Monday, April 30, 2012

160 Year Old Education Collaboration

One of the earliest collaborations between community and family coming together to support education here in southeast Pennsylvania started over 160 years ago.

In 1838, 50 years after the ratification of the US Constitution, the Pennsylvania State Legislature passed a law making the Protestant King James Bible a mandatory textbook in public schools. All students began each day with a Bible reading. 4 years later, Philadelphia’s Bishop Kenrick requested that Catholic students be permitted to use the Douai-Rheims version of the bible, and the School Board of Controllers decided that children could use whatever Bible their parents wished. Anti-Catholic and Nativist groups, called “Know Nothings” viewed Bishop Kenrick’s request as an attack against the ”true” Bible, and tensions between Protestant and Catholic escalated. In May of 1844, these tensions erupted into anti-Catholic rioting. Two churches, St. Michael's in Kensington, and St. Augustine's in Southwark, were burned to the ground, along with many Catholic homes. Over 50 Catholics were killed by the rioters, and religious hostility between Protestants and Catholics in Philadelphia would remain until the late 1850’s.

As European immigration swelled the number of Catholics coming to Philadelphia, the challenges to church leaders in providing spiritual and economic direction to their faithful grew. The novelty of American religious freedom required a new way of thinking by Church leaders. Not only were new churches required but institutions to meet the needs of a city life that never existed before were needed. The solution to the needs of Philadelphia’s Catholics would be a blend of ancient church practices and the new strength of American community volunteerism to impact education, health and economics. Some of the new Catholic institutions created during the tense times of the “Know Nothing Riots” include: Villanova College (1842), Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute – “Philo” (1850), St. Joseph’s College (1851), St. Joseph’s Prep (1851), St. Joseph’s Hospital (1851), Beneficial Savings Fund Society (1853).

It was at an 1851 Philo reception, that Bishop Kendrick first began a discussion of the establishment of a parish-based Catholic school system. Philo and its members enthusiastically supported the idea, and the school system was begun the following year under the direction of John Neumann, the 6th Bishop of Philadelphia. Since 1960, the Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute has recognized a Catholic who by achievement and exemplary life has made contributions to Catholic ideals. The Sourin Award, named after the organization’s founder, Edward J. Sourin S.J., has been presented by the Philo to a distinguished list of honorees that includes cardinals, governors, professors, mayors and judges. On April 19th, the 50th Sourin Award was presented to Rosalie Mirenda, President of Neumann University. Congratulations to Rosalie and her husband Tony for this well-deserved honor!

No comments:

Post a Comment