Final Reflections

Looking back on these two semesters of class feels a bit like a rollercoaster for me. Please bear with me as I explain my long journey below:

Throughout the first month or so of classes of the Ramonat Seminar, I was unsure if I had made the right choice, and I truly wasn’t sure if this research was really something that I could get invested in. Growing up, I had always gone to Catholic school, and I had been raised in a pretty strict Catholic tradition. We had never learned about the more radical, political aspects of Catholicism. I did not even know the words “radical” and “Catholic” could go together until we dove deep into these concepts with Ruby and Dr. Shermer.

Then, we started talking about Father Berrigan, radical Catholic nuns who marched in Selma, the Catholic vote beginning from Roe v. Wade, we went to mass at St. Sabina’s where we got to experience a warm and welcoming church, and we went to the Women and Leadership archives, where I got to open up a box in the Patty Crowley Papers. This class exposed me to concepts and experiences that I had not thought were possible. I had always had a preconceived notion of a Catholic church that was unwelcoming, politically right, and unwelcome to any sort of radicalism. This class truly changed my perception, and I could not be more thankful for all of the knowledge I’ve gained!

Writing this final paper has probably been one of the most difficult tasks of my undergraduate career as of yet. I learned so many new things about myself as well as Patty Crowley, who I hope will always serve as a role model for me. Writing a 25-30 page historical research paper is not easy, and I had never even imagined myself doing that before taking this class. Now that I’ve done it, though, I honestly can’t wait for the next one. Being able to dive so deeply into a research topic that was so personally interesting to me was honestly so cool.

I think the best feeling, though, was presenting my research at the final Symposium this past weekend. It felt so good to have my parents and loved ones there, and being able to show them what I have been working on all semester was worth all of the sleepless nights and late night taco bell runs. They were genuinely interested in my research, and were so proud and excited about what I had done. It was also so incredible to see my classmates’ presentations, and I’m so endlessly proud of Kathleen for winning best paper! Her paper was really unique, and I learned so much about the rich culture of New Orleans in reading it. I cannot wait to see where she goes in the future.

Looking back on the class, we’ve all had some pretty special experiences, and even made a few new friends along the way. I’m so thankful to both Ruby and Dr. Shermer for all of their hard work planning lessons, going on trips with us, and assisting us with our research. I will definitely look back on this experience fondly, and I can’t wait to continue with my research in the future and do all sorts of fun new projects.


The Revising Process

As the deadline for our final paper creeps closer and closer, I have been working hard to revise my paper and get it to where it needs to be. I’m still falling quite short of the 25-30 page deadline, but I have the sense that I know what else I need to add, and that I will be able to pull everything together in time.

The feedback that I have been getting from Ruby. Dr. Shermer, my fellow classmates, and various friends who have looked over my paper has been very helpful in the past few weeks. My peer review partner and I are meeting one last time later today to go over each other’s papers before the long weekend for grammar, style, etc.

I would say the most satisfying part of this process was completely redoing my outline a few weeks ago and bringing it to both Ruby and Dr. Shermer and getting their approval on it. It turned out that this had been the direction Dr. Shermer was trying to steer me in after receiving draft 2 of my paper, I just hadn’t gotten there yet.

One of the more frustrating parts of the process is frantically trying to finish the paper in order to make the deadline for judging on Monday, on top of all of the other final exams and assignments that are occurring in these last few weeks of school. With this upcoming Easter break, however, I hope to be able to wrap everything up nicely. The presentation is definitely a big source of anxiety at the moment, however, and although I previously brushed it off as something easy, I am definitely feeling the pressure!

I think I need the most work actually finishing the paper and getting it to where it needs to be– I feel like I could get through the last ten or so pages I need, but the approaching deadline is definitely making me anxious.

That being said, I’m definitely excited for presentations next week, and I can’t wait to see everybody’s hard work.

Peer Review

The deadline for our Ramonat research is approaching quickly, and I can finally say that I feel confident with the direction my paper is going and the progress I have made thus far, all thanks to the peer review exercise and my wonderful peer review partner, Kathleen.

To be completely honest and transparent, I was a little nervous entering into the peer review exercise because I did not know Kathleen very well, and I really did not feel confident in my paper and the progress I had made (which was not very much). I did not know what a massive help it would be to have another set of eyes look over my research.

