The Archivist’s Nook: CUA’s Patriarch of Patristics

Photo courtesy of The Catholic University of America School of Theology and Religious Studies

As indispensable and central to Catholic University as Caldwell Hall, the School of Theology and Religious Studies has been an inseparable part of the identity of the University from its first days. But what makes up a good Theology School? The only way to ensure the proper cultivation of our future scholars and clergy is to provide them with the most distinguished professors.

The Johannes Quasten Medal for Excellence in Scholarship and Leadership in Religious Studies is awarded to those who dedicate their lives to the study of religion and who demonstrate unparalleled leadership within their respective fields, both within Catholic University and in the wider theological world, It is only fitting to explore the life of the man behind the award to fully understand the impact that he has had both on the School and the study of Christianity. 

Johannes Quasten was born on May 3rd, 1900 in Homberg-Niederrhein, Germany. After his years in primary school, Monsignor Quasten attended the University of Muenster where he earned his Doctorate in Christian Archaeology in 1927. Only the year before, in 1926, Msgr. Quasten was ordained a priest, thus beginning his scholarly and priestly journey all at once. Ever the jet-setter, in 1929 Father Quasten trekked to Rome to study at the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archeology. It was this further specialization that allowed him to go on research digs and participate in projects in Italy, North Africa, France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Holland, and Croatia.

Msgr. Quasten at his desk, enjoying some conversation! ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

It was during an archaeological dig in North Africa that Msgr. Quasten was approached about joining the faculty of The Catholic University of America. In 1938, our intrepid globe-trotting priest joined the Catholic Cardinal family! A tough but fair professor, Msgr. Quasten wrote prolifically about his specialty — early Christian history, liturgy, and patristics. He churned out book reviews, articles, and papers, but none compared to his magnum opus Patrology. Showcasing his expert knowledge and years spent in the field, this three-volume mammoth outlines the writings and contributions of the Early Church Fathers.

The first courses that Msgr. Quasten taught at CUA in 1938. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

Msgr. Quasten served as the Dean of the School of Sacred Theology from November 1945 until 1949. He was also awarded a Cardinal Spellman Medal in 1960 and was granted a Doctor of Humane Letters in 1976 from The Catholic University of America. It was this same year, 1976, that he was promoted to “Monsignor” with approval from Pope Paul VI. He later returned to his native Germany where he died on March 18th, 1987. 

Msgr. Quasten’s adventures took him all around the world, but his legacy is very much alive here at The Catholic University of America. He has made his mark by teaching countless academics and clergy, but the most tangible result of that legacy is the Johannes Quasten Medal which is given out each year. First established in 1985, the Medal is “the only academic award given by The Catholic University of America’s School of Theology and Religious Studies” (trs.cua.edu). On January 27th of this year, the School held the annual ceremony, granting the Medal to Dr. Mark Smith of the Princeton Theological Seminary. 

Help the Library Improve Searching for You and Your Fellow Students!

The University Libraries, teamed with Washington Research Libraries Consortium (WRLC), are looking for Catholic University students to take part in the SearchBox usability testing.

The testing should take 30-35 minutes. WRLC will award each participant a $10 Starbucks gift card.

What you’ll do

You’ll simply be asked to complete a few tasks by searching the library SearchBox and share your opinions and experience.

Where and When

Testing will occur completely online through Zoom on the following days:
• Monday, April 6, 11am – 4pm
• Tuesday, April 7, 11am – 4pm
• Tuesday, April 14, 11am – 4pm
• Wednesday, April 15, 11am – 4pm
• Thursday, April 16, 11am – 4pm

Undergraduate and graduate students are invited to take part.

If interested, please email to lib-electronicservices@cua.edu with your name, year of study (e.g. Freshman, Sophomore, Graduate Student), and at least two available times on the above test days.

The Archivist’s Nook: Help for Harvesters

This week’s post is guest-authored by Tricia Campbell Bailey,  a graduate student of the Library and Information Science program at The Catholic University of America.

