Archivist’s Nook: Never Say NEVER

Redskins quarterback “Slingin’” Sammy Baugh in 1937, the year that the NFL team moved from Boston to Washington, D.C. Baugh’s passing game is credited with revolutionizing the sport.

On July 13, 2020, the Washington Redskins announced that they would finally be retiring the team name—a move that the team’s owner, Dan Snyder, had repeatedly resisted, perhaps most vehemently in 2013. His exact words: “We’ll never change the name. […] It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

Controversy over the team’s name and logo stems not only from the term “redskin” but from the use of American Indian iconography in mascots, in general. My own high school in Montgomery County, Maryland—Poolesville High School—used the Indians as its mascot from 1911 all the way up until 2002, when the community’s vote to keep the problematic mascot had to be overruled by the county’s Board of Education; at that time Poolesville reluctantly adopted the Falcons as its new mascot. The term “redskin,” meanwhile, has been likened to the N-word: a term denoting skin color which through years of derogatory use has become offensive. Wikipedia has an entire page devoted to the Washington Redskins name controversy; it traces the dispute back to the 1960s, when it was presumably raised in connection with the Civil Rights Movement.

Since the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, however, calls for racial justice have been falling less on deaf ears. Dr. Maria Mazzenga, Curator of the American Catholic History Research Center, sees the reconsideration of the team name as part of a broader “historical consciousness shift generated in part by Floyd’s murder and the demonstrations that followed”; the reconsideration came about in earnest after the @Redskins participated in #BlackOutTuesday on June 2, at which time others were quick to call out the team’s hypocrisy. A team with a racial slur for a name had no leg to stand on when it came to standing against racism, critics argued.

Located in the nation’s capital, The Catholic University of America (CatholicU) has a short but momentous history with the Washington, D.C., NFL (National Football League) team. Established in Boston as the Braves in 1932, the football team was renamed the Redskins in 1933; the new name was devised to help avoid confusion with a local pro baseball team (which was also called the Braves) without giving up the reference to indigenous Americans. In February of 1937, the Redskins relocated to Washington, D.C., where the CatholicU Redbirds were enjoying a heyday.

Octagonal orange invitation to the Orange Bowl Victory Dinner, February 3, 1936. The CatholicU Flying Cardinals narrowly defeated Ole Miss in Miami the month before—hence the play on words.

In his centennial history of Catholic University, C. Joseph Nuesse refers to the arrival of athletic director Arthur J. “Dutch” Bergman in 1930 as the beginning of “a new era” (Neusse 274). Under Rector James H. Ryan and Dutch Bergman, ““Big time” intercollegiate football became a prime objective of the university’s athletic program” (Neusse 274). According to CatholicU alumnus and local historian Robert P. Malesky, “Bergman was paid a higher salary than any faculty member, causing considerable consternation, though his winning record over his decade at the school caused an equal amount of joy” (Malesky 91).

On New Year’s Day, 1936, the CatholicU Cardinals narrowly defeated Ole Miss in the second-ever Orange Bowl (the first was held on January 1, 1935). The score was 20–19. Malesky describes the game as a nail-biter: “CUA jumped out to a 20–6 lead, but then Ole Miss came back strong, scoring 13 points late in the game. A missed point after a touchdown for Mississippi was the critical difference” (Malesky 92). At the helm was Bergman. The 1936 yearbook also lists the Assistant Backfield Coach as recent alumnus Thomas Whelan—a star athlete who entered Catholic University in 1929 on a football scholarship and who upon graduation (in 1932) played professionally for the Pittsburgh Pirates, soon-to-be Steelers. Incidentally, Whelan and Bergman also teamed up off the field; between 1936 and 1938, the two ran a tavern together in the Brookland neighborhood adjacent to the CatholicU campus.

“Former Stars Coach Catholic Eleven,” reads the Associated Press caption. Pictured left to right: Dutch Bergman, Sammy Baugh, Wayne Millner, and Forrest Cotton. Associated Press Photo, 1939.

A 1939 photograph shows the thickset Bergman standing alongside his assistant coaches in the CatholicU stadium, which had been dedicated in 1924 under Rector Thomas J. Shahan and which was situated more or less in the area now occupied by the Pryzbyla Center and the Columbus Law School. The two coaches standing in the center of the photograph were contemporary “stars with the Washington Redskins football team”: quarterback “Slingin’” Sammy Baugh—a “future hall of famer”—and Wayne Millner, an offensive and defensive end who had played for Notre Dame before going pro (Malesky 91). According to Malesky, “Baugh was not a full-time coach but did come out a few afternoons during the season to instruct CUA’s quarterbacks” (Malesky 91). The fourth man in the photograph is Forrest Cotton, another Notre Dame alumnus. Of course Bergman was himself a noted alumnus of the Fighting Irish. Standing about five feet eight inches tall and weighing 145 pounds, he earned the nicknames Little Dutch and The Flying Dutchman for his quickness. His roommate was the legendary George Gipp, a fact which he joked would overshadow any of his own accomplishments.

