Catholic Schools in the USA – Once Upon A Time

Catholic Schools in the USA – Once Upon A Time

From the Tradidi Quod et Accepi blog… When Catholic Schools Were Catholic

And the servants of the good man of the house coming said to him: Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? whence then hath it cockle? And he said to them: an enemy hath done this. (Matt. 13:27,28)

It was what many of us consider the “Golden Age” of Catholicism in America – the post-war period stretching from, roughly, 1945 to 1968. Those two decades saw an incredible number of converts to the True Faith in the United States, with a concomitant growth in a school system that was the envy of the world.  Franciscan, Dominican, Ursuline, and Notre Dame religious – and those of many other teaching orders as well – formed tender souls using profoundly Catholic textbooks.  To read this beautiful article in its entirety, click here

Editor writes…

Our blogger, Marinaio, together with his wife, runs the Tradidi Quod et Accepi blog and I was delighted when they agreed to allow me to post the above wonderful article here, and to use it to kick start this latest conversation about Catholic education. If you are of an age to remember Catholic schools in the fifties/early sixties, share your memories with us here.  Do you think the article reflects a memory viewed through rose-coloured spectacles?  I don’t.  But, I do wonder if things in Catholic schools will ever be the same again.  Share your thoughts…

Comments (14)

  • Lily Reply

    That was a really lovely article. If only the young today were enjoying such a wonderful Catholic experience at school, instead of what is on offer, which is exactly the same as the non-denominational schools with a few happy clappy hymns thrown in. It’s such a shame to see the younger generations losing out on what used to be.

    April 3, 2022 at 11:25 pm
    • editor Reply


      Your remark about the inclusion of a few hymns (being about all that marks the difference between Catholic and non-denominational schools) reminded me of an article I had published in The Herald some years ago – at some point I suggested they were teaching nothing more than “humanism with hymns” so I went searching for it but can’t find it online. I did, however, stumble across the following letter from Anne McKay, at that time Head of RE in a Catholic school who never missed a chance to peddle her liberalism, not least when I had been published and she wanted to have the last word. Here she is challenging something I’d written…

      April 4, 2022 at 11:38 am
  • Josephine Reply

    I don’t see how Catholic schools can return to their former excellence while the crisis in the Church is ongoing. I really don’t. There may be statues and crucifixes in Catholic schools but, in all truth, the difference between them and the other schools here in Scotland ends there.

    It’s also unlikely that we’d see religious sisters dressed as they did in full habits before V2. Their numbers have decreased hugely and the apostasy in the Church is very much seen in the religious orders, sadly. Most teachers are lay people and modernist. I hate to say it but I don’t think Catholic schools will ever be the same again – barring a miracle.

    April 4, 2022 at 9:41 am
    • Mack Reply


      I fear you are right about statues and crucifixes being the only distinction between Catholic and non-Catholic schools. Even then, I would wager than they are in short supply and carefully placed not to give offence to pupils of other religions and visitors.

      April 4, 2022 at 7:42 pm
    • editor Reply


      When I was in Rome some years ago (no, I wasn’t called there by the Pope – one of Father Gruner’s conferences!) I remarked on the fact that I was surprised to see so many religious in habits, when someone in the group said that it was really only in certain western countries, e.g. the UK, that religious had abandoned the habit. So, if that’s true, it narrows down the battle on that front. Don’t lose hope!

      April 5, 2022 at 12:09 am
  • Nicky Reply

    Just looking at the graphics in the Tradidi Quod article is enough to tell me we are not going back to the way things were in Catholic schools (and churches) any time soon. It was a treat to see the little girls dressed in skirts and the boys looking manly in trousers, not to mention the nuns in proper habits.

    No, that’s not “rose coloured spectacles” – that is how it was before the crisis hit hard. If it was there already, as is claimed, they kept it well hidden from the faithful.

    April 4, 2022 at 12:08 pm
    • editor Reply


      Great point – those lovely images in the Tradidi Quod et Accepi article do, indeed, recall what Catholic life was like in schools and parishes before the current modernist madness took hold. Hopefully, when the dust settles on this horrendous crisis, the edifying beauty portrayed in the article will become a reality once more. I should have been a poet. 😀

      April 4, 2022 at 11:47 pm
  • Michaela Reply

    That Tradidi article is a truly edifying reminder of what schools used to be like before the onslaught of the education “experts” in the sixties. I copied this passage because it gives a sense of Catholicism at its best in ordinary everyday life. Some of it is relevant to the USA but the same Catholic sense was found here in Scotland before the nuns abandoned their habits and the “experts” took over the minds and hearts of the school teachers.

