The Archivist’s Nook: Christopher J. Kauffman – American Catholic Historian

Guest blogger Tricia Pyne. Ms. Pyne is director of the Associated Archives at St. Mary’s & University in Baltimore, MD. She earned her doctorate in U.S. history from The Catholic University of America. Dr. Kauffman was on her dissertation committee.

Dr. Christopher J. Kauffman, educator, scholar, mentor, husband, father, colleague, and friend passed into the hands of God on January 30, 2018.

Dr. Kauffman was the youngest of four children born to Dr. Daniel E. Kauffman and Bernice O’Brien, in St. Louis, Missouri. He was raised by his mother and maternal grandfather after the premature death of his father. He attended parochial schools before entering St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, where he earned his B.A. Graduate studies at St. Louis University followed, where he earned a M.A. and Ph.D.

His first meaningful foray into U.S. Catholic history was through a series of institutional histories he was commissioned to write. The first was a two-volume history of the Alexian Brothers (1976) followed by histories of the Knights of Columbus (1982), the U.S. Province of the Society of St. Sulpice (1989), the founder of the Glenmary Home Missioners (1991), the U.S. Catholic healthcare system (1995), and the Marianists in the United States (1999). The writing of institutional histories was a genre Dr. Kauffman not only mastered, but helped to transform.

Dr. Christopher Kauffman poses near a few of his many Catholic histories. (Image: Special Collections, The Catholic University of America)

While researching and writing these works, he also served as general editor for two highly-regarded series, the six-volume Makers of the Catholic Community (Macmillan), commissioned for the bicentennial of the establishment of the U.S. Catholic hierarchy and published in 1989, and the nine-volume American Catholic Identities: A Documentary History (Orbis Books) published over the period 1999-2003. If his institutional histories had established him as one of the field’s leading historians, the influence of these two series was even more far-reaching. Both encompassed a broad range of topics associated with U.S. Catholic life that represented the evolution of the field’s historiography with volumes dedicated to the issues of gender, race, ethnicity, regionalism, spirituality, Catholic thought and practice, and episcopal leadership. Makers of the Catholic Community signaled the sea change that had been occurring within the field with its shift from traditional ecclesiastical history to the new models of social history. American Catholic Identities reflected his ongoing commitment to recognizing the diverse experiences of the people that comprise the U.S. Catholic community.

In September 1989, Dr. Kauffman began another important phase of his life when he entered academia with his appointment to The Catholic Daughters of the Americas Chair in American Catholic History at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., a position he held until his retirement in 2008. In this role, he instructed undergraduates and graduate students in the classroom and served on the committees of many M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations.

His greatest contribution to the profession, however, began when he took over as editor of the U.S. Catholic Historianin 1983, a position he held for the next 30 years. This was not the first journal he had been associated with in his career. While in St. Louis, he had served as associate editor of Continuum, the journal founded by his close friend and mentor, Justus George Lawlor. The experience helped prepare him for this new undertaking. To describe Dr. Kauffman as an editor, or the U.S. Catholic Historian, as a journal, however, does not convey what he achieved through this publication or what it came to represent to the profession. He used the journal, with its distinctive thematic format, to promote new scholarship, provide a forum for diverse and frequently underrepresented voices, encourage dialogue across disciplines, and challenge both contributors and readers to examine issues from new perspectives.

Dr. Kauffman poses with several books he edited as part the Makers of Catholic Community series he edited in this 1990 photo. (Photo by Denise Walker, Catholic University Archives)
Baltimore Archbishop William Borders gifts Pope John Paul II with the series of books edited by Dr. Kauffman and published in 1989, Makers of the Catholic Community. (Image courtesy Archdiocese of Baltimore)

Dr. Kauffman’s contributions to the profession were recognized with his election as president of the American Catholic Historical Association in 2004 and at a conference organized by the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism the following year aptly entitled “The Future of American Catholic History.” His gifts to the larger Catholic community in his role as historian will be longer lasting. Through his commitment to exploring what he described as “the interaction between religion and culture and between faith and lived experience so as to provide an integrated perception of the organic character of Catholic life” he helped to broaden and enhance how we understand the U.S. Catholic experience. To honor his memory and continue his legacy, an effort is underway to fund the Christopher J. Kauffman Prize in U.S. Catholic History with the American Catholic Historical Association. The prize is to be awarded to the author of a monograph that provides new and/or challenging insight to the study of U.S. Catholic history. Please contribute today at: https://achahistory.givingfuel.com/make-a-gift-to-the-acha.

 

 

 

The Archivist’s Nook: The Manternach-Pfeifer Papers – Life, Love, and Joy Their Way

Cover of the 1991 Teacher’s Edition of This Is Our Faith. Manternach-Pfeifer Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Guest author Tricia Campbell Bailey is a graduate of the Catholic U. Library and Information Science (LIS) Department.

Before I returned to school to become an archivist, I spent 20 years as a journalist and corporate communications specialist. Much of that time was spent on science and technology writing; I quickly learned how to break down technical information clearly and how to find the “hook” that lurks in every story beneath the technical details and scientific jargon. In fact, the most important lesson I learned as a writer was: There’s no such thing as a boring assignment.

Happily, when I took on my first archival project as a CUA graduate student, I learned that that lesson applied to archival work, as well. And last month, when I returned to CUA as a part-time archives assistant, I discovered it all over again. Every boxful of papers and every crumpled photograph tells a story. On the surface, this story is about two religious educators and business owners — but it’s also about faith, love, and living life on one’s own terms.