Kathleen and I met last Saturday afternoon to go over each other’s papers, and we both figured out that we needed to revisit our outlines and try to re-order our papers. Kathleen helped me come up with a cohesive outline that includes all of the background information that one would need in order to understand the impact Patty Crowley had on the birth control commission. Together, we came up with an outline that discussed Casti Connubii, the rhythm method, the various happenings of the 1960s that led to birth control, the development of The Pill, the Papal Commission, Humanae Vitae, Patty’s reaction to Humanae Vitae, and a conclusion that clarifies how we got to where Catholics now stand on oral contraceptives. Kathleen also helped me clean up my introduction and all of the weird grammatical issues that were sprinkled throughout my paper.

As for Kathleen’s paper, I found the topic so incredibly interesting!! I thoroughly enjoyed reading her research, and I cannot wait to read the finished product and learn even more about two influential women, Henriette Delille and Marie Laveau. It was such a treat to read about the history of New Orleans and creole culture, and I had no idea that voodoo and Catholicism are so closely intertwined in New Orleans.

After marking up Kathleen’s paper and helping her see the pieces that I found were missing, we decided to meet again 24 hours later, after we had both worked on our papers a bit and reformatted our outlines. This session was spent further elaborating on the pieces we saw missing in each other’s research and trying to complete the puzzles that we both had, as well as trying to summarize our arguments in a cohesive way. Kathleen gave me a great second copy of her paper, and I marked that one up as well.

After the whole ordeal, (nearly 8 hours total of peer reviewing!!) we decided to call it a night and go to Taco Bell at midnight. We were so busy that we forgot to take selfies with each other, but I hope this video and the two separate papers that we each reviewed will suffice as evidence of our work.

Overall, this was an extremely helpful experience and I cannot say enough about it. Kathleen was able to help me realize how I should structure my research, and I feel like we really fine-tuned both of our arguments together. I can’t wait to take the skills that I learned from this peer review exercise into graduate school!




Creating a First Draft

To be completely honest, creating something that resembles a first draft of my paper has been an incredibly painstaking process as of late, but I am hoping that these next few days will be more productive for me.

It has been difficult to get through this, mostly because I keep getting caught up on what I have already written and getting stuck in minute details while not remembering that I am supposed to be trying to explain my topic thoroughly from beginning to end. I hope that with continued guidance, I will be able to stop being such a perfectionist and focus on working hard.

My supervisor at work actually gave me a helpful tip that came from when he was in graduate school and trying to get through his thesis– He explained that he used to walk around with a voice recorder and pretend he was talking to his parents and trying to explain his research to them. He thought of this because if you had to do this, you would most likely have to explain every single detail and be incredibly thorough, instead of jumping from one topic to the next, because your parents haven’t been reading up on this topic like you have. I’m excited to try this later tonight and see if it is helpful for me.

The most satisfying part of this experience thus far has been looking back on what I have typed so far and actually being proud of it, and feeling like it sounds good. I have been working very hard on making my writing flow well and sound good, which I think has taken away from the quantity of pages that I have been able to get out. Which really is not ideal, and I think that’s the main thing that could use work for me. I am hoping to be finished by the end of this week so that I can give my peer review partner, Katherine, a paper that I am proud to have her read.

The deadline for this paper is quickly approaching, and it seems like lately, time is moving both too fast and too slow at the same time. As we get closer to the date of the Symposium, though, I am getting more excited to be able to share my research with my loved ones and show them why I’ve essentially been a recluse this whole semester. I truly can’t wait for that day so we can all celebrate our accomplishments as a class and look back at the insanely long paper we have managed to write.

Starting My Research

The process of starting my research paper has undoubtedly been different than any research paper I have done before. To be completely honest, this is the most involved research paper that I have written in my time as an undergraduate, which makes total sense given the intensity of the Ramonat research seminar. As difficult as this research has been, one of the most helpful aspects of it is constantly having check-in deadlines for our first outline, first paragraph, first “chunk,” etc. As busy as this process has kept me, I think that it will surely pay off in the end, because I know myself, and as someone who does a LOT of last-minute work, I know I will write a much better and more detailed research paper if I make an effort to spend time on my research and complete these assignments in a timely fashion.