    “It was a great time to be a young Catholic. Those two and a half decades were, all things considered, a healthy and wholesome time in the history of the Catholic Church in America. We collected small change for the missions in Africa, even retrieving discarded soda bottles at construction sites and delivering them to the corner grocery store for their nickel deposits. We went door-to-door selling subscriptions to the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s weekly Catholic Review newspaper, motivated by a campaign flyer that showed such prizes as beautiful Marian statues and extra-large wooden-beaded rosaries, should we convince enough neighbors (most of whom were Catholic) to subscribe for another year. Our Franciscan sisters in full habits taught us a Faith that permeated every aspect of our grade-school curriculum. Saint Clement grade school’s annual May Procession and Crowning of the prominently displayed statue of the Blessed Mother was one of the major events of the year, attended not just by the more than five hundred parochial school students, but by parents, relatives, friends, and residents of Rosedale, a small suburb of Baltimore. We considered ourselves blessed to have been born into a Catholic family, to be raised Catholic, and to be attending a Catholic school. And we wondered why we, among all the children of the world, were so fortunate. We were grateful for Almighty God’s manifold blessings.”

    I remember, especially, the crowning of the May statue and the singing of the gorgeous May hymns, both in the school and in the parish – that’s one of my enduring memories of my Catholic schooling.

    April 4, 2022 at 4:25 pm
    • editor Reply


      Singing the beautiful hymns to Our Lady – and other doctrinally rich hymns – is one of MY enduring memories of life in the parish, though not so much at school. Apart from O Causa Nostrae Laetitia (O Cause of our Joy) before heading off for the school holidays, I don’t remember singing much at school at all – well, hymns, at least. Who can forget “There was a wee Couper wha lived in Fife… “? We sang vernacular hymns, such as O Godhead Hid after Communion in our parish, and at Benediction, plus all the other well known hymns to the Sacred Heart at the end of Mass. I thought that had all been lost but I’m discovering that in the novus ordo parishes they often do still sing those traditional hymns.

      Anyway, I thought I’d check YouTube to see if I could find “the holiday hymn”, not expecting to find it and low and behold, voila! Here is is.. Enjoy…

      April 5, 2022 at 12:00 am
  • Mack Reply

    Catholic schools in Scotland (and probably E & W as well) are never going to be the same again, that’s a dead cert. Possibly America as well, who knows, although they seem to be in with a shout, having Catholic universities and so on.

    The people running the Catholic sector here think they are branches of the social work department, with projects to help the homeless etc. All well and good in itself, but if they don’t know the faith, the pupils won’t practise it, and what they are learning is nothing that they couldn’t learn in any school, i.e. be kind to those in need. It’s all very sad.

    April 4, 2022 at 7:39 pm
    • editor Reply


      Once the diabolical disorientation (of which Sr Lucia of Fatima) warned is over, the schools – like everything else – will, by the grace of God be restored to their former professional and religious glory. Roll on!

      April 4, 2022 at 11:43 pm
      • Marinaio

        I am with you on this, dear Editor. I hope and pray that one day — perhaps not in our lifetime, but God willing in the lives of our children or grandchildren — we will see a resurgence of true Catholic Culture. Mrs. Marinaio and I want to keep these memories alive so that our children or our grandchildren can indeed restore all things in Christ. As painful as it is sometimes to look back, we need to cherish these memories in our hearts and minds, and we need to pass them on so that we (and they) know where to start in a genuine Catholic rebuilding.

        April 5, 2022 at 1:30 am
      • editor


        I think I can speak for each of our regular bloggers when I say I am full of admiration for your zealous and imaginative thinking about preserving and passing on the Faith to your family during this seemingly never-ending Modernist crisis. To create a blog for this purpose is little short of genius, and I have no doubt your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will benefit hugely from it. Let’s just hope and pray that “all things are restored in Christ” before the great-great grandchildren start arriving 😀

        Again, thank you for allowing me to publish your article here – it’s first class.

        April 5, 2022 at 10:43 am
  • Theresa Rose Reply

    Editor and Marinaio,

    I also hope and pray that one day, God willing that we will see a resurgence of the true Catholic culture. Hopefully sooner than later.

    April 5, 2022 at 8:34 am

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