Week 14: Catholics and the Politics of Social Welfare

This week I looked through Loyola’s Women and Social Justice’s online archive and after analyzing our assigned readings the pivotal role of Catholic women stood out. Throughout the semester these women have been important to Chicago’s history and the church’s. When we toured around the city for Open House Chicago, I went to the Catholic Charities, founded in 1881, where the building served as a maternity ward, orphanage, and a place for emergency food and housing for women. While searching through the online archive I found an interesting newspaper article written about Renee Golden, a Catholic nun and social activist. Unfortunately, the database has no information on when or where this article was published, but it’s housed in Renny Golden’s Paper, a collection of documents from 1969-2003.

One is both walking toward a future in which there is .justice for all and walking away from things too. Every step that you take, walking away, is scary, but more and more liberating.’ 

Renee Golden had a unique story of activism that stemmed from her entrance into the Dominican order of nuns when she was only nineteen years old. She left her fiance and taught the first grade at the peak of the Civil Rights movement, which caused her to question her own involvement in the convent and pushed her into doing more for people on a larger scale. Golden’s goal was to “to find God among the poor,” and in order to do so, she had to “chose the street over the antiseptic and timid discipline that protected me [Golden] from the world.” Golden left the convent and returned to the West Side of Chicago to teach, but eventually decided on educating her student’s parents that hadn’t received their high school diplomas. After success in Chicago, Golden moved to Central America to assist with the troubles facing the citizens due to “the killing of thousands of peasants and organizers by the military in El Salvador.” She assisted with the creation of crisis centers in synagogues and churches for fleeing Guatemalan and Salvadoran refugees in the United States.

In 1985 Golden went to El Salvador to interview women on the front line of the resistance movement. She was inspired by their different occupations, they were “political organizers, pastoral workers, martyrs, and militants,” they were “under great risk, talking to a North American, so the narratives had to be gathered clandestinely.” After Golden’s interviews with these brave women on the front lines, she wrote a book about the resistance movement, “The Hour of the Poor, The Hour of Women” in 1991. Since then she’s published books on children in the American social welfare program and the effects it’s had on the youth. Golden, at the time of the article publication, was a professor at Northeastern Illinois University and encouraged her students to become social activists to reignite their vision of humanity.

In conclusion, Renee Golden was a woman that found her humanity within the church but understood the need to expand her knowledge to the rest of the world to ensure their own safety and education. Much like the nuns that founded the Catholic Charities in 1881, they expanded their humanity to the women within the community to secure their futures.


Hamburg, Gail Vida. “Golden- ‘A Quest for Justice’” Feminism in Chicago: Connie Kiosse, content.library.luc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/coll7/id/17/rec/5.

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