Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Responding to Vatican concerns and Daniel A. Lord, S.J.'s national Sodality initiatives, in 1927 Loyola University administrators expanded the student Sodality's newly-established Catholic Action program into a hegemonic presence, not only on the Loyola Arts campus, but throughout Chicago's network of Catholic schools. By 1928 Loyola students headed a federation of 52 Chicago-area Catholic universities, colleges, and high schools, initially known as the Chicago Intercollegiate Conference on Religious Activities (CISCORA). Under Vatican pressure to reaffirm the bishop's catechetical role, six years later Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Bernard Sheil adopted the federation--renamed Chicago Inter-Student Catholic Action (CISCA)--as the official student Catholic Action unit of the Archdiocesan Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). Over the period 1928-1950 the Catholic Action federation operated as a conduit through which other Catholic movements, such as the Benedictine Liturgical Movement and Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker, reached and influenced Catholic students in Chicago.

This dissertation examines the interaction of organized student Catholic Action with the cultures that Catholic students themselves constructed on the urban Catholic campuses of Loyola University Chicago, Mundelein College, and DePaul University, with the goal of illuminating how collegiate Catholic Action impacted students' interpretations of Catholic student life over the period 1924-1950. The CISCA federation co-opted student culture's leadership drive and campus community "spirit," but over the course of the 1930s and 40s it also articulated class, race, and gender ideals that influenced students' vision of campus society and their own social roles.

An outcome was heightened cultural tension. The Church hierarchy encouraged, but also circumscribed, student initiative; religious pressures toward Americanization and interracialism discouraged ethnic expression; a strengthening "Mystical Body" ideology reshaped social hierarchies; and wartime constructions of male spiritual superiority overshadowed Depression-era female leadership expectations, changing Catholic women's interpretation of their collegiate experience. These tensions presaged American Catholicism's postconciliar watershed of change and experimentation.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.