Thomas C. Hunt and Timothy Walch, Eds.
Alliance for Catholic Education Press
Troubled by our 2008 “Who Will Save America’s Catholic Schools?”
statistic that 1,300 Catholic schools had closed since the 1990s, Hunt
and Walch commissioned a team of venerable authors to chronicle the
history of urban Catholic education in twelve of America’s major hubs.
Each case study approaches this task from five angles: demographics
(specifically, the effect of the community’s ethnic mix on school
development); the interest and commitment of Catholic leaders; the
attitudes of and roles played by non-Catholics; the size and growth of
Catholic communities; and how those four elements together molded the
experience of students in each city. The essays delve deeply into the
historical and social contexts of each locale but they also share a few
themes. These include the fact that Catholic schools are themselves
products of a “sheer will to survive,” from early colonial anti-Catholic
sentiment to the white flight of the mid-twentieth century; that their
development and success is largely due to America’s immigrant
populations and the periods in which those populations grew
substantially; and that not all Catholic leaders or populations
responded to the parish school movement positively. Catholic schools
also turn out to be, at least viewed through historians’ lenses,
remarkably adaptable and to self-identify as “community” institutions.
All of this leaves Hunt and Walch optimistic: As Catholic schools have
overcome hardship yesterday, so too will they today and tomorrow. One
can only hope they are right. Buy a copy here.