The frustrating aspect of starting to write my paper is definitely balancing this research with all of my other classes, extracurriculars, and independent projects. I have taken on a lot of work this semester, and it’s sometimes difficult for me to just step away from my books and take a minute to just breathe and do something I genuinely enjoy. I feel like many students don’t acknowledge this feeling enough. The feeling of always needing to be working on something, because if you aren’t being productive, you feel guilty. I have found myself feeling overwhelmed by this research in the past few weeks, but the reality is that we are all working at our own pace, and we are going about this paper differently than past seminars. The tricky part is reminding myself that I am actually getting a lot done, and that although my research may feel a bit nonsensical in certain spots, the more I take time to develop my paper, the better it will be.

I can see my ideas evolving far beyond what I originally thought my paper was going to be about. I feel as though I finally have an argument that makes sense and that will guide the rest of my paper. I have evolved my paper into one about the life and work of Patty Crowley and its impact on the Church as well as the reproductive justice movements that followed, and I am excited to write about a topic that has such close ties to my own personal life and personal interests. As someone who participates in the reproductive justice movement at a Jesuit, Catholic University, Patty Crowley’s work inspires me, and sheds light upon the fact that reproductive justice is not inherently secular, and that Catholics do indeed have a place in the movement.

I am not entirely sure how I could use digital sources and projects throughout my research project, considering most of my resources come from books, print materials, and Crowley’s archives. If I do incorporate any sort of picture or graph source, it could be during my oral presentation in powerpoint form. Perhaps if I find something particularly interesting in Crowley’s archives, I could incorporate a photo in my research presentation or even within my paper.

I look forward to continuing with my research, and I hope that I write a paper that Patty Crowley herself would be proud to read. Wish me luck!

Diving Into Research

This week was heavily focused on diving headfirst into the articles and other sources that I have collected as well as slowly learning just how to write a 30-page research paper. Looking back on the articles we read last semester, I can see many wonderful examples of how to write a scholarly research paper, which makes starting mine just a little bit less overwhelming.

The first article that I chose to delve into is the one that arguably seemed the most simple, but that ended up surprising me in the end. I read The Vatican’s Ban on Contraception by J. O’Brien, published in Conscience magazine. Upon initially coming across this source, I thought this would be a light introduction into the inner workings of Pope Paul VI’s decision to publish Humanae Vitae as well as a summary of the public’s response to the encyclical. I was surprised by the emotional reaction I had to this article, which does make me a bit concerned about my research. Reading about how much work the Papal Commission on Birth Control put into their research only to have their recommendation fully ignored because of the Pope’s desire to protect the authority of the Church rather than focusing on modernization struck a nerve, and I felt as though I could really put myself in the Commission’s shoes. This article is incredibly interesting to me because of how greatly it  emphasizes Pope Paul VI’s desire to maintain papal infalibility, and how it subsequently reveals that a vast majority of Catholic women both in the late 1960s-early1970s and Catholic women in the modern United States completely disregard Humanae Vitae and favor modern contraceptive methods. This article also reveals that the implications of Humanae  Vitae have not only been felt in the US but also worldwide, due to efforts of Catholic hierarchy to discredit condom use in regions affected by HIV. I think that with my research on Patty Crowley, it would be an  important concluding point to highlight the worldwide effects of Humanae Vitae.

When collecting primary sources, this 2005 article in the New York Times stood out to me for its high praise of Patty Crowley and its recognition of Crowley’s inherent privilege with its contrast between her and Dorothy Day. Crowley was a representative of a wealthy socioeconomic slice of American Catholics who enjoyed material security, which I think is important to acknowledge. I also found this article interesting because it emphasizes how outwardly Catholic Patty and her husband Pat appeared to Pope Pius XII and Pope Paul VI. No matter how obviously Catholic their marriage seemed, Patty still found the courage to distance herself from Papal teachings on artificial contraception and became an example to other Catholic women of a liberated woman who explicitly promoted birth control.

This week, we also read a Scholarly article on the OPA and its relationship with American consumers and manufacturers during and after WWII. This scholarly article was much longer than papers I have previously written for classes. The basic structure of the paper included a clear introduction, a clear conclusion, and a main body of analysis in the middle that supported the thesis of the article. Although the sections were not explicitly labeled, this it what I could glean from my reading. This article as well as our writing guide have shown me that in my paper for this semester, I will need a clear and concise thesis, which is backed up by three types of analysis– evidentiary, connecting, and thesis analysis. The introductory paragraph will include my thesis, and my analysis will flow from the introduction in order to guide my paper chronologically to its conclusion. The analysis must be supported by evidence from my readings and archival research in order to build a strong argument. This article has provided me with a useful guide for writing an interesting scholarly article, and I hope that I can do my research topic justice.

