The Charles and Margaret Hall Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at the University of Notre Dame is widely recognized as the leading center for the historical study of Roman Catholicism in the United States.
The Cushwa Center seeks to promote and encourage the scholarly study of the American Catholic tradition through instruction, research, publication, and the collection of historical materials. The center strives to deepen the understanding of Catholics’ historical role and contemporary expressions of their religious tradition in the United States.
Cushwa Center seminars, conferences, research projects, and publications engage a national body of scholars from disciplines including history, theology, women’s studies, sociology, American studies, religious studies, and English. The center also provides resources and critical commentary to the media reporting on U.S. Catholicism, and collaborates with Church leaders to enhance the vitality of Catholic life in the United States.
In all aspects of its mission, the Cushwa Center seeks interdisciplinary and ecumenical cooperation.
The center began operations in 1975 after its first director, Jay P. Dolan, explored the idea with his colleagues in Notre Dame’s Department of History. The center received initial funding from Notre Dame’s Provost until, in 1981, the Cushwa family of Youngstown, Ohio, provided the center with a major endowment. Dolan served as director of the Cushwa Center until 1994, when he was succeeded by R. Scott Appleby. Timothy Matovina directed the center from 2002 to 2012, and Kathleen Sprows Cummings was named director in 2012.
Seminars, lectures, and conferences
The Seminar in American Religion brings together historians of American religion and other scholars each semester to discuss a recent book published in the field. The author attends along with two invited commentators. The Cushwa Center Lecture is presented annually by a prominent scholar in the field of American Catholic Studies. The Hibernian Lecture, delivered annually by a distinguished scholar or author, explores the Irish American experience from historical and literary perspectives. Conferences, hosted annually on campus and abroad, engage scholarship on a range of topics including global Catholicism, Catholicism in 20th-century America, and U.S. Hispanic Catholicism. The center also oversees the Conference on the History of Women Religious, a scholarly network gathering every three years to discuss new research in the field.
The center also frequently hosts public lectures, film screenings, and research exhibits. Unless otherwise noted, all events are free and open to the public. Visit cushwa.nd.edu/events for the latest information.
Research and publications
Postdoctoral fellows at the Cushwa Center pursue their own writing projects and professional development while supporting Cushwa programming.
The Cushwa Center administers four annual grant programs and one research award. The annual deadline for all five funding programs is December 31.
The American Catholic Studies Newsletter, published twice a year by the Cushwa Center, features guest-contributed articles and book reviews and surveys the latest developments and scholarship in the field.
Recent volumes published by Cushwa Center staff and fellows include Catholics in the Vatican II Era: Local Histories of a Global Event (Cambridge University Press, 2017), a collection of essays resulting from the Lived History of Vatican II Project, and Matteo Binasco’s Roman Sources for the History of American Catholicism, 1763–1939 (Notre Dame Press, 2018), written during the author’s time as a postdoctoral fellow in Rome.
From 1975 to 2012, the Cushwa Center's Working Paper Series regularly featured works-in-progress presented at small seminars hosted at the University of Notre Dame.
Cushwa in Rome
Since 2014, the Cushwa Center has collaborated with Notre Dame’s Rome Global Gateway to host two seminars, a major conference, frequent lectures and panels, and two fellowships in Rome, Italy. Members of Cushwa’s Rome Advisory Committee share their expertise with the center, participate in its Rome events, and advance new initiatives involving their own institutions. Professor Luca Codignola, the center’s senior fellow in Rome, chairs the committee.
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Scholars who need to locate and work with University archival materials should contact the University of Notre Dame Archives.