Presenting at the Ramonat Seminar

Giving my presentation was a truly enjoyable experience. At that point, it was the fifth time I gave my talk in front of an audience, which made the experience much less stressful. Even though I was in the middle of being vaccinated for typhoid fever which was upsetting my stomach, I believed that I pulled off my talk well and fielded the questions thrown at me successfully. I excited that my dad and sister were able to come, and I received a lot of positive feedback from both of them. Fr. Regan also said to me last week that he enjoyed my talk, which made me more confident. At the beginning of the seminar last year, I was concerned that I would stand out and struggle to keep up with the history scholars who surrounded me. I am glad my worries did not come true thanks entirely to all of the feedback I received. In the end, I produced a work that I am truly proud of.

Looking at the class as a whole, I believe that I have become a much better communicator. My long, rambling paragraphs became concise, focused arguments. I performed my first archive research and learned how to use Zotero to manage all of my documents and notes. Dr. Shermer and Ruby also made sure that I always included evidence (especially dates) with my arguments, something that will certainly bolster my writing as I continue. I have no doubt that the lessons which I have learned in this class will give me an edge as I move on to my high-level bioinformatics and sociology classes and eventually graduate school.

Revision Process

The revision process is going well. I am really appreciating the three different viewpoints I received from my three different readers. I would be lying if I said that I was making all of the changes they suggested, however, I am certainly using a majority of the comments in one way or another. I believe that the comments, especially from Dr. Shermer and Ruby, have really improved the historical fluency of my paper.

The most satisfying part of revising is seeing that page count grow. As I insert more stories about Latinx community groups and include more data on churches at the time, I can almost feel my argument growing stronger. I am also looking forward to including some pictures and maps, at Ruby’s suggestion, to make the feelings described in the paper that much more real to the reader. The most frustrating part of revising is keeping my narrative in-tact. When I was writing my draft, it was easy to maintain the narrative flow. Now that I am adding paragraphs while outside of the writing flow, I need to be sure that my wording and transitions allow my additions to fit well.

I have a running list of changes I would like to make to my paper, however, the most work lies in my introduction where I do my overview of gentrification. As it stands, I have a brief overview of gentrification and a larger literature review following. At Dr. Shermer’s suggestion, I will be removing the overview as it is redundant. However, this means that I will need to re-craft my introduction to leave gentrification for later while still allowing my thesis to make sense.

Peer Review

Ruby’s feedback was the first I looked at, and it was very simple. There were clarifications which have been made. I also have the bad habit of not inserting dates which are necessary for the reader to follow the story through time, which has since been put into the appropriate places in my paper. After meeting with her one-on-one, I also have ideas for where to expand my paper, giving the reader more detail and a more convincing argument.

Dr. Shermer’s feedback, though difficult to read, was much more detailed. Her hate of passive writing appeared on nearly every page which is something I will be going through this week. The majority of the changes I will be making due to Dr. Shermer’s feedback will be in the introduction. She pointed out that there is no reason to have two explanations of gentrification, especially when the first explanation is so low level as to be boring. Dr. Shermer also agreed with Ruby’s sentiment of using dates and constructing the essay so that it follows the linear time of history rather than bouncing back and forth.

Sarah’s feedback followed the lines of Dr. Shermer’s comments. A majority of comments addressed passive voice and poor wording, which was one of the strengths of her paper. As my paper uses a persuasive voice for at least the beginning and end, I intend to use some of her methods of calling on the senses to invoke stronger feelings from the reader. I believe making these improvements will really drive the point of my paper home.

A First Draft

There is one word which sums up my feelings at 2am on Monday night after typing the final period on my first draft: proud. Though I was certainly confident in my writing skills entering the Ramonat Seminar, I found myself thrown into a world of scholarly writing which I had never encountered. Dr. Shermer and Ruby forced me in my blog posts to find a narrative yet fact-founded voice inside of myself which I never knew existed. After many hours spent in the Archdiocese of Chicago Archive and searching through newspaper databases, I had finally gotten all (or at least most) of my thoughts down on paper. I felt accomplished, as though I had created something completely original. This sense of attainment was certainly the most rewarding part of the drafting process.

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The photo I pridefully shared with my friends via Snapchat at 2am

The most frustrating part of this project for me has been finding a good place where I can sit and write for a good amount of time. I bounced from the lab to the Life Science atrium to my desk at my apartment to the first floor of the IC to the basement of the library only to end up on the second floor of Damen near the atrium at midnight. For some reason, at this hour, Damen provides the perfect noise floor to keep away internal distractions without providing external distractions. Once I found my space, the remainder of the writing process was smooth sailing.

A majority of my attention is currently being poured into creating my presentation for the Dean’s Advisory Council in the middle of April. However, I am also investigating avenues which I uncovered while examining my sources. One of the Ph.D. theses I am using uses Casa Aztlán as an example of a Chicano community group. Though I did not encounter it in my original research, initial digging has shown that this community and political organization was extremely important to many people in Pilsen. I plan on adding several paragraphs to my paper with the evidence I have found. Beyond this, I believe that the Irish section of my paper needs more bolstering. However, this kind of evidence is difficult to come across due to its age.