In CatholicU history, Bergman goes down as the “all-time winningest varsity football coach” and to this day holds “the highest winning percentage (.649) in school history” (McManes). According to the same article from CatholicAthletics.com, “CUA dropped football in 1941 because of the outbreak of World War II and didn’t field another team until 1947.” In that interim, Bergman went on to coach the Redskins in the 1943 season (at which time Sammy Baugh was still quarterback). In 1948, Bergman became the manager of the D.C. Armory—the corporation that lobbied for the construction of RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. At the time of his death in 1972, Bergman was still managing the D.C. Armory and RFK Stadium. As Washington Post sports writer Bob Addie mused, “The handsome silver-haired man who died Friday night (August 18, 1972) got his wish—he never retired.”

Dutch Bergman, pictured third from left. The handwritten note on the back of the photo states: “Sports writers & Eddie La Fond. Orange Bowl – Jan. 1, 1936.” La Fond, pictured in the center wearing a light-colored hat, succeeded Bergman as CatholicU athletic director under the administration of Joseph M. Corrigan (1936–1942).

 

Works Cited

Brady, Erik. “Daniel Snyder says Redskins will never change name.” USA TODAY Sports. https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/redskins/2013/05/09/washington-redskins-daniel-snyder/2148127/. May 9, 2013. Accessed July 20, 2020.

Malesky, Robert P. The Catholic University of America. Charleston, SC, Arcadia Publishing, 2010.

McManes, Chris. “Former coach Dutch Bergman distinguished himself in all walks of life.” Catholic University Cardinals. https://www.catholicathletics.com/sports/fball/2012-13/releases/dutch_berman_feature_story. December 14, 2012. Accessed July 20, 2020.

Neusse, C. Joseph. The Catholic University of America: A Centennial History. Washington, D.C., The Catholic University of America Press, 1990.

Suddenly Teaching Online? Help is Here

While we look forward to the return of students and faculty to campus, it’s quite evident that this upcoming academic year will look very different from any in the past. The last two weeks of the Fall 2020 semester will be taught remotely, and final exams will be take-home or online. In addition, many classrooms on campus will be upgraded to support hybrid learning environments.

With this in mind, many of our faculty are working hard to move course content online, as well as refine courses that were moved online on short notice this past spring. University Libraries has compiled some resources to support faculty in these efforts.

LinkedIn Learning Courses

LinkedIn Learning Logo
The LinkedIn Learning video course library is available to all within the CUA community.

Members of the CUA community have access to LinkedIn Learning, an online video training library with thousands of courses and videos on a range of topics. Here are some relevant courses and sections:

Learning to Teach Online

  • Beginner Skill Level, 46 minutes
  • This course is designed to help instructors update their skill sets to teach effectively online. The course instructor shows the links between high-quality instruction and online education. He provides a framework for creating a digital classroom and guidance to get students interacting with the course material, the instructor, and each other.
  • Link to course: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/learning-to-teach-online/

Moving Your Class Online Quickly and Efficiently

  • General Skill Level, 1 hour 7 minutes
  • As the name suggests, this course breaks down how to move a course designed for face-to-face instruction online. The instructors provide strategies for breaking down your existing syllabus and a step-by-step guide for moving the course online. This course covers the process of incorporating both synchronous and asynchronous virtual learning opportunities into a newly virtual classroom.
  • Link to course: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/moving-your-class-online-quickly-and-efficiently/

Teaching with Technology

Image of student watching online teacher
Courses available through LinkedIn Learning provide strategies for engaging students in online courses.