Preliminary Research Questions

My chosen research topic in a broad sense is Patty Crowley and her life after the Papal Birth Control Commission. However, doing such research necessitates the use of some preliminary research questions in order get started in a way that’s not scary and overwhelming.

Patty Crowley played an important role in the Papal Birth Control Commission that advised Pope John Paul II on the ways that Catholics used birth control and other forms of contraception. Although the commission’s recommendation was ultimately ignored by the Pope, they played an important role in advising Catholics on the use of contraception, and thus became important figures within the Catholic women’s  reproductive justice movement and normalizing the use of birth control within the Catholic church. Although the Papal Birth Control Commission was a central part of Patty’s activism, I would more specifically like to know how her life and mission changed after Pope John Paul II ultimately decided not to take their recommendation.

The five research questions I would like to answer are:

  • How did Patty Crowley ultimately contribute to the Catholic movement for reproductive justice?
  • Why is her contribution important? How did it change the movement, and how did participation within this commission change the trajectory of her life and her activism?
  • What other areas of interest did Patty have, and how did she integrate her passion for reproductive healthcare within them? (Crowley helped with various improvements in the CHA and extended her work to Catholic social justice missions in other areas of the world, and I would like to know more about this)
  • If Crowley had not provided Catholics with an example of a radical and religious woman who used contraceptives, how would the Catholic movement surrounding contraception be different than it is today?
  • How, if at all, did Crowley pave the way for other Catholic reproductive justice groups?

Ruby recommended a book to me on the history of contraception called Devices and Desires, and I plan to use parts of this book in order to provide background information about the larger history of contraceptives, including oral and external devices. I also plan on utilizing Patty Crowley’s archive in the Women and Leadership archives in order to get a sense of her life on a deeply personal level. Crowley has items in her archive that span from organizational paperwork to postcards and souvenirs from trips to China, Tanzania, etc. where she went to study the different lifestyles of these areas, and I would love to use these papers to gain insight into her larger goals. I also plan on utilizing newspaper clippings and other articles from the time period just before the writing of Humana Vitae to immediately after, as well as documents that detail the Catholic response, both positive and negative, to the encyclical.

As a strong advocate and activist for comprehensive reproductive healthcare, I am excited to learn more about such an influential person in Chicago’s history, and I look forward to strengthening my knowledge of reproductive justice within the Catholic context.

Explaining My Research

With the start of a new semester comes the actual start of the research project that I have chosen to occupy my life with for the next four months. It is with much excitement that I can finally say that I would like to do my Ramonat research on Patty Crowley and her life after her participation in the Papal Birth Control Commission and the subsequent decision by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical Humana Vitae.

I first became interested in this topic when we spent time in the Women and Leadership Archives looking through archival boxes, and my group was assigned Patty Crowley’s box. Looking through her belongings and various souvenirs, I could tell that we both shared some common interests, such as public housing reform and an interest in reproductive justice. Patty Crowley was an influential Catholic woman who firmly advocated for the use of birth control and helped normalize it within the Catholic community, and I admire her work and desire to know more about if and how Humana Vitae changed the trajectory of her career and how it affected her on a personal level.

I’m incredibly excited to get a chance to utilize the Women and Leadership archives at Loyola, which will be a fantastic asset to my research, as Patty Crowley’s papers are stored there in her own archive. I am also excited to become familiar with doing archival work, and I believe that due to my interests in reproductive justice within a Catholic context, that this research project will be tremendously enjoyable for me. Here’s to the start of a new semester!

The Issue of School Choice

Alternate blog: I was unable to purchase/watch Inquiring Nuns so I am improvising somewhat and writing on the last optional prompt of the semester.

School choice has been and continues to be a central issue to a large portion of American Catholics. It is also, coincidentally, an issue in which I have personal experience.

When I was younger, I spent half of my life going to public school from pre-K to fourth grade, and then the rest of my secondary schooling in a private Catholic middle school that eventually fed into another private Catholic high school nearby. Although I didn’t understand it at the time, the school choice that my parents made, although they said it was to ensure a ‘higher quality of education’ was unintentionally political and reflected a level of privilege that was not accessible to many children in my town. It also often left me questioning whether the education my parents were shelling money out for was worth the increased cost.

