Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
Department of History
Aquin Central Catholic High School, a tiny institution in the rural, Midwestern town of Freeport, Illinois, is a case study unlike the schools from Chicago, Boston, and other large cities highlighted in previous scholarship. Freeport's patterns of schooling in the 1970s and 1980s were largely unaffected by race or "white flight," and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockford afforded to its schools a greater than usual degree of local control. Yet, Aquin (founded in 1923) followed the trends of Catholic schools with regard to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), assimilation of previously immigrant Catholic families into middle class American social and economic security, and post-war shifts in American culture. While intertwined with themes of faith and academic success, the component of communal and individual identity was a pivotal factor for Catholic school families. Thus, Michael Kammen's Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture (1991) was employed as a conceptual framework in this project to analyze the creation and maintenance of community at Aquin High School. Therein was an environment rich in legends and traditions and conducive to elders enforcing behavioral honor codes. This thesis claims that Aquin was a microcosm of Kammen's paradoxical American identity, managing carefully the tension of conflicting values: progress and tradition, the national and the particular, and power and innocence. International in their faith and American in their outlook, the people of Aquin, in the wake of Vatican II and the post-war era, created an empowered, local community that reflected both their changing Catholicism and a shifting national culture. Benefitting from the authoritative leverage of being a private school, Aquin was bound by fewer legal obligations and legislative mandates than were institutions in the public sector. This unique case study, peeling away factors of "white flight" and diocesan control, offers a clear anecdote of what a Catholic school chose to create when allowed particularly great autonomy. Within its intimate, largely middle-class, school environment, Aquin developed successful, college-preparatory, academic training for its students while fostering, also, a modern Catholicism of spiritual development, social justice, and ecumenicalism. The study of Aquin Central Catholic High School provides clear evidence in support of earlier studies that claimed Catholic education facilitated a tension between empowering its students for individual success and demonstrating their ideological commitment to the common good.
Cluver, Sherry Ann, "We Are Aquin: the Creation of Community and Personal Identity in the Freeport Catholic Schools" (2014). Theses and Dissertations. 212.