Teaching Techniques: Making Accessible Learning

  • Intermediate Skill Level
  • The section linked below provides an overview of some tools that can be used to increase accessibility for online course content.
  • Section 4 (16 minutes): Technology Accommodations for Learning

Teaching Online: Synchronous Classes

  • Intermediate Skill Level, 1 hour 12 minutes
  • This course provides tools, tips, and techniques for leading real-time virtual instruction. No matter which teaching tool you use, from Adobe Connect to Blackboard to Google Hangouts, instructors can apply these lessons to their digital classroom to increase collaboration and connection among students in a synchronous online class.
  • Link to course: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/teaching-online-synchronous-classes/welcome?u=56747785

Blackboard Essential Training

  • Intermediate Skill Level, 49 minutes
  • While faculty at CUA already use Blackboard, the online test feature may be new to some. These sections walk through the process for developing, distributing, and evaluating tests through Blackboard.
  • Section 9 (45 minutes): Creating Online Tests
  • Section 10 (38 minutes): Deploying and Grading Tests

Teaching Technical Skills Through Video

  • Intermediate Skill Level, 43 minutes
  • For professors who teach technical skills such as programming, this course provides a variety of tools to deliver lessons via video. The instructor shows how to understand each student’s learning style and then use support material, adapt existing online content, and record videos to teach technical skills.
  • Link to course: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/teaching-technical-skills-through-video/

 e-Books

Image of a distance learner working on an online course.
Some of the e-books in the library’s catalog include interactive sections to support the process of online course design.

A Guide to Online Course Design: Strategies for Student Success

  • From the publisher description: “This book…includes effective instructional strategies to motivate online learners, help them become more self-directed, and develop academic skills to persist and successfully complete a program of study online. It also includes a more in-depth understanding of instructional design principles to support faculty as they move their face-to-face courses to the online environment” (emphasis added).
  • Stavredes, T., & Herder, T. (n.d.). A guide to online course design: strategies for student success (1st ed.). Jossey-Bass.

The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips

  • From the publisher description: “Covering all aspects of online teaching, this book reviews the latest research in cognitive processing and related learning outcomes while retaining a focus on the practical. A simple framework of instructional strategies mapped across a four-phase timeline provides a concrete starting point for both new online teachers and experienced teachers designing or revamping an online course. Essential technologies are explored in their basic and expanded forms, and traditional pedagogy serves as the foundation for tips and practices customized for online learning” (emphasis added).
  • Boettcher, J., & Conrad, R. (2016). The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

The Blended Course Design Workbook: A Practical Guide

  • From the publisher description: “The Blended Course Design Workbook meets the need for a user-friendly resource that provides faculty members and administrators with instructions, activities, tools, templates, and deadlines to guide them through the process of revising their traditional face-to-face course into a blended format. Providing a step-by-step course design process that emphasizes active learning and student engagement, this book will help instructors adapt traditional face-to-face courses to a blended environment by guiding them through the development of course goals and learning objectives, assignments, assessments, and student support mechanisms with technology integration in mind. It will also help instructors choose the right technologies based on an instructor’s comfort level with technology and their specific pedagogical needs” (emphasis added).
  • Linder, K. (2017). The Blended Course Design Workbook: A Practical Guide. Stylus Publishing.

The New Roadmap for Creating Online Courses: An Interactive Workbook

  • From the publisher description: “Whether you are an instructor, instructional designer, or part of a team, this interactive workbook will help you create effective online courses to engage your learners. Key features of the workbook include integrating cognitive, social, and emotional aspects of learning; explaining the central role of self-reflection, dialogue, and realistic application; the incorporation of themes, scenarios, and characters to provide relevant and meaningful learning experiences; and the use of semiotics for inclusion of diverse learners.”
  • Barber, C., & Maboudian, W. (2020). The New Roadmap for Creating Online Courses: An Interactive Workbook. Cambridge University Press.

Faculty members who are looking for e-resources to include in course syllabi may visit the Libraries COVID-19 Information Guide section on e-resources. The library website also has guides for specific subjects that include e-resources for students and researchers. Finally, faculty are encouraged to contact their subject liaison librarians to request specific resources and/or provide support for online and face-to-face instruction.

OLL Blog – Un acercamiento a la historia africana a través del Vocabulario de Bluteau – Andrea Guerrero-Mosquera

Un acercamiento a la historia africana a través del Vocabulario de Bluteau

Andrea Guerrero-Mosquera

Profesora en la Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco

E-mail: guerrero.andrea10@gmail.com

Twitter: @Andreag1086

La Biblioteca Oliveira Lima posee una importante colección de libros raros, en los que se puede encontrar rastros de la histórica relación entre Brasil y África, y, no es para menos, la historia africana y brasileña comparten una historia común marcada por la trata de africanos.

Pero ¿qué podemos encontrar en la Biblioteca Oliveira Lima al respecto? Entre otras cosas, la Relaçam annual del jesuita Fernão Guerreiro (1605), De gedenkwaardige voyagie de Andrew Battell (1706), entre otros textos que nos permiten introducirnos e iniciarnos en la historia de África como lo es el texto de Olfert Dapper (1673). En esta ocasión, nuestro interés se centrará en este último texto en mancuerna con el diccionario de Bluteau.