The year was 1968, and Robert Roddy had a problem.

NMWC members, Feburary 1971.

Roddy, a hospital administration consultant for the Department of Health’s Migrant Health Program, was tasked with ensuring that the United States’ population of migrant farm workers had adequate access to medical care. Six years earlier, President Kennedy had signed the Migrant Health Act, which provided funds for public and private non-profit health clinics in counties with large populations of migrant farmworkers. However, studies showed that these initiatives were reaching only a small percentage of the migrant population, which had few resources and fewer legal protections. How to make up the shortfall?

Roddy reached out to a Midwestern nurse, hospital administrator, and religious sister named Mary Maurita Sengelaub. After becoming a nurse in 1940 and joining the Sisters of Mercy in 1945, Sr. Maurita taught nursing at Detroit’s Mercy College (now the University of Detroit Mercy) and earned a master’s degree in hospital administration in 1953. She served as an administrator at Mercy Hospital in Bay City, Michigan, and as president of St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Roddy hoped that Sr. Maurita could marshall other Catholic organizations to help the Migrant Health Program reach more workers. She wasted no time in doing so: as a member of the Conference of Major Superiors of Women (later the Leadership Council of Women Religious), Sr. Maurita recruited other members to create the National Council of the Migrant Worker Apostolate. At the same time, she was rising through the ranks of Catholic healthcare administration; in 1970, she became the first woman and first non-cleric to head the Catholic Hospital Association (“Celebrating a Life of Faith and Service at the Century Mark,” 2018).

Sister Thelma Marie Mitchell (second from left) and other NMWC sisters outside a community health clinic in the early 1970s.

Although the group Sr. Maurita founded would change names several times, it eventually was incorporated in Farmington Hills, Michigan, as the National Migrant Worker Council (NMWC). After the NMWC dissolved in 1994, the organization’s records sat in storage at the Archdiocese of Detroit. When diocesan archivist Heidi Christein discovered them in 2015, she determined that because the organization was more national than local, it was out of the diocese’s collection scope. Christein contacted the Catholic University Special Collections and offered to transfer the collection, which was readily accepted; and the 24-linear-foot collection was shipped to CUA in the summer of 2015 and an online finding aid is now available.

The collection — mainly business correspondence, invoices, meeting minutes, and grant applications — paints a fascinating picture of a group of dedicated people determined to help, yet eventually succumbing to mismanagement and personnel issues. But for more than 20 years, the NMWC did serve the U.S. migrant worker population in tangible ways, and its legacy has continued via some of the projects it spun off from the parent organization.

Members of the NMWC leadership in 1979.

Healthcare Delivery Through Outreach

The NMWC had two major sub-organizations. The first, the East Coast Migrant Health Project (ECMHP) was launched in 1970 and served migrant workers from Florida to New York by providing professional, bicultural staff to supplement health care delivery through outreach (Dohner 1990). Each year staffers traveled the same northward route the migrants took, providing services in community health centers along the way. The organization also created the East Coast Migrant Head Start Project, the first Head Start program for the children of migrant farmworkers. The Head Start project is the only part of the ECMHP that survives today; it directly provides services in 26 Head Start centers across the Southeast (“Welcome to East Coast Migrant Head Start Project”).

The second branch of the NMWC, the Midwest Migrant Health Information Office (MMHIO), was established in 1983 as the Midwest Migrant Health Center. MMHIO was separately incorporated after the dissolution of the parent organization; today known as MHP Salud, it “develops culturally relevant, cost effective programs which contribute to the success of existing migrant health resources” (“History, MHP Salud”). MHP Salud’s Camp Health Aide project began in 1985 and helps local Migrant and Community Health Centers establish and maintain health promotion programs, including programs for teens, substance abuse prevention and treatment, and a doula program.

Sister Mary Maurita Sengelaub (left) and another NMWC sister in the 1980s.

