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A Catholic summer school is an assembly of Catholic clergy and laity held during the summer months to foster intellectual culture in harmony with Christian faith by means of lectures and special courses along university extension lines. It first took form in the Champlain Summer School which was founded at New London, Connecticut, 1892, and located permanently in 1893 at Cliff Haven, N. Y. The Columbian Summer School was established at Madison, Wisconsin, 1895, and is now permanently located at Milwaukee ; the Winter school of New Orleans was founded in 1896, and the Maryland Summer School in 1900. This interesting feature of Catholic intellectual and sociological work in the United States is the natural development and coalescence of various tendencies previously existing in the Church, viz., reading circles, university extension, summer institutes.

  • (a) The reading circle has its germ in the Christian family. St. Philip Neri strongly urged the advantage of reading circles for people in the world. As a student at the Sorbonne, Frederick Ozanam organized a circle of this nature which was the origin of the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul. In the United States the reading circle appeared during the early part of the last century in the young men's lyceums where courses of lectures and literary exercises were held. In 1864 Very Rev. Isaac Hecker founded a library in connexion with the Sunday-school of St. Paul's Church, New York City, and prescribed that the reading and discussion of a book should form part of the Sunday-school class. Thus each class became a reading circle. The graduates of this Sunday-school formed in 1886 a reading circle, in the special sense of the term, called The Ozanam; its members meet weekly. In 1885 the Young Ladies' Sodality of Youngstown, Ohio, established a reading circle. In Dec., 1888, Miss Julia Perkins of Milwaukee strongly advocated through the "Catholic World" the establishment of these circles in every parish. Warren Mosher took up the work, and in April, 1889, organized the Catholic Educational Union. In June, 1889, the Paulists founded the Columbian Reading Union with Rev. Thomas McMillan as president. These unions have for their aim the propagation and unification of reading circles. The movement spread, and in Jan., 1891, the "Catholic Reading Circle Review" was established by Mr. Mosher as the organ of reading circles; it afterwards became the organ of the summer school. The Catholic Educational Union, the Columbian Reading-Union, and the "Reading Circle Review" were strong advocates of a summer assembly. Thus, in germ, the Cliff Haven Summer School was an annual convention of the members of reading circles.
  • (b) The purpose of university extension is to bring the university into touch with the people and make its influence of wider scope. This is attained through a body of organized teachers formed from graduates of the university, who travel through the country and give series of lectures; attendance at these lectures with examination may entitle to a university degree. Thus the university is brought to people who otherwise could not have access to it. The phrase itself became current through discussion on university reform in England, begun in 1850, and resulting in the new statutes of 1880. The movement spread to America and became a part of American university life. Thus the Cliff Haven Summer School received from the Regents of the University of the State of New York, 9 Feb., 1893, a charter by virtue of which it received legal existence as a corporation under the laws of the State of New York, and was classified within the system of public instruction devoted to university extension. Under university extension should be included the Association Catholique de la Jeunesse Française organized in 1886, the School of Social Science of Munchen-Gladbach founded in 1893 under the auspices of the Catholic Volksverein, and the Institute of Social Science established by Archbishop Farley at New York in 1911.
  • (c) The idea of summer institutes is not new to Catholic education. It has long been a recognized feature in the religious educational bodies of the Catholic Church, each teaching congregation holding summer institutes of its own members. In more recent years these teachers' institutes became diocesan in form, e.g., in Rochester, Los Angeles, and the Archdiocese of Oregon. In 1911 the Catholic University at Washington opened a summer institute which was attended by 284 teachers from 23 religious bodies, representing 56 dioceses and 31 states with 9 from Canada and 1 from England. The same year the De Paul University of Chicago opened a summer institute for teachers with an attendance of 125.

The coalescence of these three elements in the Cliff Haven Summer School has made it a characteristic and powerful factor of intellectual and social American Catholic life. The Young Men's National Union, organized in 1875, and the first Catholic National Congress of Baltimore, in 1889, had created the desire for lay Catholic national unity. At suggestion of Mr. Mosher, Mgr. James Loughlin, President of the Y. M. N. U., published, 17 Jan., 1892, in the "Catholic Review" of New York City, a letter urging the establishment of a summer assembly. Clergy, laity, and the press endorsed the project with enthusiasm. A meeting was held at the Catholic Club, New York City, 12 May, 1892, under the auspices of Archbishop Corrigan and plans were laid for an opening session at New London, Conn., 15 July to 5 August, 1892. One thousand persons representing twenty states were in attendance. Among the promoters were Mgr. James Loughlin, Mgr. M. J. Lavelle, Mgr. D. J. McMahon, Bishop Conaty, Mgr. John Walsh, Mgr. Henry Brann, Rev. Morgan Sheedy, Rev. John F. Mullany, Rev. F. P. Siegfried, Rev. Joseph H. McMahon, Rev. P. A Halpin, Rev. John Talbot Smith, Rev. Thomas McMillan, C.S.P., Rev. Denis O'Sullivan, S.J., Very Rev. James P. Kiernan, Rev. Thomas P. Joynt, Rev A. P. Doyle, C.S.P., Rev. Thomas Hughes, S.J., Rev. Walter P. Gough, Brother Azarias, Charles G. Herbermann, George Parsons Lathrop, Richard Malcom Johnson, Maurice Francis Egan, Mary Elizabeth Blake, Katherine E. Conway, John A. Mooney, Richard D. Clark, Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, John D. Crimmins, Hon. John B. Riley, John A. Haaran, George E. Hardy, John P. Brophy, Wm. R. Claxton, Jacques M. Mertens, Wm. J. Moran. Permanent organization followed with president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and a board of twenty-four trustees.

The following year an offer, made by the Delaware and Hudson Company through its agent, of 450 acres of land on the shore of Lake Champlain, three miles south of Plattsburg, N. Y., was accepted. The sessions of 1893, 1894, and 1895, were held in Plattsburg. In 1896 the session was held on the assembly grounds, named Cliff Haven. With the approbation of Leo XIII and Pius X, of the Apostolic delegates, Cardinal Satolli, Cardinal Martinelli, and Cardinal Archbishop Falconio, and of the hierarchy of the United States, the movement has grown with each year until it now has property valued at $500,000, courses of lectures covering eleven weeks, and an attendance of about 10,000. With a daily program of lectures, concerts, dramatic recitals, and social gatherings, it brings together in social intercourse Catholics from all parts of the country and offers a stimulus and an opportunity for study along lines of advanced thought. Its main purpose is: to give from the most authoritative sources among our Catholic writers and thinkers, the Catholic point of view on all the issues of the day in history, literature, philosophy, art, political science, upon economic and social problems that are agitating the world, upon the relations between science and religion; to state in the clearest possible terms the underlying truth in each and all of these subjects; to remove false assumptions; and to correct false statements. It thus meets a recognized want of clergy and laity, is an important popular educational centre in America, and has contributed much to organize Catholic intellectual forces and to solve the problems of American life.


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