Semanas atrás, la Dra. Nathalia Henrich nos mencionó: “No collection of literature of the Lusophone world worthy of its name is complete without the presence of Camilo Castelo Branco”; a lo que quisiéramos agregar, ninguna col

Bluteau, Rafael. Vocabulario portuguez…1716. Oliveira Lima Library, The Catholic University of America.

ección lusófona está completa sin el Vocabulário portuguez e latino de Bluteau (1716). Este reconocido erudito de la lengua portuguesa escribió ocho tomos de un diccionario lexicográfico que nos permite entender algunos aspectos relevantes del uso del portugués del siglo XVIII e incluso, de años anteriores.

La relación entre estos dos textos radica en que Bluteau cita, en varias ocasiones, el texto de Dapper (la versión francesa de 1686), en las que menciona algunas palabras que hacen referencia directa a África. Por ello, en esta ocasión, sólo mencionaremos dos vocablos: pombeiros y mandingas.

En la primera, hace referencia específicamente al comercio esclavista al mencionar que los portugueses en Angola les enseñaron a leer, escribir y contar a los pombeiros para que pudieran negociar en los pumbos(1720, 588) que estaban en sertão. Más adelante, hace referencia a Dapper (1686, 359) para anotar que los pombeiros solían estar fuera de “casa de seus senhores” años enteros dado que se encontraban “ocupados em comprar escravos, marfim, cobre, & outras mercancías” (Ibíd.). Esta definición en particular, no sólo nos ofrece el contexto geográfico: Angola; si no que, además testifica la trata negrera era realizada por mediadores que previamente habían sido “entrenados” para esa labor.

Este aspecto es muy importante a la hora de conocer parte de la historia de la trata negrera por tres razones: primero porque nos muestra que el comercio iba de la mano de otras actividades comerciales; segundo, porque nos ilustra el periodo que podría tardarse todo el proceso, lo que nos ubica, de una u otra manera en otra dimensión del proceso comercial que va más allá de lo popularmente se nos enseña en los libros de textos; y, tercero, nos reseña cómo se desarrolló la trata negrera en África central, actividad en la que estaban involucrados los europeos y sus mediadores, en este caso los pombeiros.

El segundo vocablo se aleja un poco del contexto esclavista y nos sumerge en la herencia africana en América. Cuando Bluteau intenta definir qué es Mandinga no se limita con ilustrar acerca del origen de este grupo de personas, sino que va más allá, y, retomando el texto de Dapper (1686, 245), los describe como grandes hechiceros (feiticheros) que, según Fromont (2020, 7), es una acepción derivada de un lusitanismo que los marineros portugueses acuñaron de la palabra “fetiche”, que a su vez fue un vocablo usado en Guiné para nombrar a los “ídolos”.

Posteriormente, hace referencia a las bolsas mandingas, elementos a los que otorga poderes de protección que “fazem impenetraveis às estocadas, como se tem experimentado nesta Corte, & neste Reyno de Portugal em varias ocasiones” (1716, 286).

Vendedoras con amuletos colgados al cuello y la cintura

Pero, ¿qué son las bolsas mandingas? Se dice que eran amuletos usados en el contexto atlántico portugués, e incluso se dice que llegaron al Caribe hispano y a la India. Estos elementos consistían en pequeños paquetes de tela cosida; podían contener semillas, cabellos y papeles con oraciones. Dichos amuletos eran usados como protección, y, en el caso de las personas esclavizadas, se sabe que las bolsas eran usadas como ayuda para evadir los abusos de los esclavistas y, también se usaron en cuestiones del “bien querer, es decir, en situaciones de tipo amoroso. También servían, como ya lo ha citado Bluteau, para evitar que las armas penetraran en el cuerpo ya fueran puñaladas o heridas de bala, y, asimismo, se usaban para evitar picaduras de serpientes.

Carlos Julião, Negras vendedoras de rua, (s.f.) Biblioteca Nacional de Brasil.

En líneas generales, las bolsas mandingas sirvieron a la población como forma de protegerse ante diversos eventos. Estos elementos hacen parte de la cultura material de la herencia africana, y su presencia es indiscutible en el mundo atlántico portugués, e incluso, más allá. De ahí la importancia de conocer su origen y su utilidad dentro de la población de origen africano.