End of an Era

In the early 1990s, concerns began to arise about the direction of NMWC and its future. Records from this period mention the lack of a clear mission statement, a “tarnished image,” and “racial dynamics.” In 1994, the NMWC leadership voted to dissolve the organization due to inadequate funding; its two major projects were spun off as described above.

Sr. Maurita stayed active in Catholic health care until her death at age 101 in 2019; her legacy survived even though the NMWC did not. The collection reveals the dedication of the people, both religious and lay, who poured their talents into helping one of the country’s most vulnerable populations. Handwritten notes from migrant camp residents thank the sisters who embedded themselves in these communities. Photographs and slides show daily life in the camps and the bonds formed between residents and caregivers. And the correspondence and meeting minutes illustrate the NMWC leadership’s commitment to maintaining the organization and its work, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable problems. As Sr. Maurita told an interviewer on her 100th birthday: “What’s important is to be able to live our lives enabling others to live healthy, happy lives—especially the poor” (“Celebrating a Life of Faith and Service at the Century Mark,” 2018).

Special Collections at Catholic University houses records related to several other Catholic entities that have worked and continue to work with migrants. These include the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic  Charities USA, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart. Additionally, the papers of Msgr. George G. Higgins, Msgr. John O’Grady, and Bruce M. Mohler are also relevant.

The Archivist’s Nook: Lawrence Flick – Medical Crusader and Catholic Historian

As historians, archivists, and librarians, we address many subjects, including the history of disease. As the world of 2020 faces the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is worthwhile to consider another serious infectious disease that afflicted the world more than a century ago—and the man who, after surviving his own diagnosis of the disease, dedicated himself to its prevention and treatment.  The disease is tuberculosis, which primarily affects the lungs with bacteria spread person to person through tiny droplets released into the air through coughing and sneezing. The person who pioneered the research and treatment of this deadly disease was Dr. Lawrence Francis Flick (1856-1938). A devout Roman Catholic and German-American from western Pennsylvania, Flick was a dedicated medical doctor as well as a serious historian of his Church. His papers, which reside in the Special Collections of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D. C. document his work in both his fields of interest.

Portrait of Dr. Flick as First President of the American Catholic Historical Association (ACHA) in 1920. ACHA Records, Special Collections, Catholic University.

The ninth of twelve children, Flick was born on August 10, 1856, near Carrolltown in Cambria County, Pennsylvania. His parents were German immigrants with roots in Bavaria, John Flick and Elizabeth Sharbaugh (or Schabacher). He was educated at St. Vincent’s College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. It was also an adjunct to a Bavarian Benedictine Monastery, which trained priests for the order as well as the Pittsburgh diocese. After contracting Pulmonary Tuberculosis, the version that affects the lungs, Flick was forced to drop out and return home to recuperate. Somewhat better but still in poor health, Flick enrolled at Philadelphia’s Jefferson Medical College in 1877, the same year that the college became one of the first teaching medical colleges in the United States. Flick graduated in 1879 as a medical doctor and interned at Blockley, the Philadelphia charity hospital. Flick also devoted several years to curing himself, including a tour of the American west and eating an experimental diet. Apparently cured by 1883, Flick returned permanently to Philadelphia and had a remarkable career as a specialist in tuberculosis, and its prevention and treatment.[1]

Anti Tuberculosis poster of the American Lung Association, ca. 1930s, Courtesy of the Museum of Health Care.

Flick’s studies prompted him to argue that the disease was contagious and not hereditary, which contradicted the current school of thought. His efforts to isolate ‘consumptives,’ as those suffering from tuberculosis were then called, in special hospitals known as sanitariums, and to register their cases, was controversial, and opposed by many within the medical profession. Between 1892 and 1910, Flick’s efforts to educate the public prompted him to found the Pennsylvania Society for Prevention of Tuberculosis; the Free Hospital for Poor Consumptives; the Henry Phipps Institute for the Study, Prevention, and Treatment of Tuberculosis, where he was President and Medical Director from 1903 to 1910; and a sanitarium at White Haven, Pennsylvania, that he directed until 1935. His fellow Roman Catholics from all levels of society were generous in their contributions and assistance. Flick was also a promoter of the National Association for Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis (1904) and of its International Congress on Tuberculosis (1908). In addition to his fight against Tuberculosis, Flick was also in the forefront of combating the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 in Philadelphia.

