Cushing, Spellman, O'Connor: The Surprising Story of How Three American Cardinals Transformed Catholic-Jewish Relations

By James Rudin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
J.F.K.’s Favorite Priest

The Early Years

Richard James Cushing, the son of a blacksmith, was born on August 24, 1895, in south Boston. His parents, Patrick Cushing and Mary Dahill, were both Irish immigrants: Patrick, who arrived in the United States in 1880, was from County Cork, and his wife grew up in County Waterford. In Boston they resided at 808 East 3rd Street, in a house that was built in 1890.

From elementary school through seminary, all of Richard Cushing’s education took place in Boston. Because there was no parochial school in his neighborhood, young Dickie Cushing attended the public Oliver Hazard Perry Grammar School on East 7th Street, located across from Boston Harbor. The three-story red brick Perry school building was opened in 1905 and Cushing was one of the first pupils to use the new facility. He graduated in 1908 in a class of 125 students, many of whom were also first-generation Irish-American Catholics. Boston at the time was a historic city, proud of its nickname “the Hub of the Universe,” and a citadel of white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant hegemony. Anti-immigrant feeling ran strong there, as it did in the nation as a whole, and Boston’s newcomers, many of them Catholics and Jews, felt the sting of prejudice and discrimination.

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