Por todo lo anterior, en esta pequeña entrada quisimos explorar algunos aspectos de la historia de África que se pueden consultar en la Biblioteca Oliveira Lima, que, como se pudo ver en el texto, indagar sobre las culturas africanas en las colecciones de la biblioteca es factible. Lo anterior, teniendo en cuenta que el acervo documental es extraordinario, y, por medio de este, podemos acceder a algunos textos que nos pueden ayudar a entender el entramado comercial de la trata negrera y, al mismo tiempo, son textos que nos permiten comprender de dónde provenían algunas de las manifestaciones culturales africanas, cómo eran representadas en la literatura y cómo estas están enmarcadas dentro de un contexto narrativo particular: el de los viajeros.

Bibliografía citada

AHU, Fundo do Conselho ultramarino, Série Angola, Cx. 8, D. 959. Consulta do Conselho Ultramarino ao rei D. Afonso VI sobre o requerimento dos oficiais da câmara e moradores de Angola.

Battell, Andrew. De gedenkwaardige voyagie van Andries Battell van Leigh in Essex, na Brasilien : en desselfs wonderlijke avontuuren, zijnde gevangen gebragt van de Portugijsen na Angola, alwaar en waar ontrent [sic] hy by-na 18. jaren gewoond heeft. Ao. 1589. en vervolgens. Te Leyden: By Pieter Van der Aa, 1706.

Bluteau, Rafael. Vocabulario portuguez, e latino, aulico, anatomico, architectonico, bellico, botanico … autorizado com exemplos dos melhores escritores portuguezes e latinos e offerecido a El Rey de Portugal D. Joaõ V. Coimbra, No Collegio das Artes da Companhia de Jesu, 1716.

Bluteau, Rafael. Vocabulario portuguez, e latino, aulico, anatomico, architectonico, bellico, botanico … autorizado com exemplos dos melhores escritores portuguezes e latinos e offerecido a El Rey de Portugal D. Joaõ V. Coimbra, No Collegio das Artes da Companhia de Jesu, 1720.

Dapper, Olfert. Die Unbekante Neue Welt, oder, Beschreibung des Welt-teils Amerika, und des Sud-Landes. Darinnen vom Uhrsprunge der Ameriker und Sudländer und von den gedenckwürdigen Reysen der Europer darnach zu.  Wie auch von derselben Festen Ländern, Inseln, Städten, Festungen, Dörfern, vornähmsten Gebeuen, Bergen, Brunnen, Flüssen und Ahrten der Tiere, Beume, Stauden, und anderer fremden Gewächse; Als auch von den Gottes-und Götzen-diensten, Sitten, Sprachen, Kleider-trachten, wunderlichen Begäbnissen, und so wohl alten als neuen Kriegen, ausführlich gehandelt wird Zu Amsterdam: Bey Jacob von Meurs, auf der Keysersgraft, in der Stadt Meurs, 1673.

Fromont, Cécile. “Paper, Ink, Vodun, and the Inquisition: Tracing Power, Slavery, and Witchcraft in the Early Modern Portuguese Atlantic.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion Vol. 88, No. 2, 2020, pp. 460-504.

Guerreiro, Fernão. Relaçam annal das cousas que fezeram os padres da Companhia de Iesus nas partes da India Oriental, & no Brasil, Angola, Cabo Verde, Guine, nos annos de seiscentos & dous & seiscentos & tres, & do processo da conuersam, & christandade daquellas partes, tirada das cartas dos mesmos padres que de là vieram Em Lisboa: Per Iorge Rodrigues, Impressor de liuros, 1605.

The Archivist’s Nook: The Great Depression Revisited

The novel coronavirus pandemic has left record numbers of Americans jobless—inviting comparisons between now and the Great Depression almost one hundred years ago. The Archives at the Catholic University of America (CatholicU) is well positioned to offer a historical perspective on current events. Two particular collecting strengths from the Depression era, relating to Catholic views on government and entertainment, crisscross the economics and culture of the period—and resonate in our own day.

Monsignor John A. Ryan earned the nickname “Right Reverend New Dealer” for his support of FDR, but not in the way you might expect. In fact, it was New Deal detractor Charles Coughlin who first coined the epithet—intending it to be an insult.

Following the stock market crash of October 1929, the United States plummeted into an economic depression from which it would not fully recover until the onset of World War II. In 1933, unemployment peaked at 24.9% and Franklin Delano Roosevelt assumed the office of the president. In 1935, he signed the Social Security Act—introducing among other things the unemployment insurance program from which some 40 million Americans are currently seeking relief in the wake of “the unprecedented wave of layoffs” triggered by the pandemic. On the morning of Friday, June 19, 2020, The New York Times reported that, for the thirteenth week in a row, more than one million unemployment claims were filed.