A roadside historical marker honoring Dr. Flick erected in 1959 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission on Route 219 North, near Carrolltown, some 400 yards west of his birthplace. As a child I lived a few miles away and would frequently pass this sign while out driving with my family. Imagine my surprise years later, when beginning work as an archivist at Catholic University, to find we had the papers of this notable homeboy! [3] Photo courtesy of The Historical Markers Database.
Flick was the author of several books, including Consumption, A Curable and Preventable Disease (1903) and Tuberculosis, A Book of Practical Knowledge to Guide the General Practitioner of Medicine (1937). He also wrote many articles and book reviews that were published in The Ecclesiastical Review and the Catholic Historical Review. The latter published his 1927 magisterial article on Prince Demtri Gallitzin, the so called ‘Apostle of the Alleghenies,’ who did so much to bring the Catholic religion to the inhabitant of Flick’s native Western Pennsylvania. Flick died in Philadelphia July 7, 1938, and was buried in the cemetery of Old St. Mary’s Church. His son, Lawrence F. Flick, Jr., was a writer and editor of some note and two of Flick’s daughters wrote biographies of their father

What lesson then does Flick have for us in these times of uncertainty brought on by this pandemic? He is an example of how one person can make a difference in research, education, and, most importantly, the treatment of a terrible disease that resulted in its eventual mitigation. Flick said “Tuberculosis takes only the quitters,” those who got discouraged and gave up the struggle.[2] Flick was a fighter who would not be defeated. Perhaps someone reading this blog post will be such a person, a new Flick to defeat the Coronavirus, or some other as yet unheard of pestilence. We can only hope.

[1] James J. Walsh. ‘Dr. Lawrence F. Flick,’ The Commonweal, August 26, 1938, p. 445.

[2] Raymond Schmandt. ‘The Friendship between Bishop Regis Canevin and Dr. Lawrence Flick of Philadelphia,’ The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine (61:4), October 1978, pp. 284-286.

[3] Special Collections at CUA also houses the records of many Catholic organizations fighting disease and disaster, including the National Catholic War Council, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities USA, and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Also, thanks to TSK and staff for their assistance.

OLL Blog – Farewell to a Friend of Books

Manoel de Oliveira Lima offered to bequeath his library to Catholic University in a letter to the University's Rector in 1916
Letter from Manoel de Oliveira Lima to Bishop Thomas J. Shahan, Rio de Janeiro, 10/12/1916. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, The Catholic University of America.

Today marks the 92nd anniversary of the passing of Manoel de Oliveira Lima. The Brazilian diplomat and world renowned scholar had moved permanently to the United States with his wife Flora de Oliveira Lima to fulfill a dream. They arrived in 1921, settling in the nation’s capital with one main goal in mind : organizing his colossal personal library of approximately 40.000 volumes at the Catholic University of America (CUA). The donation of this treasure trove of books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, works of art and memorabilia was formalized in 1916 in a letter sent to University’s rector Bishop Thomas J. Shahan. The Board of Trustees promptly accepted the donation and agreed to the conditions imposed: Dr. Lima himself would be the librarian in charge, the collection should bear his name, and it was never to be dispersed or incorporated in the university’s general library. 

Ever since his retirement from the diplomatic service in 1913, Dr. Lima was planning to devote the rest of his life to become a full time scholar. He had travelled extensively, lecturing in the United States in 1912 after teaching a course in Stanford. In the fall of 1915, he had the honor to be invited by Harvard University to be the first occupant of the newly created Chair of Latin American History and Economy, which he accepted. Returning to Brazil in 1916, the Oliveira Limas had to patiently wait for safer travel conditions and ended up staying in their hometown of Recife in Brazil during World War I. 