The collection, newly acquired by the Catholic University Archives, is the personal papers of Janaan Manternach and Carl Pfeifer, who revolutionized Catholic education for children beginning in the 1960s. Together they wrote multiple religious education textbooks and curricula, along with many columns, books, and articles about the best way to teach children about the Catholic faith.

Revamping the Catechism

Until the 1960s, religious instruction in the U.S. was based on the Baltimore Catechism, which used a rote question-and-answer format that many children found difficult to engage with. However, many Catholics today learn about their faith very differently — largely due to Manternach and Pfeifer’s work.

In the late 1950s, the National Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) Center became aware of Sister Mary Janaan (born Shirley Marie Manternach), a young Franciscan sister from Dubuque, Iowa who incorporated poetry, art, and music into her religion class at an inner-city Chicago school. In 1960, she was reassigned to Washington, D.C. to study Religious Education at The Catholic University of America — and to work with CCD Director Rev. Joseph Collins on a textbook series to replace the Baltimore Catechism.

Pfeifer and Manternach (third and fourth from right) at a conference in Rome, ca. late 1960s or early 1970s (pre-1976). Manternach-Pfeifer Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Three years later, in a graduate class at CUA, Sister Mary Janaan met Father Carl Pfeifer, a young Jesuit priest and teacher from St. Louis. He shared her interest in making religious education more accessible to children, and she eventually proposed to the CCD Center that he be assigned to work with her on the textbook project. This sparked a professional and personal partnership that was to last for more than 40 years.

“I Could Not Live Without Him”

From 1963 to 1975, Sr. Manternach and Fr. Pfeifer were co-assistant directors of the CCD Center, where they not only authored the Life, Love, Joy textbook series but also represented the Center to diocesan directors nationwide; consulted for various Church religious education groups; and were instrumental in the creation of the National Conference of Diocesan Directors (NCDD). In 1975, they left to form their own freelance writing business, also called Life, Love, Joy.

Together, they traveled to dioceses across the country introducing the series and training catechists. For example, notes from Manternach’s notebook point to her love of using art and music in her teaching, and to finding ways to engage children through stories: “The Bible’s not enough! Generate spinoffs – poetry – music – story – art/culture rises up around it – multiple tellings.”

But by this time, they were discovering something else — their successful professional partnership was becoming something more. In 1976, both Sr. Manternach and Fr. Pfeifer requested and received permission to be released from their vows, and they were married on November 20, 1976. In her personal writings from the early 1980s, Manternach notes candidly, “I decided to marry him because gradually I became aware that I could not live without him.”

Leaving religious life caused some temporary backlash against the two in the Church, but their success as catechists and devotion to their work earned them forgiveness, and they continued to be influential in the religious education movement even as laypeople.

Pfeifer and Manternach in front of their home in Arlington, VA., December 1985. Manternach-Pfeifer Papers, Special Collections, Catholic University.

A Life of Love and Joy

 In addition to the Life, Love, Joy series, which was revised many times (it was later known as the Silver Burdett Religion Program, Growing in Faith, and finally This is Our Faith), the couple wrote syndicated columns for many Catholic publications and traveled extensively to present workshops and lectures. In 1985, both Pfeifer and Manternach received their Doctor of Ministry degrees from St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore.

Far beyond their passion for their work, however, the collection’s extensive amount of correspondence reveals the human side of the couple. An entire box of the collection is reserved for Manternach and Pfeifer’s holiday newsletters, which they circulated to their wide-ranging circle of friends and family at Christmas and Easter. Despite the initial controversy around their transition from religious life, two bulging folders contain well-wishes for their 1976 wedding. Both stayed in regular touch with their families in the Midwest. And although they were unable to have children of their own, they doted on their four godchildren. Extensive correspondence from the early 2000s shows that Manternach and her goddaughter Angela communicated almost daily, often through multi-page handwritten letters and photo collages.

In the early 2000s, Pfeifer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, and he and Manternach returned to Manternach’s home state of Iowa to care for him and for her elderly mother. Pfeifer died of complications from Alzheimer’s in 2007; Manternach, now in her 90s, lives on her own in Dubuque, about 25 miles from her hometown of Cascade. She remains active as an author; most recently she published I’d Do it All Over Again and I’d Do it Better: A Caregiver’s Journey through Alzheimer’s (ACTA Publications, 2020).

The Manternach/Pfeifer collection has not yet been fully processed, but work is underway and a full online finding aid will be available. This collection is a rare glimpse into two people who spent decades passionate and joyful about their faith — and about one another. Their lives and work can best be summed by a quote from Manternach found scrawled in a notebook with other thoughts on catechesis: “Hope is part of the structure of most of our existence.”

Works Cited

Manternach, D. (n.d.). Janaan Manternach and Carl J. Pfeifer. Biola University. Retrieved February 18, 2021, from https://www.biola.edu/talbot/ce20/database/janaan-manternach-carl-pfeifer

Carl Pfeifer Obituary, 1929-2007. (2007, July 15). The Washington Post. https://www.legacy.com/amp/obituaries/washingtonpost/90699372

The Archivist’s Nook: The Priestly Labors of John M. Hayes

Guest author is Steve Rosswurm, Professor of History, Emeritus, at Lake Forest College, and author of The FBI and the Catholic Church (2009), The CIO’s Left-Led Unions (1992), and Arms, Country and Class (1987). 

Fr. John M. Hayes, n.d. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, recently named the first Afro-American cardinal of the Church, more than once has pointed to Monsignor John M. Hayes (1906-2002) as the cleric who inspired him to become a priest.  Prior to that, Hayes also had “attracted” another young man to the Catholic priesthood: the sociologist and novelist Father Andrew Greeley, who dedicated Golden Years, part of the O’Malley family saga, to the monsignor.

