Mandeville, LA – “The Chicago of my boyhood was an intensely Catholic city. Ask someone where he lived and he was likely to answer with the name of his parish (St. Nicholas of Tolentine, St. Gregory’s).
Catholic culture was everywhere in the country a hundred-fold stronger then than now
Catholic culture was everywhere in the country a hundred-fold stronger then than now, and the Catholic atmosphere was especially strong in Chicago owing to its large populations of Irish, Italians, and Poles. So Catholic did the place seem—with priests in cassock, nuns in habit everywhere part of the cityscape—that as a young boy I took Catholicism and Christianity to be coterminous. The Bing Crosby movies of those years—Going My Way (1944), The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)—reinforced this sense of Catholic omnipresence. A now-forgotten actor named Pat O’Brien made a living playing a priest in the movies. How many cinematic murderers he prayed for while accompanying them on their way to the gallows or electric chair would be difficult to calculate.
In the courtyard building on Sheridan Road to the north of ours lived the Cowling family. The father, Sam Cowling, did a regular comic bit called “Fiction and Fact from Sam’s Almanac” on the then immensely popular national radio show called Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club. Sam’s beautiful wife was named Dale, the same name, older moviegoers will recall, as Roy Rogers’s wife. Their boys, Sam Jr. (who was my age) and Billy, both went to St. Jerome’s, thence to Loyola Academy, and thence to Jesuit Georgetown University, though they probably could have gotten into Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. Catholicism of their kind has vanished from American life.” – Joseph Epstein, The Weekly Standard, Chicago The And Now