Maturation and Mobility: 1945-1965
This period covers the latter part of Kiley's term, the administration of Albert G. Meyer (1953-1958) and a portion of the term of William E. Cousins (1959-1965).
The diocese in this period adjusted to the new status of Catholics in the US. Significant events: end of World War II; baby boom, G.I. Bill--which means that more Catholics can go to college and there are more colleges for them. Upward social mobility touched the Catholic community, reflected in the move to the suburbs. By 1965, Catholics were better educated, better paid, and more middle-class than the previous generation. Growth was so great that in 1946 the diocese of Madison is erected and the Western portion of the Milwaukee diocese is given to the new See.
|5th Graders at St. Lawrence School, Milwaukee, 1950s.
Archbishop Kiley was unable to cope with changes. His reluctance to spend money on building projects left a huge backlog of work for his successor, Milwaukee-born Albert G. Meyer. Scores of new parishes, schools, and institutions were erected during the 1950s. At this time as well, the Catholic high school came into its own. Catholic colleges grew as well--Marquette, Alverno, Stritch, Marian, Mount Mary and Dominican. Meyer succeeded Cardinal Stritch in Chicago in 1958, and the following year William E. Cousins became Milwaukee's archbishop. The new prelate finished off Meyer's expansion program-- eventually calling it to a halt in the late 1960s when the rate of Catholic growth slowed down.
The fabric of Catholic life in this era was still heavily devotional, reflected in popularity of devotional societies, general diffusion of Marian Devotion (Marian Year 1954), and opening of Archdiocesan Marian Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. A strong emphasis on proper dress was evidenced by Archbishop Meyer's 1956 pastoral on "Decency and Modesty." The "typical" setting for Catholics of the archdiocese was less and less the urban neighborhood parish and more the suburb. This is especially true of Milwaukee, but is also the case in other urban centers of the archdiocese. Another factor, cities like Milwaukee and Racine experienced a dramatic increase in the numbers of African Americans taking up residence. White Catholics began to move out of their old neighborhoods and into suburbs.
There was major labor strife in Sheboygan (Kohler Strike), involving Catholics on both sides of the issue. Catholic elementary school enrollments peaked as did seminary and religious numbers. There were continued stirrings of interest in liturgical reform and lay participation in the Church. An important center of lay formation opened in 1948, called the Cardijn Center. This adult study center, book and gift shop was the brainchild of Father John R. Beix. Many young Catholic men and women received their first training in the rudiments of Catholic doctrine, liturgy, and social justice at this center. In many ways, the era of maturation and mobility represented a real flowering of Catholic culture. When Vatican II convened in October 1962, there was little awareness of the need for the Council and the nature of its deliberations. This would change in the following decades when every area of life in the Church felt the forces of change set loose by the Vatican II Council.