Beginning the Writing Process

The paper-writing process is something which was taught to me from a young age. In my middle school, my teachers allowed me to write long, grammatically incorrect stories, but I was able to learn how to get my ideas down. I have found those experiences useful when starting this paper. I approached this project from a story angle. I decided to use my outline to guide myself through the story I wanted to tell, assuming the history part would come in naturally. This focus brought on comments saying I needed to focus more on scholarly background, which I have since included but not fully melded with my story.

So far, the experience has been primarily satisfying. Being able to sculpt an interesting story out of a pile of documents has been highly rewarding, though time-consuming. Visiting the archdiocese archive was a great experience as I found “diamonds in the rough” in the form of valuable sources among piles of old letters. What I have found frustrating is balancing the desire to tell an interesting narrative story with the use of scholarly sources and reviews of past literature. I am sure, however, that once the first draft is done, I will be able to insert these parts more appropriately.

I feel like my ideas have remained primarily the same. The sources informed the story I wanted to tell from an early date, and that has not changed much. The only part of my paper which continues to evolve is the addition of scholarly sources and sociological research.

Dr. Winling’s talk reminded me of the importance of including graphs and images for people who prefer visual learning. However, I found at several points in his talk that I struggled to read the slides or understand what they were trying to say. I will be sure that any images or graphs have clear markings denoting what they picture and what different colors symbolize.


Step 2: Sources

Southend Reporter December 29, 1976 – This Southend Reporter article is a great example of how St. Vitus worked to help the local Pilsen community.

Notes PDF – This is a page of notes I took from the book Parish Boundaries which I intend to use as a source for a wider view of how Catholics react to neighborhood changes.

Summary of article:

Introduction – a fast-forward through history

  • “The Mistake” – OPA isn’t just a war agency, it defines the New Deal
  • Exploring the big picture – state intervention
  • Draw in – OPA mobilized consumers and gave them a sense of entitlement; producers did not like this

Background – OPA was created in 1941 with belief that gov’t can remedy economic and social ills

Body – divide into “eras”

  1. Leon Henderson
  2. General Max
  3. Hold the Line
  4. Women
  5. Becoming politicized
  6. Difficulties/conflicts
  7. Post-war dismantling

Conclusion/effects/why it matters


This paper did not have the typical “hourglass” structure I have been taught in previous courses. Instead, it began by giving almost a fast-forward version of what would be discussed in the paper to come. This introduction gives readers context for the remainder of the paper. Then, the body is made up of many individual papers which flow into each other. Each individual paper looks at the topic being discussed, in this situation the Office of Price Administration, from a different angle. These angles are then arranged in chronological order. The conclusion is relatively brief, only one paragraph, which ties the topic being discussed into why it matters today.

This article gave me an idea of how to approach the writing of my paper. I feel like it will be useful to write the introduction part of my paper to give my brain time to completely think through the idea in “fast-forward”. Then, I will break down my paper into sub-topics to make writing easier. I will most likely need to go back and re-write the introduction to encompass what was covered in the body. The conclusion ought to come naturally after finishing the body of the paper.

Step 1: Testing the Waters

As I explained in last week’s blog post, I will be writing a paper examining the Catholic role in the gentrification of Pilsen. This topic has special relevance to me due to my history of studying gentrifying neighborhoods. There are common themes in these neighborhoods such as a marginalized community presence, systematic lack of public investment, and proximity to public transportation. However, Pilsen stands out in how Catholic powers, both clergy and lay groups, truly ruled over the neighborhood for so long. Founded by the Irish and inhabited later by the Czech and then Hispanic communities, Pilsen was centered around its Churches. However, as my initial research has suggested, many of the Catholic Churches have been demolished or been used for other purposes in the past half a century. What happened?

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The now-closed St. Vitus Catholic Church in Pilsen (Source: Google Maps)

A common thread among several of the article I have found has been the church pictured above: St. Vitus Catholic Church. It is mentioned as a neighborhood powerhouse in the biography of famous Bears Coach George Halas as he grew up in Czech Pilsen. However, it was closed in 1990, seven years short of its 100th anniversary, to make way for a Latino Community center. I am hoping to use both the closed church and the organization, The Resurrection Project, which took the building over as launching points for my research. I believe that, by focusing in on this one building present throughout much of the neighborhoods’ history, I will be able to construct a cohesive and coherent narrative of the Catholic role in the changing neighborhood.

A meeting of The Resurrection Project held on the steps of St. Vitus Church (Source)

In my research, I hope to answer the following questions:

  • Who opposed the neighborhood changes? Who was for them? Who is a part of The Resurrection Project?
  • What role did Catholic Churches, especially St. Vitus, play in each ethnic community?
  • When did each ethnic change happen? When did the neighborhood’s churches rise and fall?
  • Where were incomers moving from and where did the outgoing group go?
  • Why were the Catholic Churches, especially St. Vitus, abandoned?
  • How did Catholic groups respond to each change in the neighborhood?

