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Suggestions Wanted: The History Of Catholicism In Chicago

March 28, 2008

I’m putting together a non-credit, high-level adult education course on the history of Catholicism in Chicago. I need some long and short book suggestions.

As I see it, general areas to cover include the hierarchy, the laity, parishes, education, and general social-cultural influence. Particulars must include Cardinal Mundelein, the 1926 Eucharistic Congress, the Catholic Youth Organization and Bishop Sheil, and Cardinal Bernardin. Here’s my short list of possibilities:

1. Eileen McMahon’s What Parish are You From? (1996)
2. Edward R. Kantowicz’s Corporation Sole: Cardinal Mundelein and Chicago Catholicism (1983)
3. Ellen Skerrett, Edward R. Kantowicz, and Steven M. Avella’s Catholicism, Chicago Style (1993)
4. Steven M. Avella’s This Confident Church: Catholic Leadership and Life in Chicago, 1940–1965 (1992)
5. Charles Shanabruch’s Chicago’s Catholics: The Evolution of an American Identity (1981)
6. Roger J. Coughlin and Cathryn A. Riplinger’s The Story of Charitable Care in the Archdiocese of Chicago, 1844–1997 (1999)

More suggestions? Any comments on my current possibilities? My choices will obviously be limited by what’s in print and affordable. But, in the meantime, all help is welcome. – TL

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  1. Tim,

    I'd have to counsel against Shanabruch's study. Most of what he wrote about Irish Americans in Chicago was, at worst, highly inaccurate, and at best, highly debatable. He used virtually no sources on the Chicago Irish and pretty much just wrote.

    The study is not without its merits, but the rather cavalier yet seemingly uninformed fashion in which he wrote about Irish Americans put me off. There is a brief criticism of Shanabruch's take on Irish Chicago in my diss. The original draft of that criticism was of course much more extensive. Cooler heads fortunately prevailed.

    Kantowicz's study, on the other hand, is great. Catholicism, Chicago Style is also an entertaining volume. I'd definitely consider using those for your course. Good luck and congratulations on the course.

    -Mike N.


  2. Mike,

    Thanks for the tip on Shanabruch. Of course I'd love to hear our friend Mike Courtney's suggestions. Maybe I'll send him a link to this post.

    – TL


  3. Haven't read this, but it's fairly recent and easily accessed:

    Hoy, Suellen. “No Color Line at Loretto Academy: Catholic Sisters and African Americans on Chicago's South Side,” _Journal of Women's History_ 14(1)(Spring 2002): [no pages, sorry] full text free online at:


  4. Dear Penny,

    Thanks! I'll look into it. So far I'm just using books, but maybe one week of readings will consist of articles. My syllabus is still in play.

    – TL


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