Our Professorial Corner, The Harvard Illustrated Magazine. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Illustrated, v.17 (1915-1916), p. 87.

Boxes filled with books were shipped  straight to the CUA campus not only from Brazil but also from London and Brussels, the last locations of the diplomatic residencies in Europe. The organization of the library took longer than Dr. Lima and his wife expected. The extenuating work took a toll on his already fragile health and they went for a health-related trip to Europe in 1923. A tireless scholar, Lima found time to give a series of lectures to inaugurate the Chair of Brazilian Studies at the University of Lisbon before heading to Karlsbad, a famous spa town. The time spent in Lisbon, where he grew up and was educated, and the treatments at the sanatorium were reinvigorating, but more work awaited him back home. 

J. De Siqueira Coutinho, Manoel de Oliveira Lima, Bishop Thomas J. Shahan, Fr Bernard A. McKenna, Ruth Holmes at the Oliveira Lima Library on the 3rd floor of McMahon Hall. The Oliveira Lima Library, The Catholic University of America.

Upon his return, Dr. Lima was appointed Associate Professor of International Law in the School of Canon Law at Catholic University. He took great pleasure in lecturing and advising students while simultaneously focusing on the organizational work of the library, however his health continued to deteriorate. With the support of his wife and the librarian Ruth Holmes, he finally opened the Oliveira Lima Library to the public in 1924. The custom-made wooden shelves occupied rooms on the third floor of McMahon Hall while construction of Mullen Library was on the way. 

Unfortunately, Dr. Lima did not live to see his library installed in the space he had selected in the new building. On March 24, 1928, the founder of the Oliveira Lima Library passed away in his home in Washington DC. Bishop Shahan celebrated the Requiem mass at the Shrine, during which he described the late Professor as ”one of the foremost men of letters of the time”  and a “pioneer in the work of establishing Pan American amity and universal peace”.  (The Tower, Wednesday, March 28, 1928, p. 1 ).

Manoel de Oliveira Lima was buried at the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Washington DC. Per his instructions, his epitaph in Portuguese says only “Aqui jaz um amigo dos livros” (“Here Lies a Friend of Books” in English). 

Mount Olivet Cemetery, Washington D.C.

The Archivist’s Nook: Sr. Bowman Goes to Washington

Photo courtesy of: Sister Thea Bowman Cause for Canonization

Sr. Bowman’s life was one rich with literature, music, education, and spirituality. A scholar and teacher to elementary- to college-age students – and even bishops. Bowman contributed to Catholic education, liturgy, and experience through her outreach and writings on music and education. And like Father Cyprian Davis, she was both an educator of and advocate for the Black Catholic experience – its creativity, art, history, and contributions to the Church.

Photo courtesy of: Sister Thea Bowman Cause for Canonization

Born in 1937 and raised in Canton, Mississippi, Bertha Bowman converted to Catholicism at the age of nine – convincing her parents to do likewise. By the age of 15, she decided to join the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, taking the religious name “Thea” or “of God”. She entered her postulancy at the order’s motherhouse in La Crosse, Wisconsin in 1953. Having witnessed police brutality and mob actions against members of her community growing up, Bowman’s parents were understandably nervous about their young daughter departing to join an all-white order. In a 1989 interview, Bowman recounts that her father warned her, “They’re not going to like you up there, the only black in the middle of all the whites.” Her response: “I’m going to make them like me.”[1]

While Bowman struggled with discrimination and health issues during the next decade of her life, she would quickly prove herself a skilled educator, serving with her order in Wisconsin, and later, her home state of Mississippi. Arriving at Catholic University in the late 1960s, she entered Washington at a key moment in the post-Vatican II Church, Civil Rights Movement, and Women’s Rights Movement. As a Black Catholic religious sister, she was well placed to speak to the overlapping issues of all three movements.