Hayes did much in Chicago besides influencing Gregory and Greeley.  He served for years at St. Carthage, where he first encountered the Gregory family, and for even longer at Epiphany from he retired in 1976.  He was involved in the civil rights movement – heading up a group of priests who went to Selma in 1965 – and other social justice issues.  He was named a monsignor in 1963.

The four years that Hayes spent at the Social Action Department (SAD) of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, though, are often forgotten. This installment of the archivist’s nook focuses on his tenure there.

For two reasons, Hayes was the only person the SAD considered for their new position.  First, as a Chicago labor priest mentored by Monsignor Reynold Hillenbrand, he had actively supported union organizing drives and strikes.  Hayes, moreover, had taught at Catholic labor schools and participated in the Catholic Worker movement.  His talk in 1938 at Summer School for Social action for Priests not only nicely summarized the possibilities for social-action work for priests, but also solidified his reputation throughout the country.

Fr. Raymond McGowan, Director of the NCWC Social Action Department, with Linna Bresette, and two unidentified men, n.d. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Second, Hayes was well suited for SAD’s future plans.   It had spear-headed the Church’s turn to the Catholic working class that had begun in 1935.  This move, a way to “restore all things in Christ” by implementing Catholic social teaching as laid out in Rerum Novarum (1891) and Quadragesimo Anno (1931), focused on educating and supporting clerics in the drive for unionization in industries where Catholics comprised a large proportion of workers.  As a way of doing this, the SAD had organized and overseen priests’ labor schools throughout the country.  It also had acted as a clearing house and organizing center for labor priests’ local activities, especially in the industrial heartland.  The SAD staff, including Monsignor John A. Ryan and Father Raymond McGowan, were spread thin by the time Hayes arrived in 1940.

Hayes accomplished at least three significant things during his tenure at the SAD from 1940 through early 1944.  One of his first acts proved to be the longest lasting and most significant.  On December 1, 1940, the first issue of Social Action Notes for Priests appeared.  For clerics only, this newsletter connected labor priests throughout the country, keeping them informed, notifying them of resources, boosting their spirits, and, influencing their thinking.  By June, 1944, about 700 were on the subscription list; that number more than doubled in the next two years and continued to grow well into the 1950s.

Second, Hayes engaged in an extraordinary correspondence with labor priests throughout the country.  In an effort to search out the names of priests interested in social action, he wrote inquiry letters to many areas of the country.  He also sent out detailed questionnaires concerning clerical labor activity and provided summary reports in Social Action Notes.

A later issue of Social Acton Notes for Priests. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Much of Hayes’ correspondence, though, originated in response to letters from throughout the country.  Labor priests, both veterans and novices, wrote to him because he had information and answers.  Hayes provided advice, shared resources and contacts, spread the news about successes and defeats, and offered encouragement. When necessary, moreover, he intervened in the internecine warfare that periodically broke out in Catholic labor circles.

Amidst all this work, finally, Hayes produced a remarkable paper: “Priests and Reconstruction – a Few Thoughts.”  Derived from Hayes’ immersion in CIO organizing campaigns in Chicago, his study of current economic conditions, and his work with Hillenbrand, “Priests and Reconstruction” decisively re-conceptualized Catholic thinking about society and salvation.

Catherine Schaefer; Fr Raymond McGowan, Fr George Higgins. n.d. Special Collections, Catholic University

Hayes began with “radical evils” in America’s “economic side of life” because they were both “fundamental and causative.”  The “physical results” of these evils – some institutional and others individual – were an “inequitable distribution of property” and “inadequate incomes.”  The “resulting spiritual loss” was sizeable: “economic immorality” involved “at least in some cases, serious sin;” “the working out of the system” leaves “people so materially depressed as to handicap virtuous living” or “impels the well-to-do and others to obsession with business or dishonesty and injustice.”  “[S]piritual losses” were “accentuated” among the “poor” and ‘reformers,’ Hayes argued, when the Church was “indifferent to, or ineffective in, attacking the causes, not to speak of alleviating existing hardships.”

How ought the Church and its clergy respond?  “[I]ndividual righteousness,” of course, deserved attention, but, drawing upon Papal teaching, Hayes argued that “We should influence social-economic life, directly and indirectly.”  It was true that “Church exists” to “unite men with God in Heaven,” but this was a “long earth-bound process.”  The work of “building a good natural order” could “not be distinguished in practice” from that of “enhancing supernatural life.”

Hayes’ assertion that the road to salvation was a “long earth-bound process” meant not a retreat from the world into spiritual enclaves, but rather a courageous encounter with it was an extraordinarily important insight and breakthrough.  “Priests and Reconstruction” more generally indicated the theological and sociological bases upon which the Church would operate for the next decade or so.

Hayes, however, was not at the SAD during that period.  Sometime in late 1943 or early 1944, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, so, at his doctor’s recommendation, he went to San Antonio, which the pro-CIO Bishop Robert E. Lucey headed.  There, after recovering, he taught at Incarnate Word University, served as Lucey’s social action director, and regularly wrote columns for the diocesan paper.  In 1953, he returned to Chicago.

Coda.  Another Chicago priest, Father George Higgins, replaced Hayes at the SAD and remained there until 1980.  For many of those years, he chaired the department.

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Catholic University’s C.C. Chang and Why We Encourage You to Know Him

Our guest blogger is Tian Atlas Xu, who is a student worker at the University Archives and a PhD candidate in US history at the Catholic University of America. His research examines the role of white intermediaries between non-white minorities and the administrative state in turn-of-the-century United States. He has received support from various research institutions, including the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. 

