Initial Research Findings

The Ramonat Scholars began researching their topics on the history of American Catholicism last week. in their latest blog posts, the Scholars shared preliminary notes and sources they discovered in Loyola’s library, archives, and digital databases. They also reflected on the challenges of structuring a 30-page research paper, and where to narrow their topics.

Read their latest blog posts to find out where the Scholars’ research is headed and what questions they hope to answer over the next three months.


Welcome Back, Ramonat Scholars!

The Ramonat Seminar reconvened this week after a holiday hiatus. This semester, the Scholars will delve into independent research projects exploring diverse histories of American Catholics and politics. Check out their latest blog posts to learn more about what topics sparked their interest last semester and what direction their research might take over the next four months:

Allison, Amy, Jenna, and Kristin will pursue projects focused on gender and sexuality. Allison‘s research focuses on the 1968 Humanae Vitae, and Amy will research how Catholic women like Patty Crowley participated in the birth control movement. Jenna is interested in the history of women in Jesuit medical schools, and Kristin hopes to explore how Catholic women struggled with gender conventions in the 20th century.

Mark and Niko will both investigate topics with continued political relevance to American Catholics: the expansion of Catholic media and television networks, and teaching evolution in schools.

Alice, Laura, Sam, Sarah, and Kathleen hope to study Catholicism on the local level. Alice‘s project will explore how Italian Catholics responded to Chicago’s controversial Balbo Monument. Laura is interested in how Catholics contributed to segregation in Chicago, and Sam plans to explore Catholicism in the ethnically-diverse neighborhood of Pilsen. Sarah will uncover political tensions between Irish and Italian Catholics during the construction of UIC’s campus in the heart of Little Italy. Kathleen is interested in a different city, New Orleans, and the relationship between Catholicism and creole folk culture.

Are You Happy?


Sisters Marie Arne (left) and Mary Campion (right) in Inquiring Nuns (New York Times)

Last week the Ramonat Scholars attended a screening of the 1968 documentary Inquiring Nuns at the Gene Siskel Film Center. The hour-long film featured two nuns, Sisters Marie Arne and Mary Campion, approaching strangers on the streets of Chicago with a deceptively simple question: are you happy?

In their final blog posts of the semester, many of the Ramonat Scholars argued that Inquiring Nuns reflected a broad range of historic themes covered in class. The nuns traveled to parishes, museums, and storefronts throughout the city in discovery what made Chicagoans happy (or unhappy) in 1968. In the process, they confronted diverse opinions about race, class, religion, national politics, and the Vietnam War. The nuns’ “social experiment” came on the heels of the explosive 1968 National Democratic Convention, and many Chicagoans expressed concern to the Sisters about the country’s political and moral stability. Other respondents focused on more personal issues facing their communities, which suggested the enduring power of local politics and local parishes in Chicago neighborhoods. The Ramonat Scholars also drew connections between Inquiring Nuns and the history of Catholic women in anti-war demonstrations, social welfare, and community activism. As one Scholar argued, the determination of Sisters Arne and Campion to understand what made Chicagoans happy exemplified the historic pursuit of a “social good” among American Catholics.


The Ramonat Scholars and Dr. Shermer at the Gene Siskel Film Center on December 3, 2018  (Ruby Oram)

The Ramonat Scholars are on winter hiatus after a productive semester. Check back in January when the Ramonat Seminar reconvenes to explore more histories of Catholics and American politics.

Catholics Running for Office


Pope Paul VI greets President John F. Kennedy at the Vatican, July 1963 (AP Images)

November 6th marked a historic midterm election cycle. But what did it mean for American Catholics? Did the Catholic vote have a role in the 2018 midterm? How did the campaigns of Catholic politicians differ from those of previous elections?