Catholics in a Gentrifying Pilsen

It only took two or three weeks of my first sociology class with Dr. Anne Figert for me to fall in love with the subject. Later sociology classes led me to investigate gentrification in neighborhoods such as the Near North Side and Uptown. The causes and effects of gentrification captured my imagination, which has led to past projects exploring gentrification from different lenses such as housing, race, and education. One side often left out of the question when examining gentrification is religion.

Pilsen is a Chicago neighborhood with a rich art culture and community and an even richer history. The name Pilsen is an anglicization of the city name Plzen, the second largest city in West Bohemia according to the Encyclopedia of Chicago. WTTW provides an excellent recounting of the area’s history. Like many of the neighborhoods of Chicago, Pilsen started out as small communities set up along the canal, turning raw goods into marketable products. The Irish claimed the area as home as they dug the nearby canal. As waves of other immigrants found refuge in Chicago, the Pilsen found itself primarily inhabited by Czechs, many of whom were Catholic. Fast-forwarding, the Mayor Daley’s urban renewal program in the 1950s saw the construction of the Stevenson Expressway. This construction displaced many Latinx families in the Near West Side who then found refuge in Pilsen. The construction of the University of Illinois at Chicago displaced even more who followed the previous migration towards the affordable Pilsen neighborhood. According to WTTW, the Catholic Churches of Pilsen were essential to welcoming these new families to the neighborhood.

As the Latinx newcomers became the majority of the community, they began fighting to make the neighborhood their own. They built or renamed community centers (see video above), made bilingual education the norm in schools, and installed vibrant murals and mosaics in public spaces. These vibrant spaces combined with the marginalized community made the area ripe for the first of the stages of gentrification: the arrival of the first few outsiders. In the years since, the area has gone through all of the stages as property values skyrocketed, a majority of the original community members have been kicked out, and wealthy residents have moved in. This story of wealthy residents pushing out community members certainly sells newspapers, but perhaps there is a greater story to be unearthed.

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A cartoon illustrating four stages of gentrification: underserved area, the entrance of marginalized groups, initial re-investment, and large-scale development. (Source)

With each wave of new community members which Pilsen has seen, Irish, Czech, Latinx, and now wealthy urbanites, there must be a support structure both for the newcomers attempting to build community and the community members who call the neighborhood home. It was well-established last semester that Catholic Churches acted as the first community centers for many immigrant groups such as the Irish and the Czechs. In my research, I hope to look into how Catholicism played a role in the entrance and removal of the Latinx community in Pilsen and how Churches are fairing in this gentrified neighborhood.

Catholic Women in Health Care Reform

To anyone who knows me or my career aspirations, my interest in health care reform should be unsurprising. As I was browsing Loyola’s Women and Social Justice archives, the poster from Church Women United with the headline “Health Care Coverage” immediately stood out. It calls for individuals to write to their senators in support of comprehensive, affordable health care. With a little bit more digging, I also found a pamphlet by the same Church Women United inviting the people of Kankakee, IL to a health care reform workshop.

This kind of local organization with the goal of larger change is something we have seen throughout the Ramonat Seminar in the anti-War movement with Fr. Berrigan, the worker’s rights movements which began in local churches, and today as churches declare themselves as sanctuaries for immigrants. The reasoning behind this kind of organization may be due to how Catholics identify: often with their local church as we discussed in week eight. It is also unsurprising that Catholics would have a vested interest in health care politics. Though we have not studied it individually in class, Catholics, especially nuns, were very dedicated to providing adequate, affordable health care for all. One of our earlier readings pointed out that it was Chicago nuns who were able to establish the first permanent hospital in Chicago, a city riddled with disease and poor living conditions at the time. It is, therefore, unsurprising to see Catholic women taking up the mast in favor of more universal health care coverage.

The Health Care Reform Project Pamphlet


How to be a Catholic Politician

The Primaries – JFK Tackles the Religion Issue (Chicago Tribune: Sat. September 18, 1965)

This article is one of a series of writings by Teodore C. Sorensen in the the Chicago Tribune. Sorensen worked with John F. Kennedy for eleven years as his protestant ‘alter ego’. In this article, he describes how Kennedy was shunned in West Virginia, not because they did not like him as a person, but because they did not like him as a Catholic. Many protestants were concerned the Catholicism, given an inch, would take a mile. Similar sentiments have been shared in our past readings, especially with Catholic immigrants. Protestant immigrants were able to assimilate relatively easily but the German, Czech, and Irish immigrants were sequestered into their own communities. As Levi Boone is quoted in The Irish Way, “Who does not know that the most depraved, debased, worthless and irredeemable drunkards and slots which curse the community are Irish Catholics?”. Though their poverty certainly contributed to the discrimination, Irish Catholicism gave American Protestants something to latch onto. This hatred due to religion is something still seen in this article about Kennedy. One angle which we have not seen in our past readings is an appeal made directly to Protestant leaders. Kennedy employs the help of Sorensen and other Protestant ministers to write letters against religious discrimination. Other prominent leaders followed suit, and won Kennedy the primary in West Virginia.