The Ramonat Seminar: Final Reflection (Fall 2015)

 

Introduction

What Has Made

Chicago Catholicism Distinctive?

21st Century Perspective

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The Ramonat Seminar: Early Catholic Education in Chicago

“To the Catholic sisterhoods more than any other human agency is due the upbuilding of Chicago’s system of Catholic parochial schools to its present splendid development” (Garraghan, pg. 202).

Above is a digital map and a quote pertaining to the assignment we were given by our Professor over fall break. My group and I were tasked with mapping eleven (11) schools in Chicago, drawing on Gilbert J. Garraghan’s book The Catholic Church In Chicago 1673-1871Susie and Claire covered what I didn’t in my map above. I had a lot of trouble with this assignment I will say!

For example, in the reading Garraghan offered no end dates for the four schools I covered called St. Aloysius School, St. Stanislaus School, Christian Brothers Academy, and St. Ignatius College, the last of which is the precursor to Loyola University Chicago! Another big issue was getting correct directions. West Twelfth Street (where Garraghan says St Ignatius was founded) no longer exists, and has become Roosevelt Road from a quick google search on my part. Others, however, were harder to discern as he states St. Stanislaus was built were Sacred Heart was founded, so I had to back track in the text.

Past my confusion, I did learn a lot about who ran these schools, and how these school came about. These institutions were mostly founded by woman religious (with the help of male church leaders), which is often lost in the narrative itself as it focuses on Catholic priests as the pillars of the faith. Also, it revealed many ways I can imagine the past, past physical text, as these visual representations and anecdotes about what happened back then help me to better understand the subject we’re studying in a more fluid sense. Rather than fixed images, these schools changed with the times, got absorbed, or disappeared altogether. However, they did leave a mark on the thousands of children, teachers, and Catholics it serviced and or was run by.

The Ramonat Seminar #1: Urban Religion and Identity

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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.

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