The Catholic University of America

June 25, 2010

New Website Chronicles Church’s Role in American Catholic Immigration
CUA, Bishops Conference Collaborate on Online Resource


A new educational website created by CUA and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops chronicles the Church’s role since the early 20th century in providing social services and advocacy for immigrants challenged over the years by racial prejudice and entry quotas based on ethnic background.

Called “U.S. Catholic Bishops and Immigration,” the site features primary documents and historical photographs detailing the American Catholic immigration experience that aren’t available anywhere else on the Internet, according to Maria Mazzenga, education archivist for CUA’s University Archives.

The website is the result of a collaboration involving Mazzenga and Todd Scribner, education outreach coordinator for the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services and a CUA doctoral candidate in religious studies. Joanna Lamb, a CUA graduate student in medieval history, also helped with the project.

“This story has not been widely shared in the past but it is important to do so now,” said Scribner. “The bishops have long been committed to helping immigrant communities, both through the provision of services and through tireless advocacy on their behalf.”

The new immigration site includes information about the founding in 1921 of the bishops’ Bureau of Immigration, which provided resources for immigrants struggling with the language barrier, variations in liturgical customs among different ethnic groups, and lack of access to baptismal and marriage records.

Documents on the site also highlight the bishops’ role in the immigration legislation of 1924, 1952 and 1965, and the Church’s voice in the immigration debate since 1965. The Church has been a strong advocate for immigrants in the debates over immigration policies that restricted entry into the United States based on ethnic background.

Mazzenga notes that the material on the website also serves as “a significant resource” for teachers who can incorporate it into their classroom instruction. “There’s no other place where you can get this range of documents, which reveal how the Catholic immigrant experience unfolded in the U.S,” she adds.

The project is the most recent addition to the University Archives’ online American Catholic History Classroom, which features a range of materials related to the American Catholic experience. Aimed at both educators and researchers, the virtual classroom includes sites on a range of topics that can be fit into existing curricula.

Each site features between 20 and 40 primary documents and photographs, background information sections written by educators and historians, chronologies that help educators and students make sense of the materials in historical context, "So What?" sections suggesting broader issues related to using the materials in the classroom, and topical reading lists for anyone wanting to expand their knowledge on each topic.

MEDIA: For more information about the “U.S. Catholic Bishops and Immigration” site, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy in the CUA Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.

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