Striking his best American Gothic pose, Monsignor John O’Grady (right) was raised by farmers in Ireland and served farmers and others as a priest in the Diocese of Omaha, Nebraska. Read more about his role in the Making of Modern Catholic Charity.

The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives holds the papers of several Catholic supporters of FDR’s New Deal programs, including Patrick Henry Callahan, Francis Joseph Haas, John O’Grady, and John A. Ryan—who was nicknamed “Right Reverend New Dealer.” The digital exhibit Catholics and Social Security recounts the active role that Catholic Charities played in shaping New Deal legislation and the Social Security Act in particular. Importantly, though, the CatholicU Archives also document the activities of Catholic detractors of the New Deal—most notably Charles Coughlin. The Social Justice Collection consists of the weekly publication of the National Union for Social Justice (N.U.S.J.), which served as Coughlin’s political vehicle. Another digital exhibit, Catholics and Politics: Charles Coughlin, John Ryan, and the 1936 Presidential Campaign, details the conflicting views of the two Catholic priests on FDR’s (first) reelection campaign.

Meanwhile, against the backdrop of the worst economic crisis in U. S. history dawned the Golden Age of Hollywood. The fact that moviegoing actually spiked during the Depression has been cited amidst other financial meltdowns: during the Great Recession of 2008, for instance. The phenomenon is commonly rationalized in one of two ways: escapism or catharsis. No doubt entertainment has served similar ends during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has found a new mode of delivery—skipping theaters altogether. After a long spring of streaming from the safety of the sofa, will the appetite for the big screen return?

Back in 1933, as the popularity of moviegoing grew, the church hierarchy’s concerns—mostly about the portrayal of sexuality and crime (especially the glorification of gangsters)—also grew. In response, the church founded the Legion of Decency. The Legion was ultimately subsumed into the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Communications Department/Office of Film and Broadcasting (OFB), for which the CatholicU Archives serves as the official repository. The OFB records include about 150 boxes of film reviews and ratings for movies released from the 1930s onward.

One such movie has recently come back under scrutiny: Gone with the Wind (1939). The highest-grossing movie of all time, the star-studded epic set in the American South has routinely been criticized for perpetuating harmful stereotypes of African Americans. Heeding calls for racial justice incited by the murder of George Floyd, the subscription streaming service HBO Max temporarily took down the controversial classic in June 2020.

Production still from Gone with the Wind (1939). In 1940, Hattie McDaniel (right) became the first African American to win an Oscar for her performance as “Mammy”—a common stereotype of enslaved black women responsible for rearing their enslaver’s white children. From the Press Information folder created by the Publicity Department of New Line Cinema Corporation (Collection 10, Box 51, Folder 56).

Gone with the Wind happens to be historically important to the Legion of Decency. When it was re-released in 1967 (having been reformatted from the standard 35mm into the wider 70mm film stock), it became the first movie for which the Legion (then known as the National Catholic Office for Motion Pictures, or NCOMP) changed its rating “without any alterations in the motion picture” [1]. For this, the President and CEO of MGM was “particularly grateful”; he welcomed the new A-II rating (morally unobjectionable for adults and adolescents) and jumped to the conclusion that “the cloud around this classic has been removed” [2].

Upon its release in 1939, Gone with the Wind had been rated B (morally objectionable in part, for all). The Legion’s objections: “The low moral character, principles[,] and behavior of the main figures as depicted in the film; suggestive implications; [and] the attractive portrayal of the immoral character of a supporting role in the story [which is to say, the prostitute]” [3]. Referring to the original objections—including “the famous use of the word “Damn” by Mr. Gable”—one Catholic reviewer wrote, “By the standards of 1967, these elements are rather harmless” [4].  But other elements not originally objected to had since (at the height of the Civil Rights Movement) become top-of-mind, as they have again today [5]:

One moral factor however which must be considered which did not seem quite so obvious years ago is the attitude of the film toward the South, slavery, and the negro. […] The slaves are presented as being content with their lot. […]

This is a ridiculous and immoral attitude, and not fair—we are shown the plantations but not the slave quarters. […] In view of this I recommend the Office reclassify the film AIII, for Adults, and that some observation be made on our attitude toward the treatment of the Negro in the film.

For more about Catholics and the Great Depression, please see the newly-launched research guide: Special Collections — Great Depression Resources.

 

Notes

[1] “NCOMP Upgrades Rating of ‘Gone With The Wind’,” Times Review, LaCrosse, Wis., September 15, 1967. OFB Reviews, Collection 10, Box 51, Folder 55.

