A Catholic summer school is an assembly of Catholic clergy and laity held during the summer months to foster intellectual culture in harmony with Christian faith by means of lectures and special courses along university extension lines. It first took form in the Champlain Summer School which was founded at New London, Connecticut, 1892, and located permanently in 1893 at Cliff Haven, N. Y. The Columbian Summer School was established at Madison, Wisconsin, 1895, and is now permanently located at Milwaukee ; the Winter school of New Orleans was founded in 1896, and the Maryland Summer School in 1900. This interesting feature of Catholic intellectual and sociological work in the United States is the natural development and coalescence of various tendencies previously existing in the Church, viz., reading circles, university extension, summer institutes.
The coalescence of these three elements in the Cliff Haven Summer School has made it a characteristic and powerful factor of intellectual and social American Catholic life. The Young Men's National Union, organized in 1875, and the first Catholic National Congress of Baltimore, in 1889, had created the desire for lay Catholic national unity. At suggestion of Mr. Mosher, Mgr. James Loughlin, President of the Y. M. N. U., published, 17 Jan., 1892, in the "Catholic Review" of New York City, a letter urging the establishment of a summer assembly. Clergy, laity, and the press endorsed the project with enthusiasm. A meeting was held at the Catholic Club, New York City, 12 May, 1892, under the auspices of Archbishop Corrigan and plans were laid for an opening session at New London, Conn., 15 July to 5 August, 1892. One thousand persons representing twenty states were in attendance. Among the promoters were Mgr. James Loughlin, Mgr. M. J. Lavelle, Mgr. D. J. McMahon, Bishop Conaty, Mgr. John Walsh, Mgr. Henry Brann, Rev. Morgan Sheedy, Rev. John F. Mullany, Rev. F. P. Siegfried, Rev. Joseph H. McMahon, Rev. P. A Halpin, Rev. John Talbot Smith, Rev. Thomas McMillan, C.S.P., Rev. Denis O'Sullivan, S.J., Very Rev. James P. Kiernan, Rev. Thomas P. Joynt, Rev A. P. Doyle, C.S.P., Rev. Thomas Hughes, S.J., Rev. Walter P. Gough, Brother Azarias, Charles G. Herbermann, George Parsons Lathrop, Richard Malcom Johnson, Maurice Francis Egan, Mary Elizabeth Blake, Katherine E. Conway, John A. Mooney, Richard D. Clark, Thomas B. Fitzpatrick, John D. Crimmins, Hon. John B. Riley, John A. Haaran, George E. Hardy, John P. Brophy, Wm. R. Claxton, Jacques M. Mertens, Wm. J. Moran. Permanent organization followed with president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and a board of twenty-four trustees.
The following year an offer, made by the Delaware and Hudson Company through its agent, of 450 acres of land on the shore of Lake Champlain, three miles south of Plattsburg, N. Y., was accepted. The sessions of 1893, 1894, and 1895, were held in Plattsburg. In 1896 the session was held on the assembly grounds, named Cliff Haven. With the approbation of Leo XIII and Pius X, of the Apostolic delegates, Cardinal Satolli, Cardinal Martinelli, and Cardinal Archbishop Falconio, and of the hierarchy of the United States, the movement has grown with each year until it now has property valued at $500,000, courses of lectures covering eleven weeks, and an attendance of about 10,000. With a daily program of lectures, concerts, dramatic recitals, and social gatherings, it brings together in social intercourse Catholics from all parts of the country and offers a stimulus and an opportunity for study along lines of advanced thought. Its main purpose is: to give from the most authoritative sources among our Catholic writers and thinkers, the Catholic point of view on all the issues of the day in history, literature, philosophy, art, political science, upon economic and social problems that are agitating the world, upon the relations between science and religion; to state in the clearest possible terms the underlying truth in each and all of these subjects; to remove false assumptions; and to correct false statements. It thus meets a recognized want of clergy and laity, is an important popular educational centre in America, and has contributed much to organize Catholic intellectual forces and to solve the problems of American life.
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