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Crossing Parish BoundariesRace, Sports, and Catholic Youth in Chicago, 1914-1954$
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Timothy B. Neary

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226388762

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226388939.001.0001

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“We Had Standing”: Black and Catholic in Bronzeville

“We Had Standing”: Black and Catholic in Bronzeville

(p.39) Chapter Two “We Had Standing”: Black and Catholic in Bronzeville
Crossing Parish Boundaries

Timothy B. Neary

University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores African American Catholicism in the parishes of St. Elizabeth’s, Corpus Christi, and St. Anselm’s in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood during the 1930s and 1940s. White missionary priests and nuns from the religious orders of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD), Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (SBS), and Franciscans staffed the black churches. Since most African American migrants from the South did not arrive in Chicago as Catholics, parish growth depended largely on conversions. The Rev. Joseph Eckert, SVD, converted thousands of black Chicagoans at St. Elizabeth’s and St. Anselm’s during the interwar period. Four qualities attracted converts: parochial education, Catholic aesthetics and ritual, opportunities in parish life for community building and civic involvement, and the church’s universality and promise of justice. Catholicism engendered status in the black community, while providing economic and political opportunities through access to Chicago’s Irish Catholic business community and Democratic Party political machine.

Keywords:   Bronzeville, conversion, Corpus Christi, Reverand Joseph Eckert, Franciscan, parochial education, St. Anselm, St. Elizabeth, Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Society of the Divine Word

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