Wednesday, May 20th
Good morning, Good morning,
Many years ago, in a far off land called Arlington, a foolish priest of the diocese was involved in some of the early conversations on future high schools in the diocese. With the rising Catholic population there was a need for expanded programs. Some came quickly and some came slowly. And one just fell apart. Pope Paul VI was quick, but landed in a fifty year old high school building, formerly the Fairfax High School. One was slow but steady and that was Pope John Paul the Great High School, in Dumfries, Virginia. It was located in an out of the way location not far from the Potomac River… but the land was very inexpensive in its development. Enthusiasm for the project revolved around the Dominican Sisters of Nashville who took charge of the school. The third school, soon to open, will be the new St. Pope Paul VI high school and it is located in the area of South Riding. It has been long in coming but should suit the rising population in the area. The school that fell apart was the Notre Dame Academy, West of Middleburg. It was run by the Sisters of Notre Dame from Chardon, Ohio. When they withdrew the good sisters, for lack of vocations, the school was run by a Catholic Lay Board. They in turn handed it over to a simple lay board and the Catholic identity for the school was lost as was the property from the diocese.
Allow a moment outside the box. In those days some foolish priest proposed a Catholic Tech High School, claiming the Church is losing its reach to the working classes of people. All Catholic education “seemed to be” geared for the White Collar sector of the economy, and nothing wearing a blue a collar. We had annual Masses for lawyers and annual Masses for doctors… and more recently for police but none for the workers.
The foolish priest suggested a trial program for a tech high school that would appeal to the contractors in electricity, plumbing, construction, heating and air conditioning, and agriculture. The idea was to promote a full fledged Catholic High School with the synthesis of an academic, social and spiritual formation but to also specialize in the four fields mentioned above. The diocese could sell the project to the financial developers and construction companies. If they invested in the project by providing instructors in the fields mentioned above they would have a Summer labor force that was ahead of the learning curve. And they would also have first dibs, recruiting from the graduating class. It seemed simple, but not appealing to an upper class oriented church. The idea was never offered to the Contractors and Financial developers.
The foolish priest had experience working in the factories of the Pepsi Cola Corporation, he knew how to sort and wash bottles. He also knew how to handle two different types of forklifts and load trucks. And if trusted in the parking lot, without a chauffeur’s license could drive the semi-trucks.
The foolish priest also served as a laborer in the concrete business and could drive the dump truck. The fellow laborers knew him to be a future priest and would call him “Preach.” He learned the business from bottom up and types of men he worked with. Concrete levels for sidewalks were four inches deep, driveways, garages, and basements were six inches deep. Streets were twelve inches deep, and minor airports thirty-six inches deep. The workers as a collective could be quite bold and excessive with their language but when alone expressed themselves with personal remorse for past behaviors and failures in marriage and family life. Their shoulders may have been broad but their souls were simple.
The idea for the Catholic Tech School has its roots in the American experience in the Great Depression and its “New Deal.” Among several programs helping to employ people the one outstanding program was the WPA, “Works Projects Administration.” It was guided by a Social Worker named, Harry Hopkins (August 17, 1890 – January 29, 1946). He was from Iowa and graduated from Grinnell College as a social worker. He didn’t go to an Ivy League School, he wasn’t a politician, engineer, or economist. He was a man with six different visions of the unemployed. An individual in the family, in the street, in the neighborhood, in the state, in the country, and in the world. All would be enhanced by a salaried worker.
His genius was recognized by the Franklin D. Roosevelt, then governor of New York. Hopkins was the man of the hour in arranging new deals in Europe after the Great War and all through the United States. There is also thought he might have been the heir-apparent to Roosevelt but poor Hopkins died of stomach cancer when he was only fifty-five, the year was 1946. Like a general Patton, his was a life for a time in need and then he was gone.
“In March 1933, Roosevelt summoned Hopkins to Washington as federal relief administrator. Convinced that paid work was psychologically more valuable than cash handouts, Hopkins sought to continue and expand New York State’s work-relief programs, the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration. He supervised the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), the Civil Works Administration (CWA), and the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Over 90% of the people employed by the Hopkins programs were unemployed or on relief. He feuded with Harold Ickes, who ran a rival program—the Public Works Administration—which also created jobs but did not require applicants to be unemployed or on relief.
FERA, the largest program from 1933 to 1935, involved giving money to localities to operate work relief projects to employ those on direct relief. CWA was similar but did not require workers to be on relief in order to receive a government sponsored job. In less than four months, the CWA hired four million people, and during its five months of operation, the CWA built and repaired 200 swimming pools, 3,700 playgrounds, 40,000 schools, 250,000 miles (400,000 km) of road, and 12 million feet of sewer pipe.
The WPA, which followed the CWA, employed 8.5 million people in its seven-year history, working on 1.4 million projects, including the building or repair of 103 golf courses, 1,000 airports, 2,500 hospitals, 2,500 sports stadiums, 3,900 schools, 8,192 parks, 12,800 playgrounds, 124,031 bridges, 125,110 public buildings, and 651,087 miles (1,047,823 km) of highways and roads. The WPA operated on its own, and on selected projects in cooperation with local and state governments, but always with its own staff and budget. Hopkins started programs for youth (National Youth Administration) and for artists and writers (Federal One Programs). He and Eleanor Roosevelt worked together to publicize and defend New Deal relief programs. He was concerned with rural areas but increasingly focused on cities in the Great Depression.”
Everyone, and I mean every one, of us have two facets in life to guide us. A vocation to leads of to the gates of Heaven in terms of marriage, religious, or single life. And, an occupation that leads to the gates of the civilized world in our white collars, blue collars, or John Deer hats. The post pandemic world we will soon enter and may need a lot of attention directed to mechanical, electrical, water treatment, and agricultural programs requiring skilled labor. Wherever the work will be the Catholic Church needs to be there as well. Let us pray for the hearts and souls of our work force on whom the civil order depends. Let us pray for one another.
On the creative side. What would you, the readers of this parish letter, propose as possible work projects for our young contractors in the post pandemic?
- There should be an annual Mass for the workers… it may need to offered in Spanish.
- Further development of campgrounds for the Appalachian Trail, or Chesapeake and Ohio tow path, for more hikers, daily and weekly walkers.
- A community Pool for Purcellville or Community Pools in some of the other towns/developments in Western Loudoun County.
- Development of a system of bike trails where a family that can’t afford a vacation to the Beach or Mountains can ride bikes to a neighboring town for an overnight stay at a hotel with pool.
- Develop a town music stand for weekly concerts Sunday afternoons entertaining the folks sitting out on lawn chairs and blankets.