[2] Letter from Robert H. O’Brien to Father Patrick J. Sullivan, September 1, 1967. OFB Reviews, Collection 10, Box 51, Folder 55.

[3] Letter from Mrs. Eva Houlihan, Secretary to Right Reverend Monsignor Thomas Little of the Legion of Decency, to Reverend Hilary Ottensmeyer, O.S.B., November 13, 1964. OFB Reviews, Collection 10, Box 51, Folder 55.

[4] and [5] “Gone with the Wind: Screened-Friday, May 5, 1967,” Rev. Louis I. Newman. OFB Reviews, Collection 10, Box 51, Folder 55.

OLL Blog — My path to librarianship and the Oliveira Lima Library

Earlier this month, Fine Books & Collections posted an interview with me as part of their series Bright Young Librarians. While my tendency toward self-deprecation would lead me to question those qualifiers – months of sheltering-in-place I has got me feeling particularly dim and old – I was nevertheless thrilled to be featured in a publication of such note among my colleagues. It was a wonderful chance to speak about both the work Dr. Nathalia Henrich and I have been doing at the Oliveira Lima Library and the circumstances that brought me here. In the interest of highlighting the immense value of our collection and our role in maximizing that value, I’d like to take this opportunity to expand a bit on my remarks.

Apart from my love of history, what most drew me to the the field of librarianship was the social commitment of the library, the idea that the guarantee of access and use of library materials should be the driving force behind the development and implementation of theory and practice. To me, that idea is best expressed in the concept of stewardship. As Sharon Farb puts it, stewardship is, among other things, ‘service on behalf of users and on behalf of society.’ As library professionals such as Daniel Greenstein and Meg Bellinger have noted, while the Digital Age has challenged us to rethink our notions of preservation and ownership, it has also offered us opportunities to think of documented cultural memory in terms of interconnected networks, where the movement and exchange of knowledge takes precedence over the mere guardianship of materials.

This idea of stewardship has greatly eased my own personal anxieties and insecurities as a professional still relatively wet behind the ears. I often agonize over just the right content and structure of catalog records, wading through the mire of numbers and codes. In publishing a new record to our online catalog, I hope to create something laudable and unassailable by my peers. While these are certainly worthy goals, they should never get in the way of access. If I am uneasy about a record I have just created, I can rest assured that by making available to the public materials previously unknown, I am starting a conversation that will never end. Whatever gaps in my knowledge will be filled by those who come to use our collection. Nothing, certainly not my work as a cataloger, is written in stone. Beyond that, if our society’s current discussion has taught me anything, monuments to the past neither are nor should be protected from serious conversations.

In a way, this last point informs the work of Dr. Henrich and I. To be sure, we have been bestowed with the responsibility of keeping alive the memory of Manoel and Flora de Oliveira Lima; we are not, however, in the business of apotheosizing their memory nor the materials in their collection. The purpose of our work is to offer our holdings to the scrutiny of those wishing to undertake the serious and responsible endeavor of scholarship, regardless of their academic titles and honors. I find this in keeping with the legacy of Dr. Oliveira Lima, a man who was neither diffident in debate, intransigent in his political and social views, nor lacking in humor, even when it came to the caricatures of himself which often exaggerated his corpulence.

Access World News now available

The University Libraries is pleased to announce access to our newest database, Access World News. The database provides up to date news locally, nationally and internationally. Users can browse by topics of interest, geographically, or trending topics. In addition to the innovative browsing experience, users can access transcripts from popular news broadcasts such as NPR or 60 Minutes. Access World News is a great resource for students and faculty interested in current events from credible news sources. 

 

“With an unprecedented combination of global, regional and local news, including a unique merging of news formats (PDF image editions, web-only, full-text), this resource supports a diverse range of research needs across an array of academic disciplines for students and faculty. Includes current and archived news content from more than 12,000 sources spanning 200+ countries and territories. Easy-to-use interface.”

 

Major Newspapers: It’s important to have access to news at the national level as well as locally, especially in today’s world. Access World News makes it easy with the variety of regional publications and equally robust nationwide newspapers such as:

  • Baltimore Sun
  • Houston Chronicle
  • Chicago Sun Times
  • Washington Times
  • Catholic Standard (and many more Catholic news sources)

 

Unique Features: Access the information you need with ease by utilizing some of the following tools and attributes:

  • Search by map
  • Full color PDF titles available
  • Full integration with Primo launch coming
  • Easily cite, email, or save articles 
  • View news in multiple formats: full-text, web-only, and images

 

Click here for a quick tutorial on navigating Access World News! 