 

A man and his tornado machine caught our attention; a trans-Pacific life story was discovered behind the scene.

Dr. Chang’s interview in The Catholic University’s Envoy magazine, published in February 1973, was one of several rare accounts of his immediate reflection after the 1972 visit. Courtesy of ACUA.

The story begins in an ordinary afternoon last winter, when my supervisor brought a dated Catholic University magazine, the Envoy, to a dimly lit back office at Aquinas Hall. As the only Asian person working in the University Archives, I was simply intrigued to see an Asian face in that magazine. The article that caught our attention was entitled “Scientist Views Change in China,” and the scientist in question was Dr. Chieh-Chien Chang, a prestigious Chinese American scholar at Catholic University in the 1960s and 70s. The publication date was February 1973, one year after President Richard Nixon’s historic visit to mainland China. It was also several months after the scientist’s first trip to his country of birth in more than two decades. 

At that time, archives staff had been aware of Dr. Chang’s scientific achievements. After all, his photo with the tornado machine, a simulator of natural tornadoes to study “peculiar elements responsible for near-the-ground destruction,” has appeared in the University’s course catalogs and documentary histories since the late 1960s. We also knew he had co-founded the Space Science and Applied Physics Department at Catholic in 1963, and that he had laid the foundation of the University’s long-term partnership with NASA. According to the administrative accounts, students enjoyed his classes; and from his pictures with the tornado machine, he was clearly enjoying the passionate love affair between a lab and its creator. The 1973 article was not meant to add anything new.

But it did, in totally unexpected ways. We soon realized that Dr. Chang’s visit to China in 1972 was part of a larger-than-life moment in US-China relations: after more than two decades of intellectual blockade, it was the first time that a large number of American scientists and their colleagues in mainland China engaged in direct conversation with each other. More importantly, we discovered that Dr. Chang had witnessed many moments like this in his life. He was a village kid who carved his way into a warlord-sponsored Chinese university in Manchuria; at the age of twenty-three, he saw the mighty Japanese Imperial Army occupied his fertile but helpless motherland; he fled to Beijing with his schoolmates and, as a young lecturer in aeronautics at Tsinghua University, developed one of the first monoplanes in China with his Chinese colleagues; and in the 1940s, he became a student of Theodore von Karman, a key figure in the development of aeronautical sciences, not only in the United States, but also in the China as we know it today. The list goes on and on.

Dr. Chieh-Chien Chang and the Tornado Machine. Courtesy of ACUA.

We set out to piece together his life story through documents in English and Chinese. It was the early months of the pandemic, and Covid-19 was called by all kinds of names hostile to Chinese and Chinese Americanness. The pandemic caught the trans-Pacific academic community in the middle, and a new campaign for the decoupling between Chinese and American scientists appeared on the horizon. But at the same time, the turbulent experience of Dr. Chang and his generation of Chinese American scientists beckon to us all the more.

Dr. Chieh-Chien Chang and the Tornado Machine. Courtesy of ACUA.

His generation tells a story of difficult choices during the Cold War, of the damage done, not only by the revolutionary culture in China, but also by McCarthyism and xenophobia in the United States. It turns out that the tornado machine was a small piece of Cold War history, not about confrontation and fear, but about a Chinese American’s personal identity struggle and heartfelt yearning for peace: in the 1960s, Dr. Chang chose to move on from his earlier research of missiles, planes and military satellites; his attention turned towards the lives impoverished by natural disasters on the planet earth, such as tornadoes. His right to choose was profoundly American, yet his freewill bent towards love for both China and the United States. 

Dr. Chang (second row, first from the left) and his peer Chinese scientists during their studies at Cal Tech, early 1940s. Courtesy of the Online Museum of Chinese Academicians.

What was initially designed as a blogpost quickly develops into an online exhibit. Our technician braved the archives to dig up nuggets of Dr. Chang’s experience at Catholic in the 1960s and 70s. The scattered memories of him in American and Chinese sources were sifted and carefully knitted to recapture a trans-Pacific life that had touched on many. Emails were exchanged between us and Dr. Chang’s alma mater, the Northeastern University of China, which, after his unwavering mediation since retirement, had restored its long-lost name in 1993. We learned about his exile with other Chinese scholars during the Second World War and the group’s forced migration from the Bohai Bay to the mountainside of Tibet; we saw his sunny smile in the early 1940s, when he stood with a group of young Chinese scientists celebrating a wartime US-China alliance at Pasadena, California. We even discovered the picture of a symposium banquet in plasma physics in 1963, right here in Washington, where Dr. Chang, a typical husband of the Second World War generation, seemed to be the only scholar to bring his wife to the occasion. 

Plasma Space Sciences Symposium Banquet on June 13, 1963. This symposium marked the beginning of Dr. Chang’s career at Catholic University. Courtesy of ACUA.

We are now sharing these details with you. The online exhibit takes you to forgotten times and unfamiliar territories, where an aspirant young engineer built his career at a time of war and national humiliation. It also provides fresh insights into the history taking place here in America, a land of opportunities that offered this Chinese American the environment to thrive while driving many others away. It confirms that, at the Catholic University of America, Dr. Chang’s transnational career came to its most prominent fruition. Correspondence from Washington, Beijing, and Taipei competed in his Pangborn Hall office, and his busy itinerary connected friends and colleagues of two continents. The exhibit does not give easy answers to scholars’ choices amidst political storms and international strife. But one thing is certain: to attract more transnational talents like Dr. C.C. Chang, America must stick to the generous principles that have inspired them to come and persuaded them to stay. 

