August 07, 2008

Case Western Reserve University professor traces growth of Cleveland's Catholic community

Book connects local history to Vatican exhibit at Western Reserve Historical Society

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To coincide with the "Vatican Splendors" exhibit currently on display at the Western Reserve Historical Society, John Grabowski has written a companion book entitled There Are No Strangers at the Feast: Catholicism and Community in Northeastern Ohio (Western Reserve Historical Society).

The Historical Society is sponsoring the exhibit because it recognized the broad cultural links the iconography of Catholicism has to the region. While the exhibit provides a broad overview of Catholicism, Grabowski, the Krieger-Mueller Associate Professor of Applied History at Case Western Reserve University and Krieger-Mueller historian at the Historical Society, wrote the book to provide a concise and clear picture of its local history and its impact on northeastern Ohio.

The book examines the early distrust between the well-established Protestants and the fledgling Catholic population which enjoyed explosive growth during the mass immigration from Europe of the 19th and early 20th Centuries. It also provides an account of how the Catholic Church in northeast Ohio successfully became a vital part of the community and how its embrace of stewardship of people and culture, particularly as Cleveland's ethnic and racial demographic changed in the last half-century, has made it one of the area's largest providers of educational and social service programs.

Rather than write an institutional history of the religion, told bishop-by-bishop over the decades, Grabowski chose to open and close the narrative with a look at the Feast of the Assumption, a four-day traditional Catholic celebration held every August in Cleveland's Little Italy neighborhood.

"The feast is a remarkable event," says Grabowski. "It holds great religious significance for area Catholics, but over the years has become a cultural event for the entire region. It's one of the city's great marketing draws."

The fact that Catholics and the rest of the northeastern Ohio population have adjusted to each other and now work and coexist side by side should be seen as an example for all of us as we enter a phase of further diversification with increasing numbers of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other groups, says Grabowski.

While the book is currently for sale at the Historical Society, Grabowski hopes to make it available in area bookstores as well as at this year's Feast of the Assumption in August.

Grabowski has written and edited a number of other books on Cleveland, including Cleveland Then and Now (Thunder Bay Press, 2002) with his wife Diane Ewart Grabowski; Cleveland, a History in Motion: Transportation, Industry and Commerce in Northeast Ohio (Heritage Media, 2000) and The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History (Indiana University Press, 1996) with David D. Van Tassel.

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, August 7, 2008 01:49 PM | News Topics: Authors, College of Arts and Sciences, Faculty, HeadlinesMain, Provost Initiatives, Research, news

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