When I signed up for the inaugural year of the Ramonat Seminar, here at LUC, I didn’t imagine it would shape up in the ways it has so far. Granted, I’ve only been in class for a week now having attended two sessions. Nevertheless, my mind had created a false image of what this course will (hopefully) offer, and I can’t say I’m not happy about that!
The full title of the course (Ramonat Seminar: Immigrant Catholics and the Making of Nineteenth-Century Chicago) is all at once a mouthful and straightforward. I believed we’d be solely tracking the rise of Catholic immigration (from the Polish, Italians, and so on) in Chicago point blank. However, I’ve been challenged to throw into this equation my definition of what religion means in an urban setting, and how my various identities have impacted my reading of this phenomenon.
Being a young, Protestant, African-American female from the East coast, having grown up in the depths of suburbia, my perceptions on what it means to be an immigrant Catholic in the city is largely jaded and filled with conclusions fed to me from my youth. Despite Loyola being a Jesuit Catholic University by nature, I have little to no connection with that heritage and rather came for the scenery and pockets of diversity I found in a predominantly white institution. I’m very involved on campus, but at heart, I’m an introvert that prefers to cozy up with a good book then a night out.
With all that said, my knowledge of Catholicism is limited to my theology classes, mass media, close friends, and Saint James Saint John elementary school in the distant past. The city of Chicago has been mediated to me through tourist visits, weekends at mass attractions, and the constant stream of violence on the news. How then, with my own biases, am I to understand the people, places and events we will be covering in this class? For that, again, I have to turn to the authors presented to me and draw upon what I’ve been taught and have experienced “Urban Religion” to be in a general Christian sense.