The privatization of education has its roots in the segregation era, when African American educators were forced to rely on private means to provide their children with a quality education in a time when white children could easily receive a quality education at almost any public school and climb socially. These schools established by Black community leaders were meant to prepare students of color to live in the increasingly unequal society of America and later paved the way to the famous Historically Black Colleges and Universities such as Spelman and Morehouse that we know today (Hale). While these schools were meant to help students grapple with the institutional racism and the hostile racial environment of the time, after Brown v. Board (1954), they took on a different purpose as white Americans co-opted this concept to provide their own private schools that could remain unsegregated (Hale). After state courts began implementing desegregation busing policies in the 1960s, private schools and the concept of school choice became a way to avoid desegregation. White flight from public schools hastened as Richard Nixon promoted anti-busing in his campaign for president (Hale).

However, specifically Catholic schools seem to be a completely different beast. Catholic elementary and grade schools were initially founded to help the nineteenth-century Catholic Church grapple with the problems of the time– mass immigration and the need for a united and Americanized community (Baker and Riordan 17). No doubt sparked by the massive migration of Irish immigrants to the United States after the Potato Famine, these schools had provided a haven to immigrant Catholic families and a way to manage not only the outside Protestant population of the United States but also the lack of organization that mass migration brought.

While these schools were meant to be specifically for Catholic families seeking a low-cost way to indoctrinate their children with the Catholic faith, since the 1970s, students enrolled in Catholic schools are far less likely to be Catholic (Baker and Riordan 18). As tuition costs have continued to rise and wages have stayed the same, dioceses have increasingly closed and consolidated Catholic schools due to decreased enrollment (Baker and Riordan 18).

Taking these factors into consideration, there is no doubt that the privatization of public schooling has been an issue for Catholics, although it is not a specifically Catholic issue. Hale’s article points to privatization as more of a reaction to desegregation than a reaction to increased immigration, so I believe this largely depends on context. I do believe, however, that school choice remains to be a political issue, especially in 2018 considering the current education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has lobbied extensively for extending school choice across the country.


Baker, David P., and Cornelius Riordan. “The ‘Eliting’ of the Common American Catholic School and the National Education Crisis.” The Phi Delta Kappan, vol. 80, no. 1, 1998, pp. 16–23. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Hale, Jon N. “The African American Roots of Betsy DeVos’s Education Platform.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 18 Jan. 2017,

Homelessness in Chicago


Patty Crowley and her husband Pat

When we explored the Women and Leadership Archives a couple of weeks ago, I was assigned Patty Crowley’s archive box. This box caught my attention because of Crowley’s involvement in various social issues both local to Chicago and worldwide. She was not only involved in campaigns surrounding improving the quality of the Chicago Housing Authority, but also involved in the Birth Control Commission, which sent a recommendation about the outdated nature of Catholic teaching on birth control to Pope John Paul II regarding the encyclical Humanae Vitae. Crowley expanded her work for the homeless population of Chicago and even became one of the founding mothers of Deborah’s Place, a permanent supportive housing facility for women with disabilities in Chicago. Crowley helped found Deborah’s Place in 1985, and her lifetime of work providing care to many homeless women in Chicago likely exposed her to Chicago’s inadequacies inspired her to seek to improve the city’s system of supportive care and make a difference.

The primary source that I found is the draft of a fairly recent (from 2001) document called Getting Housed, Staying Housed: A Collaborative Plan to End Homelessness in Chicago, which outlines the issue of homelessness in the City of Chicago, including specific statistics regarding the average age, race, employment level, and gender identity of homeless people across the city. The draft is part of a larger program that Crowley participated in that focused on expanding the amount of services available to the homeless population of Chicago. The initiative continues today in partnership with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Alliance under the name Chicago’s Plan 2.0– A Home For EveryoneThe report recommends the implementation of alternative models of service for the homeless population of the City of Chicago, citing the importance of stabilizing their needs and focusing more heavily on serving the transitionally homeless population. It also outlines the deficiencies that plagued the system in 2001, including statistics on the number of people who had to be turned away and whether those who were served had their needs met.

Reading this document and then finding out about Crowley’s other work in founding Deborah’s Place, as well as seeing her involvement in the improvement of the CHA in her archive box raised some questions for me, including how have Catholic churches and organizations specifically in Chicago dealt with the issue of homelessness? What kind of involvement have Catholics had in the Chicago Housing Authority? And finally, how much of Chicago’s homelessness problem has to do with the rampant racism and resistance of white residents of Trumbull Park Homes and other housing projects to live alongside African American residents and desegregate their housing projects?