Photo courtesy of: Sister Thea Bowman Cause for Canonization

During her tenure in Washington, Bowman gained further insight into her identity as an African-American religious sister. Her connections with the broader Church and global African community – both the diaspora and African students – reignited a passion that she would carry with her throughout the remainder of her life. She not only established the first class on Black literature on campus, but she became an advocate for African-American Catholicism beyond Catholic University. She soon became a speaker of the experience of the African community with the Catholic Church, both the trauma of the past and present as well as the creative output of the present and future.  Rhetoric and music were key interests of Sr. Bowman, both of which informed her approach to her teaching and spiritual practices. As she told CUA Magazine in 1990:

While studying literary theory, methodology and criticism at CUA I began to realize the extent to which music encodes values, history and faith of my people. While studying medieval ballads, I read an author who said the oral literary tradition no longer exists. I wrote a paper showing how the oral tradition is alive and well in the black community and how music is a way we have of preserving history and teaching values.

Photo courtesy of: Sister Thea Bowman Cause for Canonization

Bowman’s passion for teaching, rhetoric, and music was exemplified in the presentations she offered both on and off campus during her time in DC. She delivered a 1968 address on Black education at Howard University.[1] As recalled by the CUA English faculty, Bowman would perform African-American Gospel spirituals in traditional regalia for her fellow Catholic University students and faculty. These performances would then be followed by a talk on the rhetorical purpose of the performance’s various components from the words to the physical gestures.[2]

As both a MA and later doctoral student in English language and literature, she wrote her MA thesis (1969) and doctoral dissertation (1972) on St. Thomas More’s A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation. She was drawn to the rhetorical style of this text that More composed during his time imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Title page for Sr. Bowman’s 1972 dissertation

After finishing at Catholic University, Bowman returned to Mississippi, continuing to serve as an educator and advocate. She not only remained involved with her local communities, but traveled the nation (and world) speaking about Black music and literature within the Catholic Church. Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984, one of her final lectures was before the U.S. Catholic bishops in 1989. During this talk she performed an African-American spiritual, and invited the assembled bishops to stand, hold hands, and sing along. Bowman passed away in 1990, but her legacy of teaching, outreach, and advocacy continues as represented by her cause for canonization and scholarships in her name.

[1] Smith, Charlene & John Feister. Thea’s Song: The Life of Thea Bowman. Orbis Books, 106-9.

[2] Smith & Feister, 38.

The Archivist’s Nook: George Washington Sleeps Here – Special Collections of Catholic University

A page from the 1790 exchange in print between American Catholics and President George Washington. Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

While not a Roman Catholic, George Washington (1732-1799), renowned military leader of the American Revolution and groundbreaking first President of the United States, instead was a moderate Anglican in faith. However, throughout his life he socialized with many Catholics, ranging from the prominent Carroll family of Maryland to his many French and Polish born army officers, such as the Marquis de Lafayette and Kosciuszko. Washington also once attended a Catholic mass in Philadelphia and contributed funds towards the construction of a Catholic church in Baltimore. As Commander-in-Chief, he diplomatically banned the raucous anti-Catholic Guy Fawkes celebration in November of 1775.[1] Washington subsequently evolved into a mythic ‘Father of His Country,’ with Americans of every stripe honoring his memory and collecting relevant documents, art, and other memorabilia. American Catholics have certainly been part of this process. The President’s Day national holiday is a fitting time to take a look at the many Washington related collectable items housed in the Special Collections of The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C.