Find our new exhibit on Dr. Chang here.

 

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Saving Black Catholic History – The Cyprian Davis, O.S.B. Papers

Guest blogger, Dr. Cecilia Moore, is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton and faculty member of the Degree Program for the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana. Dr. Moore with Dr. C. Vanessa White of the Catholic Theological Union and Fr. Paul Marshall, S.M., Rector of the University Dayton, co-edited Songs of Our Hearts and Meditations of Our Souls: Prayers for Black Catholics, St. Anthony Messenger Press (2006).

Dr. Cecilia Moore with Father Cyprian Davis, taken by Kathleen Dorsey Bellow at St. Meinrad in December 2014.

In August 2015, Dr. Kathleen Dorsey Bellow, Father Kenneth Taylor, and I spent four days in the basement of the Saint Meinrad Seminary Library.  We were there to sort, curate, and pack more than 40 years of archives documenting the lives of black Catholics in the United States that Father Cyprian Davis, O.S.B. saved.  When we made the plans to do this work, we expected that Father Cyprian would be working alongside us, but he had died that May. Graciously and generously, Archabbot Justin Duvall, O.S.B.  allowed us to go forward with the plan and agreed to cover the shipping costs.    By the time we finished, Father Taylor had a van full of boxes containing the archives of the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus (NBCCC) to be donated to the Archives of the University of Notre Dame. There were also boxes of documents destined for the Archives of Xavier University of Louisiana for the Institute for Black Catholic Studies (IBCS) Collection and for the Black Catholic Theological Symposium (BCTS) Collection, a small collection of documents for the Archives of the University of St. Thomas for the National Office of Black Catholics Collection, and a very large of pile of boxes containing documents, ephemera, papers, books, and material culture, that are now the Cyprian Davis, O.S.B. Papers of  the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, part of Special Collections at the Catholic University of America.

How and why we came to do this work started a year earlier when Dr. Bellow and I visited Father Cyprian at Saint Meinrad in July 2014.  We both had studied with him at the IBCS and later became his colleagues as we joined the IBCS faculty and then served as IBCS administrators.  Over our years working together at the IBCS, we became friends with Fr. Cyprian, but it had been while since we had enjoyed his fine company in person.

Taken by Kathleen Dorsey Bellow at St. Meinrad in December 2014.

During our visit, Fr. Cyprian hosted us for refreshments and conversation in his spacious and comfortable office. It was filled with books, journals, works-in-progress, photographs of family and friends, and art.  It was the place where he wrote class lectures, homilies, articles, talks, and of course, The History of Black Catholics in the United States.  It was also where he engaged in his love of reading and conversation.  We had the best time with him.  Among the many things we discussed were his work revising The History of Black Catholics in the United States, politics, movies, books, and the need to find permanent homes for the NBCCC and BCTS archives which he had served as archivist for since 1968 and 1978 respectively.  These archives were held in a storage room in the basement of the Saint Meinrad Seminary Library.  When we volunteered to help him complete this mission, Father Cyprian gladly accepted our offer.

We returned to St. Meinrad in December 2014 to assess the work we needed to do. At that time, Father Cyprian took us to the storage room and we got our first look at the historical treasures he had saved over the past 46 years.  And, he had saved quite a lot.  A wall of deep shelves was loaded with large and small boxes of formal documents, letters, magazines, newsletters, bulletins, memos, conference programs, newspaper articles, books, tapes, films, photographs, event programs, manuscripts, notes, cards, etc.  It was amazing.  We spent hours taking boxes down and looking at their contents with Father Cyprian.  What a trip down “memory lane.” We knew many of the people attached to or responsible for the history that we held in our hands.  Many of the women and men at the heart of the contents of these archives had died, so we spent time remembering them, what made them fit for the battles they fought on behalf of black Catholics, and the personal qualities that made them so memorable and missed.  Others were still living, and we had a good time looking at their younger selves and discussing how their ministries in the black Catholic community had changed over the years in emphasis, intensity, and status. As we did this preliminary assessment, it became clear that there was a lot in the Saint Meinrad Library storage room that did not properly belong to the NBCCC, the BCTS, or the IBCS.

Cyprian Davis at his work. Courtesy of St. Meinrad Abbey.

There was a fourth archives that was hard to define because it was so eclectic.  It contained things that Father Cyprian had either written or helped to write and edit.  It documented the people and the places that over the past 50 years that had called on Father Cyprian to “tell” them their history.  Letters and cards revealed the vast network of people, from many different backgrounds, who reached out to him – to send him things that they thought were important to black Catholic history that he could use to write more of the history, to seek his advice about their work on black Catholic history, to tell him how much his work meant to them, their students, and their parishes, or to challenge him on points of the history he had written.  There were also dissertations, theses, conference papers, and articles written by people who were directly inspired to pursue research in black Catholic history by Father Cyprian.  By the end of the day, it was clear that Father Cyprian had an archives that needed a permanent home too.

When we suggested this to him, he demurred at first, but after thinking about it for a while he agreed with us and told us that he wanted his papers to be donated to the Catholic University of America.  He was happy that this trove of primary and secondary sources would assist future generations of historians committed to black Catholic history to continue researching, writing, and teaching an-ever more contextualized and rich history of Catholics of African descent in the United States.

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.

