This Confident Church: Catholic Leadership and Life in Chicago, 1940-1965

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University of Nore Dame Press, 1992 - Religion - 410 pages
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This Confident Church explores the neglected history of the Archdiocese of Chicago between the years of 1940 and 1965, chronicling the eras of Cardinals Samuel A. Stritch and Albert G. Meyer. According to Steven M. Avella, the "confidence" among the Catholics of Chicago - the largest archdiocese in the United States during this period - was derived from the prevailing neo-scholastic ideology of the time. Church leaders and social activists embracing this worldview embarked on massive institutional expansion and tackled serious social issues like the rights of labor, racial discrimination, the rise of communism, and urban decline with complete confidence in themselves and their abilities to affect society. The Stritch and Meyer administrations were marked by dynamic growth and change. Postwar mass migration of Catholics to the suburbs emptied the once prosperous urban churches and schools, and the preponderance of Catholic suburbanites altered the character of Chicago Catholicism. Changing neighborhoods, the growing African-American population of the city, and the need for a more professional and better-educated Catholic laity became key issues for the Chicago diocese. Avella weaves a fascinating portrait of the quality and nature of Catholic life during the 1950s, including lengthy sections on Bishop Bernard J. Sheil, founder of the Catholic Youth Organization and the Sheil School of Social Studies, and Monsignor Reynold Hillenbrand, whose enthusiasm for the liturgy and Catholic social thought motivated clergy and laity alike in seminary classes, labor schools, and summer schools of Catholic Action. This Confident Church provides a fascinating portrait of the Chicago church as it becamea training ground for a generation of young leaders imbued with a spirit that in many ways anticipated the Second Vatican Council.

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