Copy of the Landsdown Portrait of Washington that was on display for several decades in Mullen Library. It is now in storage pending restorative work. Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

The Rare Books Department of Special Collections includes two notable Washington items. The first is a 1790 exchange of addresses with American Catholics, bound together with an 1857 edition. John Carroll of Maryland was selected as the first Roman Catholic bishop in the United States in 1789, the same year Washington became the nation’s first President. As one of his first official acts as bishop, Carroll wrote an address in March of 1790 on behalf of American Catholics congratulating the President on his office and complimenting him on his “respect for religion” and “unwearied attention to the moral and physical improvement of our country.”  In reply, he assured Catholics they were “equally entitled to the protection of civil Government” as well as thanking them for their Revolutionary War service. The second is a 1921 pamphlet titled George Washington and the Constitution of the United States authored by James Gibbons, Cardinal Archbishop of Baltimore and a founder of Catholic University. In it Gibbons extolled the virtues of The Constitution “as the greatest instrument of government that ever passed” and argued that by securing its adoption Washington “made all mankind his debtor forever.”

A piece of Cambridge Elm Tree associated with Washington, currently on display in the Aquinas Hall, Room 101, Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

The University Museum also has two interesting Washington related items. The first, originally thought to be the famous 1796 Landsdown Portrait by Gilbert Stuart or a Stuart sanctioned copyist, now appears to be one of possibly four or five apparently rogue copies by English born American landscape artist William Winstanley. After being on display in The Catholic Club of New York, it was donated to Catholic University ca. 1940 by Cardinal Francis Spellman. The second, is an alleged piece of the elm tree in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where, according to local legend, Washington assumed command of the Continental Army on July 3, 1775, during the Siege of Boston against the British. Sadly, the tree was chopped down in 1923.  However, a thousand pieces were salvaged as relics and distributed to interested parties. Father John J. Ryan gifted a piece to Catholic University in 1924, with an attending plaque stating it was “Presented by the city of Cambridge.”

National Catholic Celebration of the George Washington Bicentennial, May 28, 1932, at Catholic University. Special Collections.

The records of both the University Archives and The American Catholic History Research Center contain materials documenting the participation of Catholics in the bicentennial celebration of Washington’s birth. The George Washington Bicentennial Commission, established in 1924 by a joint resolution of the Congress of the United States and signed by President Calvin Coolidge, sponsored a series of nationwide celebrations in 1932 to the 200th anniversary. The Commission presented Washington on national, state, and local levels as farmer, soldier, and statesman rather than the largely fictitious caricature of popular culture. The National Catholic celebration was held on Memorial Day, 28 May 1932, at Catholic University, with nearly 60,000 people attending. A military field mass conducted in the Stadium as the service was broadcast from coast to coast on radio.[2] Finally, the Archives’ popular Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact comic book collection, widely distributed in Catholic parochial schools, includes their colorful take on the familiar story of the eventful life of the young Washington published in a 1947 issue.[3]

‘Young George Washington,’ Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact, vol. 2, n. 13, February 18, 1947. Special Collections, The Catholic University of America.

For more on Catholics and the American Revolution see also the July 3, 2016 Catholic News Service story.

[1] https://www.catholicstand.com/george-washington-catholics/

[2]George Washington Bicentennial Observance Collection Inventory, Catholic University.

[3]Thanks to TSK and MM.

The Archivist’s Nook: An Apostleship of the Laity – The St. Vincent de Paul Society

An Apostleship of the Laity: The St. Vincent de Paul Society

Later this month, a mosaic of Blessed Antoine Frédéric Ozanam will be dedicated in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception here in Washington, D.C. At that time, members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul will gather in celebration of their 175th year of existence. Though the Society’s name comes from their patron Saint, Vincent de Paul, a seventeenth century servant of the poor, Ozanam was the chief force behind the establishment of the organization in Paris, France, in 1833. As such, the Society became a member of the Vincentian Family, a group of Catholic organizations that includes the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.

On January 26th, 2020, a 30” x 20” mosaic of Blessed Antoine Frédéric Ozanam will be dedicated in the Vincentian chapel or “Miraculous Medal Chapel,” of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception here in Washington, D.C. The above is a likeness of the 4,000 stone mosaic.