*** 

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: Walter Reuther – 50 Years Later

Today’s guest post is authored by Kimball Baker,  former graduate student of the Catholic University History Department.(1)

Walter Reuther with James P. Davis, Bishop of San Juan, at AFL-CIO Meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, February 1959. George G. Higgins Papers, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

A half-century ago, on May 9, 1970, America lost one of its greatest heroes, United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther, in the crash of a plane whose engine, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, was missing parts and had parts wrongly installed—including one part installed upside down. To this day, there is no conclusive proof of foul play, although it is widely suspected.

This tragedy, and several similar tragedies, occurred amidst a time like today, when progressive social reformers are battling valiantly to promote social justice in every area of American life. Therefore, it behooves us to take a fresh look at Walter Reuther and what he fought for, and to realize the large extent to which today’s workers and worker-justice activists are standing on Reuther’s shoulders.

Reuther, in turn, was standing on the shoulders of the workers and worker-justice reformers who preceded his rise to dominance as a leader in the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) during their organizing and 1935 founding. Reuther and his fellow workers and activists saw Industrial unionism as a direct outgrowth of a democratic-socialist vision for the United States, a vision in which workers and other Americans can thwart income inequality and play larger roles in determining their economic and political destinies.

John Brophy laying a CIO wreath with Dan Benedict and Walter Reuther in Mexico. 12/13/1954. John Brophy Papers, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

One cannot fully understand worker justice in the 1930s and 1940s without exploring the extent to which unions in those decades were affected by the relationship between the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) and its allies, and U.S. socialists and their allies (including the Catholic social-action movement). Communists and socialists were bitter foes long before the 1930s, and except for a brief period of cooperation during the Popular Front era of the 1930s (cooperation which ended with the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 23, 1939), UAW and other CIO unions were constant battlegrounds. Communist workers everywhere had to follow a line of complete subjugation of worker interests to the war aims and foreign-policy objectives of the Comintern (the Communist Party globally), which still and always included world domination. During World War II, CPUSA-led union factions hampered collective-bargaining activities (already hampered by corporate domination of wartime union-management relationships) by demanding no-strike pledges and extreme production speed-ups, and by downplaying workers’ concerns with low pay, meager benefits, lack of worker input, and unsafe working conditions.

From UAW’s founding, Reuther courageously led the union’s democratic-socialist coalition. He was a member of the Socialist Party in the 1930s until 1938, when he joined the Democratic Party, and he played a major role in UAW going from 30,000 members in 1935 to 400,000 members in 1938. He sought cooperation with the workers of every union faction, and was a veteran of the sit-down strikes and of the bitter three-year-long struggle to organize Ford Motor Company (featuring the famous photo of Reuther bloodied by company goons).

Walter Reuther’s World War II innovations, however, most dramatically exemplify his leadership. His defense-readiness plan was extremely effective, and could serve as a model for dealing with today’s coronavirus. And most significantly, in June 1945 he filed a brief with all war-production agencies recommending that in postwar, “Increased production must be supported by increased consumption, and increased consumption will only be possible through increased wages.” Indeed, he made this recommendation part of UAW’s then-current round of negotiations with General Motors by proposing that the company’s workers be given a 30-percent wage increase and that it not be accompanied by an increase in the price of GM cars. Reuther’s proposal didn’t go through, but it was a ground-breaking challenge to economic inequality in a ground-breaking manner and promises to play a key role in today’s crucial national debates.

Letter of October 24, 1949 announcing a Testimonial Dinner in honor of Walther P. Reuther. Phillip Murray Papers, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

Poet Robert Frost speaks of the importance of the “the road not taken”; and America’s not taking the road championed by Reuther set a discouraging tone for the country’s postwar years, when labor had to yield to corporate dominance and the country entered an era of excessive consumer abundance. Reuther was disappointed, but he still fought hard for worker justice (such as by supporting Cesar Chavez and farmworker organizing and by promoting public-sector unions), and he expanded efforts he had long made on other social-justice fronts, including civil-rights struggles, Vietnam War protests, and a greater voice for young people.

Unfortunately, this road called for but not taken has received woefully insufficient attention in the few major biographies of Walter Reuther. Nelson Lichtenstein, for example, in The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit, portrays Reuther after World War II as a champion of corporatism and consumer abundance, a portrayal which insufficiently accounts for Reuther having to row against the anti-labor current of that era and for his increased efforts in non-labor directions. Also, Lichtenstein neglects the positive anti-Communism which Reuther displayed and which helped propel him to the UAW presidency in 1947, helping bring about CIO’s expulsion of 13 CPUSA-led unions in 1949-50. Sadly, positive anti-Communism was soon replaced by the negative anti-Communism of the right wing and of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his ilk.

Ironically, during Reuther’s fight for his innovative challenge, James Matles, President of the CPUSA-led United Electrical Workers-CIO (UE), secretly negotiated with GM on behalf of the 30,000 company workers which UE represented. The UE-GM agreement unfortunately became a basis of the much weaker agreement which UAW eventually had to settle for.

Delegation of American labor leaders, including Walter Reuther, with West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, 1960s. Joseph D. Keenan Papers, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

In The Wage Earner, a highly-regarded Detroit labor newspaper, the paper’s editor, Paul Weber, commented in October 1945 on the Reuther challenge: “If Reuther succeeds in forcing GM, one of the country’s largest industrial empires, to redivide the fruits of its production, the day of gigantic profits in American business will be done … [T]he result may not be the end of capitalism, but it will certainly be the beginning of a new kind of capitalism.”