 

The Archivist’s Nook: A Garden for Catholic Girls – The History of St. Rose’s Technical School

A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the property of St. Rose’s Technical School, 1939. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

In the north-west part of Washington DC, there was a school that educated and housed girls who had nowhere else to turn. Founded in 1868 by the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, the school’s focus was girls from the ages of 14 to 18 who were orphans and in need of educational and spiritual guidance. In 1928, the head of the school, Sr. Mary Gabriel, said that “children from 14 to 18 years of age need loving care and supervision more than at any other period in their lives. Their lifetime habits and characteristics begin to crystalize during this formative period”[1]. The Sisters of Charity directed every aspect of the girls’ lives, from their studies to their spiritual growth to their recreational activities. This guided approach was implemented in order to “make of them capable self-respecting Christian women”[2]. When the school year was not in session, the Sisters would take the girls to Camp Saint Rose in Mayo, Maryland. The students would be able to go to the beach, play games, and enjoy some well-deserved rest.

Pictures of Camp St. Rose, 1936. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Celebrating Mass in their chapel, Rosa Mystica, a number of chaplains served the community and school until its closing in June of 1946. The first chaplain was Cardinal Bonaventure Cerretti, who started his service at the school in 1910 until 1916 when Archbishop John A. Floersch, D.D. took over. The student newspaper recounted an amusing anecdote from the inaugural cleric, quoting “that Monsignor C[h]eretti confessed his real motive in stopping to offer his services was an ‘honest-to-goodness’ breakfast”[3]. Other chaplains who served the school were Bishop George Leo Leech, D.D., J.C.D., Rt. Rev. Msgr. Francis Edward Hyland, Bishop Leo Binz, and Very. Rev. Msgr. Donald M. Carroll, J.C.D. Not only would the priests celebrate Mass for the students and Sisters, but they would also celebrate the sacrament of marriage for students who had found love. 

The Chapel of St. Rose’s Technical School, photo taken between 1935 and 1940. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Many of the girls who attended St. Rose’s Technical School went on to lead successful personal and professional lives! Some got married, so entered the religious vocation and some continued their education. Examples of the schools that St. Rose’s graduates went on to study at St. Joseph’s, Dunbarton College, and Trinity College. Many of the students also went on to become nurses at Providence Hospital, St. Agnes Hospital, and Jenkins Hospital[4].

St. Rose’s Technical School Library, n.d. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

As time went on though, enrollment dropped. There was an effort to bring in “day students” who would not be living at the school, but who could participate in the institution’s stellar academics program. In a letter written to Archbishop Curley of Baltimore in 1945, Sister Serina, the President of St. Rose’s Technical School, laid out the predicament that faced the school: “At present, however, our registration is much smaller than in former years, people are better able to provide for their children and demands for total care of adolescent girls are fewer. In light of these and other impinging factors, superiors of our community have suggested that we offer our excellent school facilities to other girls who could not afford the higher tuition elsewhere”[5]. Although this plan was approved by Archbishop Curley, it did not last very long. The Community Chest, the organization that helped fund the school, approved the plans to accept day students (for the price of $10 a month!) but soon expressed concerns about the growing cost to fund the burgeoning student population. At a special meeting held on January 21 of 1947, it was decided to shut down the school and transfer the property to St. Ann’s Infant Home. In a letter to the Director of the Community Chest, the Sisters echo the reasons for the decline in attendance and the closure of the school, “due largely to Social Security and other forms of government endowment, combined with the fact that girls today are equipped at an earlier age to meet life’s problems”[6]. With these daunting social and economic changes, the school was officially shut down on July 25, 1947. The Sisters who worked at the school were sent to serve in other ministries and the remaining girls who could not support themselves were transferred to Saint Vincent’s Home.

A room within St. Rose’s Technical School, n.d. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

St. Rose’s Technical School operated for less than 80 years, but in that time the Sisters made a significant impact on the lives of young orphan girls. With no other place to go, the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul nurtured and taught generations of future nurses, professionals, Sisters, wives, and mothers. To learn more about the impact of St. Rose’s Technical School, please read Dr. Maria Mazzenga’s blog post on the scrapbook that the students put together during World War II.

For more information, check out our Finding Aid on Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC!

 

 

 

Citations:

[1] ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, Box 48, Folder 2 

[2] ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, Box 48, Folder 2

[3] ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, Box 48, Folder 2

[4] ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, Box 48, Folder 2

[5] ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, Box 48, Folder 2

[6] ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, Box 48, Folder 2