Ozanam took his Catholic teaching seriously. A scholar of Catholic social doctrine, he was once accused of being all talk and no action. His response was to found a group of men whose goal was direct service to the impoverished of Paris. Soon after the founding, the members carried food and other necessities directly to the homes of the poor. Key to the Society’s identity is the “apostleship of the laity,” hence members were parish based and comprised of lay members who ministered to their own communities. Their 1834 annual report noted that:

We understand very well that charity must be done in secret, that the work must be unobtrusive. Here we are not strangers to one another; what we have done has been accomplished with the cooperation of one another. The principal end of our association is to do everything with one heart and one soul, of a sort that we recount to one another the different services we have delivered not to be adulated but to give advice and mutual encouragement, to give better service.[1]

“Frédéric Ozanam Accepted the Challenge of 1833,” cover, (Society of St. Vincent de Paul United States, 1933). This pamphlet commemorates the centennial of the establishment of the Society in the United States, emphasizing that they “accepted the challenge” to the lay apostleship to serve those in need.

Reflecting the necessity for such services, particularly in a rapidly industrializing world, the Society expanded rapidly outside of France. When Bishop John Timon of Buffalo, serving in St. Louis at the time, visited France and saw the work of the Society, he went about establishing the group’s first conference in St. Louis, Missouri in 1845.[2]

The Society’s rule called for “visiting the poor in their dwellings” and the distribution of “moral and religious books” especially to children, but in the United States, these activities expanded from activities like supplying food to needy families and distributing rosary beads to running thrift shops, day nurseries, and youth camps, visiting nursing homes, among other activities.

Modern photograph of the interior of the “Old Cathedral of St. Louis, Missouri, birthplace of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of the U.S.

The National Council in the United States began sponsoring foreign Councils in third world countries with its twinning program during the 1970s-1990s. Long-serving executive secretary Dudley Baker served thirty years, from 1955-1985, and helped establish many modern charitable organizations. Baker not only aided several presidents during his tenure, but also helped to modernize the society in America. Though the society in America has focused on disaster relief throughout its history, a greater emphasis has been placed on this recently, especially through the training of Rev. Ronald Ramson and the National Council’s Charity Seminars.

 

The Society is organized into five levels. The first level is the International Council in Paris, France that oversees the organization throughout the world. The second level is the National Council, which oversees each individual country’s society. The third level is the Diocesan Councils, of which there are 51 in the United States that oversee individual Councils in the society. The fourth level is the District council which oversees all the individual conferences throughout the United States. Lastly, at the fifth level are the conferences, based on the parish level. Headquartered in St. Louis, the Society has nearly 100,000 members in the U.S., and more than 800,000 members worldwide.

Thousands of young people from cities across the country have attended St. Vincent de Paul camps. Here, boys from Detroit learn to use the bow and arrow, circa 1970s.

The Society’s records offer an extensive collection of organizational files, but includes also publications and audio-visual equipment from the society. Among the files are organizational correspondence, records from executive meetings, yearly reports and bulletins, membership files for the society and regional files from different councils, and financial files for the Society’s thrift stores. Many of these materials date back to the beginning of the Society in the United States. Also, there are videotapes and audiotapes of society meetings.

 

See the finding aid for the records of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul here

For blogposts on other Catholic charitable activities, see these posts on Monsignor John O’Grady, pioneer in Catholic charity: https://www.lib.cua.edu/wordpress/newsevents/9465/ and https://www.lib.cua.edu/wordpress/newsevents/9315/ as well as this post on the history of the National Catholic School of Social Work at The Catholic University of America: https://www.lib.cua.edu/wordpress/newsevents/10957/

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Raymond Sickinger, Antoine Frédéric Ozanam (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2017), chapter 3, “The Society of St. Vincent de Paul,” 61-62.

[2] The Encyclopedia of American Catholic History, Michael Glazier and Thomas Shelley, eds. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1997) p. 1249-1251.:

 

 

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.