A World of Church: A Study of Traditional Catholicism in Beverly and Evergreen Park, Illinois

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Bowman, Marietta
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Built on the concepts of individuality, hard work, and personal motivation, American society has blossomed and evolved from a vast-open landscape waiting to be developed to a mechanic, industrialized culture centered around urban life. Since its inception, the city has provided the promise of a new life and another dollar to any and all who would risk the adventure. The price of the new life, however, was the accompanying anonymity and lack of personal relationships associated with urban life, which provided a stark contrast to life in the intimate and family-centered rural culture. While many cities have emerged throughout the United States, some have become more prominent than others. As a major mid-western hub, Chicago has become a haven for countless workers, immigrants, businessmen, and families over the years, creating one of the most distinct and brilliant urban communities in the country. Winds off Lake Michigan and towering skyscrapers are two identifying features of Chicago. When you mention the area by name people think of the "Windy City", the Sears Tower, the Cubs, and Chicago-style pizza, all of which have brought due fame to this fair city. However, what the tourists, travelers, and businessmen passing through do not often get to see are the smaller things that make Chicago so unique. While there is no argument that the Loop is the heart of Chicago's business district, hidden in every comer of the city are small communities of residents who create their own world within the chaos of urban life. Having experienced a century of major expansion, Chicago now consists of a continuously growing metropolitan area containing numerous independently significant communities. In the Southwest comer of Chicago si~s two such communities, Beverly Hiils and Evergreen Park. At first glance, these two communities may look like any other middle-class neighborhood, consisting primarily of single-family homes built during the middle of the last century, parks, schools, and churches. However, with closer examination a visitor would soon notice a common theme within the communities. There are cars with bumper stickers boasting, "My child is an honors student at Mother McAuley", neighborhood children walking to school dressed in matching white button-down shirts and dark bottoms, and elderly couples coming out of morning mass at the local Catholic Church. This is where the theme can be found. Within Evergreen Park and Beverly, there are six Catholic Churches, nine Catholic schools, and one Catholic hospital, which provide the basic physical and spiritual needs for its residents, most of whom (not surprisingly) are Catholic. Although this type of enclave has been common in the past, particularly among ethnic immigrant groups, as Catholics have become established in the United States and gained more power, they have assimilated into the generic suburban, middle-class neighborhood. But this is not the case on the Southside of Chicago. Remarkably, Beverly and Evergreen Park have done more than just maintained a primarily Catholic community in terms of demographics, but have also established institutions that are rooted in the Catholic Church and, as a result, an environment that perpetuates traditional Catholic behaviors among the residents. Through this they have managed to deepen social interactions and networks between residents, create a community spirit that is based in the Catholic faith, and have a lasting impact on the way families and individuals live their lives, thus securing the longevity and future of the communities. The existence and continuance of the "mini-state" of the Southside can best be explained by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann's theory of the social construction of reality. The establishment of the Catholic-based institutions and the resulting impact on community members has created and legitimated the symbolic universe, to which Berger and Luckmann refer, and thus prevented residents from leaving this universe and alternating to another. By doing this, the future of individuals' residency in Beverly and Evergreen Park, as well as their identification as Catholics, is secured.
ii, 89 p.
Kalamazoo, Mich. : Kalamazoo College.
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