A Space in Between Walls

Kathleen Holscher

in Religious Lessons

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199781737
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979653 | DOI:
A Space in Between Walls

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This chapter deals with how women religious engaged church–state separation at mid-century. Its focus is on the practices and objects that made up sisters’ public schools in New Mexico. It considers these as the tactical products that enabled Catholic sisters to survive professionally in between public and Catholic education models. Every day sisters made unscripted decisions aimed at bringing their classrooms and their persons into compliance with the state’s curricular expectations and the religious mandates enforced by the Catholic Church’s 1917 Code of Canon Law. Although they never talked about the challenges this work entailed, many things about the way they taught—from the textbooks they distributed, to the way they scheduled class time, to the images they hung on their walls—were designed to achieve a sustainable relationship between religious and civil influences in their classrooms. This chapter argues that, rather than demonstrating disregard for church–state separation, sisters who taught publicly were caught trying to juggle competing Catholic and civil impulses to keep the church and state apart from one another in their work.

Keywords: Catholic sisters; public schools; classrooms; Catholic Church; Catholicism; church–state separation; Catholic education; New Mexico

Chapter.  13697 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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