 

The actual result, as we know, was swallowed up in the machinations of runaway capitalists and right-wing politicians, who then gave us decades of assaults on workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively—including, in 1981, President Ronald Reagan’s firing of 12,000 striking members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, or PATCO (see Collision Course, by labor historian Joseph A. McCartin, Oxford University Press, 2011). Such assaults continue today, but thanks to the renewal of the democratic-socialist vision for America’s future, Walter Reuther’s “road not taken” promises to become a wide highway of worker justice and of social justice in general.

 

(1)Kimball Baker is the author of “Go to the Worker”: America’s Labor Apostles (Marquette University Press, 2010). For further reading about Walter Reuther in the 1930s and 1940s, he suggests The UAW and Walter Reuther, Irving Howe and B. J. Widick (Random House, 1949).

The Archivist’s Nook: Documenting Student Governance – John P. O’Connor and the National Student Association

Program Cover for July 1955 International Student Conference held in Birmingham, UK.

Today’s post is guest authored by Justin Gould, a MA student in Library and Information Science at Catholic University.

The collection of John P. O’Connor consists of materials collected by the eponymous man ranging from 1937 to 1967. These materials largely represent organizing efforts in student life during the mid-twentieth century, including reports, marketing materials, personal correspondence, and newspaper articles. The experience I had while processing this collection was educational, but also exciting and entertaining at times. 

John Patrick O’Connor was born on December 27, 1931. He graduated from Manhattan College in 1956, and remained active in collecting information about the United States National Student Association (NSA) until 1967. From its inception in 1947, the NSA was a confederation of college and university student governments. In 1967, it would be revealed that much of the NSA’s operations had been secretly funded by the CIA, as a perceived counterweight to Soviet-backed international student groups. While this may have led to O’Connor’s disengagement with the organization, the NSA would disavow its relationship with the CIA and continue operations until 1978.

Two publications – from the University of Wisconsin and Harvard – highlighting the 1947 founding of the United States National Student Association (USNSA)

While exploring the collection, I tried to puzzle out the views and beliefs of Mr. O’Connor, but always found myself unsure. He collected lists, names, and notes of all kinds, meticulously documenting the student organizing scene from the rise of the NSA in the 1940s, formed as a bulwark and western alternative to the International Student Union – a Soviet organ – to various student groups and movements in the 1960s, far beyond his graduation from Manhattan College. He collected official communist newspapers, unaffiliated left-leaning flyers and journals, the works of noted racists and antisemites (in smaller portions), far-right propaganda from the 1950s, and standard, mainstream journalistic retinue. From his correspondence and personal collection the only conclusion I can make is that the man was passionate, bent on understanding and deconstructing the forces behind student groups and student organizing, possibly recognizing that the youth of tomorrow are the greatest force for change.

A 1956 flyer showcasing a regional Congress of the National Federation of Catholic College Students. O’Connor collected materials related to student governmental organizations of all types across the US and internationally.

In the final periods of his collecting, he picked out newspapers from communist and left-leaning groups for their inclusion of articles exposing the influence of the national security apparatus in the student groups he worked in and around during the 1950s. These articles were published in the mid 1960s, and I can only assume the man had all but moved on from the day to day operations of the NSA and its affiliate groups by then. However, he was still fascinated by the mechanisms moving the world around him, and with this I can greatly sympathize.

I made the mistake early on of beginning with a physical inventory instead of a digital one, but that allowed me to make mistakes that would have been difficult to recover from on a digital scheme. When the collection was brought to me there was no original order to be truly found, so a full inventory and subsequent reordering was necessary. It was a task that, were I to do it again, I would start with a digital inventory. It took months, albeit part time, to finish cataloguing everything, and when I came out on the other end I understood vividly why archivists don’t typically do an item level inventory of a collection. Coming in at around 1,450 items, I wished that the collection had lent itself to a more concise way of processing. The completed collection, spanning four boxes, consists of hundreds of individual documents.

USNSA Summer Travel Abroad Poster, ca. 1950s.

The finding aid is available online.

The Archivist’s Nook: Keeping Up With The Woodsons

This week’s post is guest-authored by Ronnie Georgieff, a recent graduate of the Library and Information Science program at The Catholic University of America.

A letter from Walter Nelson Woodson to Cecilia Alfaretta Parker thanking her for the privilege to call her “my dear cousin.” American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, Cecilia Parker Woodson Collection, box 1, folder 2.

Often, we take for granted how blessed we are when it comes to the power of our technology. Communication is at our fingertips… messages to the ones we love quite literally take seconds to send and receive. Abbreviations, emoji’s, gifs are all used to express emotion and convey a message. Not to mention the numerous applications that are available for us to post and share big announcements in our lives.

Written on the back of the image in Charlotte Woodson’s handwriting, “This is Mrs. Lansing next to Aunt Mayne [seated top, right] and her sister next to me [seated bottom, right].” It is followed with a question by “Mayme” Montavon, “Looks like a giggling crowd doesn’t it? Does it become us?” American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, Cecilia Parker Woodson Collection, box 1, folder 26.

But in the late 1800s, early 1900s, Cecilia Parker Woodson, her family and friends, did not have this convenient form of contact. Rather, they wrote letters. All the letters within the collection, each handwritten in beautiful cursive, are not by Cecilia’s hand. Rather, they are from others, the majority from her husband, Walter Nelson Woodson and her daughter, Charlotte Virginia Woodson. Each letter is unique, whether it be the style of handwriting, the type of paper used, the envelopes chosen, or the stamps. Not to mention items such as pamphlets, newspaper articles that were saved regarding the Woodson family and announcements concerning them. The messages written therein are heartfelt, endearing, and contain a great deal of emotion that equally expresses love, joy as well as sorrow.