The Ramonat Seminar has devoted the last two weeks to accessing the impact of Catholicism on our national politics, both past and present. In class and in their blogs, the Scholars debate whether the faith of Catholic politicians has historically shaped their politics. Some Scholars contend that the degree to which Catholic politicians embraced their faith publicly depends on audience and political context. Other Scholars argue that the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy created cultural tolerance of Catholic candidates, who have since mobilized their faith to support diverse political platforms. But as Catholics have become more tolerated in American society, according to some of the Scholars, controversial questions surrounding their campaigns have not disappeared but shifted from “should a Catholic be president” to “how Catholic are they”?

news clippings found by Allison Lapinski, Amy Al-Salaita, and Kristin Morrison

In preparation for their Spring research projects, the Ramonat Scholars put these arguments to the test by exploring historic news coverage of Catholic presidential campaigns. Using Loyola Library’s online databases, the Scholars found campaign coverage, opinion pieces, and political cartoons from Al Smith’s 1928 presidential run to the campaigns of Robert and John F. Kennedy. Their evidence raised lingering questions about when and why the Catholicism of past presidential candidates effected their runs for office. Yet the Scholars tend to agree that in the history of our national politics, faith matters.

Read their latest blog posts to learn more ⇒⇒⇒

Is Chicago’s Catholic History Unique?

On October 13th and 14th the Ramonat Scholars participated in Open House Chicago, an annual architecture festival that allows Chicagoans to explore over 250 buildings throughout the city for free. In their latest blog posts, the Scholars discuss what they learned from exploring the historic Catholic spaces, political institutions, and ethnic neighborhoods that shaped Chicago’s history. Along with our class readings last week, the Ramonat Scholars’ experiences during Open House Chicago weekend raised questions about the distinctiveness of Chicago’s Catholic history: Are Chicago Catholics different from Catholics in Boston or New York? What, if anything, makes Chicago’s Catholic history unique?

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In their blogs the Scholars generally agree that Chicago’s Catholic heritage is distinct. Unlike older cities in the Northeast, Catholic immigrant communities in Chicago grew with the city  during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and therefore played a larger role in shaping Chicago’s institutions and urban landscape. The ethnic diversity of Chicago’s Catholic community is also unique according to the Scholars, who visited parishes founded by Irish, German, Polish, and Ukrainian immigrants during Open House weekend. Lastly, many of the Scholars point to the national power and longevity of Chicago’s political machine in the twentieth century (exemplified by Catholic figures like Mayor Richard J. Daley) as evidence of Chicago’s unique place in the history of American Catholicism.

Read their latest blog posts to learn more ⇒⇒⇒

Sunday at Saint Sabina

On September 30th the Ramonat Scholars traveled to the south side of Chicago for Sunday Worship at Saint Sabina Church. While the faith community of Saint Sabina dates back to 1916, their current home at Throop and 78th Streets was dedicated by Cardinal Mundelein in 1933. When the racial makeup of the neighborhood shifted in the 1960s, Saint Sabina was one of the few Catholic churches in the area to welcome its new African American neighbors. Today, Saint Sabina continues to speak to “the cultural, social and spiritual needs of the black faithful.”

Photos of the Ramonat Scholars at Saint Sabina on September 30th, 2018, by Ruby Oram


Exploring Catholic Chicago

In the 1880s, at the height of Chicago’s labor movement, 78 percent of its workers were immigrants. Historian Heath W. Carter argues in Union Made that Chicago’s Catholic immigrant workers mobilized their faith in support of unions and protecting the dignity of labor. While the archdiocese remained critical of labor radicalism, working class communities were “hotbeds of alternative Christianities” in the late nineteenth century according to Carter. Last week, the Ramonat Scholars read this and other histories of Catholics’ diverse union and political participation from the nineteenth century to the present.

The contributions of Catholic workers in Chicago’s past can still be appreciated in the city’s landscape through parks, monuments, union offices, ethnic parishes, and schools. The Ramonat Scholars embarked on an urban scavenger hunt last week to explore how and where Catholics left their mark on Chicago.


Mark Neuhengen and Jenna Ludwig at the statue of James Connolly


Nikolas Callas at the Chicago Cultural Center


Sarah Eden at the Haymarket Memorial


Alice Gordon and Spencer Bailey at the recreated Chicago Board of Trade Room


Laura Enachescu at the Pullman Museum


Sydney Williams at Union Park


Colette Cooney at the Plumbers Union

To read more about the Ramonat Scholars’ urban explorations, check out their newest blog post on the righthand tool bar ⇒⇒⇒