Urban Catholic Education: Tales of Twelve American Cities

By O'Connell, Maurice | Momentum, February/March 2011 | Go to article overview

Urban Catholic Education: Tales of Twelve American Cities


O'Connell, Maurice, Momentum


Urban Catholic Education: Tales of Twelve American Cities Edited by Thomas C. Hunt and Timothy Walch Alliance for Catholic Education Press. Notre Dame, Indiana 2010, 303 pages, $15 (paperback), $25.008 (hardback) ISBN 978-0-9819501-8-1 (paper) ISBN 978-0-9819501-9-8 (hardback)

If you are the product of a Catholic School from the 1950s or someone who is interested in American church history or someone involved in looking for ways to make possible the future of Catholic elementary schools, you should read "Urban Catholic Education" edited by Thomas C. Hunt and Timothy Walch. I am all three of these "consumers" and !found that this collection of articles by different authors chronicling the wonderfully similar, and yet uniquely personal, development of the Catholic schools in 12 cities of the U.S. was an eye-opening read.

While I would not want to reveal too much of the content because the reader will enjoy the narration and the facts and figures of each community's history, I can say that I thought I knew a lot about American Catholic schools, but I learned a great deal. It was interesting to learn that there was not universal support for a different school system from the Protestant-dominated public school system that already existed in the post-Revolutionary United States. Even with the mandate of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore that there should be a Catholic school associated with every parish, there were strong feelings on both sides of the issue (and with hierarchy on both sides). The decisions arrived at are most revealing.

I particularly was surprised to learn that important Catholic leaders led the fight to make sure our Catholic children were not humiliated or proselytized by the use of Protestant Scriptures and customs in the public schools. This led to the removal of all religious identity from the public school. That, however, eventually led to the Supreme Court decision to ban all "things religious" from our public schools. It was, of course, not the effect those early Catholics desired.

The editors and authors (including prior Momentum authors Maria Mazzenga, Augustinian Father Richard Jacobs. John T. James and Jesuit Father Michael P. Caruso) have done a wonderful job of covering sections of the whole church by distinguishing them as the Cradle (East Coast), the Heartland (the Midwest), and the Borderland (New Orleans west to San Francisco). …

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