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?
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 ⇒⇒⇒
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
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.
To read more about the Ramonat Scholars’ urban explorations, check out their newest blog post on the righthand tool bar ⇒⇒⇒
What political issues are most important to American Catholics? Have Catholic political values changed over time and if so, why? Is there such thing as a “Catholic vote”?
The Ramonat Scholars have devoted their first two weeks of reading and class discussion to these important questions, which they discuss in their blogs on the righthand tool bar ⇒⇒⇒
PHOTO BY: STEVE FONTANINI / LOS ANGELES TIMES
The scholars largely agree that American Catholics are united in faith but divided on a range of political issues including immigration, gun control, and abortion. Catholic voters also care about education, unions, and the welfare state but may not vote consistently in these areas either. While a homogeneous “Catholic vote” may not exist because of the diversity of American Catholics themselves, Amy Al-Salaita suggested in class that a shared respect for the dignity of human life may influence Catholic political values.
The emphasis on dignity of life and labor has contributed to the active role of Catholics in the American labor movement since the 1880s. This week, Sarah Eden, Laura Enachescu, Sam Jaros, Kristin Morrison, and Sydney Williams reflect on the relationship between Catholics and unions in their blogs.
Welcome to the Fall 2018 Ramonat Seminar in American Catholic History and Culture! Visit the about page to learn more about this year’s Ramonat Seminar, which investigates how Catholics and Catholicism shaped American politics in the twentieth century. The Fall and Spring syllabi are now online. We’re looking forward to a great year!
Follow this site for updates on Ramonat-related events and to learn more about what the Ramonat Scholars are reading, researching, and writing over the next academic year.
Dominican Sisters of Hope in Washington D.C., 1968.