Given the task of digitizing the collection, the varying sizes of the letters and items presented me with a unique challenge. Some envelopes were very small, and other parts of the collection, such as portrait images, a notebook used to record recipes and a copy of the Ulster County Gazette could be quite large. When handling the collection, it was important to keep the fragile state of the paper in mind. Despite the excellent condition of the collection, many were quite brittle, worn and thin, and depending on the size and material, needed more care than the others.

Images of Victor Louis Tyree, Husband of Charlotte Virginia Woodson. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, Cecilia Parker Woodson Collection, box 1, folder 26.

I often found myself lost in the collection and reading the handwriting therein. But there was something about the paper itself that made this collection very much ‘human’ and resonated with me. There were blotted ink stains from pens, scratch-out marks where there omitted words, wear and tear from frequent usage, cuts from scissors where stamps were removed from envelopes, fine pins were newspaper articles were attached to the page… the list goes on. These simple little touches were easily captured in exceptional detail by the archive’s high-quality scanners.

The cover of Charlotte Woodson’s recipe book. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, Cecilia Parker Woodson Collection, box 1, folder 21.

With a collection that is a little over a hundred years old, I was reminded of several things. First, we appreciate the modern ways we can quickly communicate with our loved ones. Many of the letters written to Cecilia tend to mention the excitement upon receiving Cecilia’s letter or the anticipation of it being sent or received. Secondly, in a world filled with emoji’s and abbreviated texts, meaningful handwritten letters seem like a lost art. Thirdly, I am grateful that technology has advanced in such a way that we are able to permanently family stories and memories, such as these, for future generations.

Written on the back of the image in Charlotte Woodson’s handwriting, “Aunt Mayme and I in the door way. How do you like us. C.V.W.” American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, Cecilia Parker Woodson Collection, box 1, folder 26.

Take some time today to message a loved one… try something new- write a handwritten letter to a friend… and I highly encourage you to explore and read the digitized collection. It will captivate you and touch your heart just as it touched mine.  In a world filled with technology, you will gain a better appreciation for what has passed, what is present, and what will be.

You can view the Cecilia Parker Woodson Collection Finding Aid here.

The Cecilia Parker Woodson Digitized Collection will be available online soon.

Interested in reading more? Look at Maria Mazzenga’s Archivist Nook blog posts “Friends I’ll Never Meet” and “D.C. History at the Archives.”

Can get enough? Check out our Instagram page: @catholicu_archives where you can find a recipe for ‘Sunshine Cake’ (posted July 30th)

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Curating the Catechism

This week’s post is guest-authored by Mikkaela Bailey is a PhD student at CUA studying medieval history with special interests in women’s history, public history, and digital humanities. You can find her on Twitter: @mikkaela_bailey

Curation is a long, detailed conversation between individuals, offices, texts, and objects, as students from Catholic University’s History and Public Life class learned this semester.

It’s easy to evaluate an exhibit and poke holes in the choices made by its organizers. It’s far more difficult than I imagined to craft an exhibit.

With most of the logistics arranged long in advance by our professor for the class History and Public Life, Dr. Maria Mazzenga, our job as a class was focused on assembling and advertising the physical exhibit itself.

The first thing we had to do was break up the objects into thematic categories so we could decide what should be included in our display. Then, we had to plan how to best demonstrate the common themes between them and also establish continuity in the display. After that, we had to craft captions and marketing materials that communicated why our visitors should care about our work and choose to come see it.

We used minimal materials to set up the exhibit. Aside from the items featured, we added captions and some text as well as stands for the books and weights to keep the books open for display.

One of the ideas about organizing the books rested on the idea that the Eucharist is a central and essential element of the catechism and one’s first Communion is an important life event. Since our audience is likely to be heavily Catholic, there is resonance with their own experiences in the exhibit here. This thematic approach connected well with the objects in the exhibit, and inspiration flowed from that idea as we assembled catechisms aimed at children and teens in the same display case. One thematic element of change over time was the implementation of more children’s catechetical education as the age for first Communion shifted from around 13 to around 7 years of age.

The caption writing process was difficult, and you can see unique touches from the students who collaborated on them. We divided them between ourselves, working in groups of two or three to write them.

But, there were still two more cases to fill and many more objects to consider. In the first case, which we actually finished last, we installed the oldest books, including a Latin catechism from 1566. These 16th and 18th century books were connected by the vernacular languages in which they were printed. Printing educational materials in the vernacular was a very important emphasis of the Tridentine Catechisms, so grouping these non-English catechisms gave emphasis to the importance of the catechism worldwide, outside our own framework, and outside the Latin-based world of the church.

The central case features several interesting pieces, but it also provides context for the cases flanking it. This is where we chose to place the bulk of our textual engagement through questions we are asking the audience and a QR code linked to the digital exhibit.

A sneak peek at the finished display cases that will be on exhibit for the next few weeks!

At the end of this process, I am so thankful for teammates who were engaged from the beginning and expressed great passion for this project. I shudder to think of undertaking something like this alone! In fact, looking at the finished product, I feel as though no idea I had for the display was totally my own and I think almost every decision made was by committee. From the marketing materials to the captions and display case arrangements, this exhibit was completely collaborative and has benefitted from open communication and easy acceptance of constructive criticism. In public history, I think all of these qualities are essential for a successful, cohesive exhibit. This experience has been the highlight of my first semester as a PhD student at CUA!

This is an “insider’s perspective” of what it was like to arrange the items in the case while my co-curators directed me from outside the case. We had a challenging time arranging many of the items and it took a lot of collaboration to put it together.