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Ljubo Krasic director of Croatian Ethnic Institute in Chicago, USA
Preserving and promoting the Croatian heritage in the United States and Canada
Fra Ljubo Krasić, director of Croatian Ethnic Institute in Chicago, USA
Croatian Ethnic Institute, Chicago
The Franciscans established the Croatian Ethnic Institute in 1975, with headquarters in Chicago, for the purpose of preserving and promoting the Croatian heritage in the United States and Canada. This foundation was established with one far-sighted goal, namely, that all which is valuable and in any way related to the Croatians could be found in one place and used for various kinds of research. An additional goal of the Institute was to promote Croatian history, culture, literature, and heritage.
Croatian Cardinal dr. Franjo Kuharić (1919-2002) in front of the bust of
In the foundation's program the following is noted: "The main purpose of this Institute is to gather documents and data from all Croatian parishes, organizations, and individuals in the United States and Canada, then to try to spread this information to other Croatian parishes, organizations and clubs outside the homeland; and finally to gather all the written documents which relate to the Croatian immigrants and the problems of emigration. That documentation encompasses published and unpublished books and periodicals written by Croatians, articles and books written by others who wrote about Croatians and Croatia, private libraries, private and official letters and correspondence which have some importance, works of art, trophies, stamps, coins, dolls, photographs, folklore, music, films, and personal ;articles whose value has diminished, but which have documented evidence, etc."8
Certainly the Croatian Franciscan Custody is the one Croatian institute on the American continent which could begin this kind of activity and give a guarantee to all those who were willing to donate valuable materials of whatever sort to the Institute. The fact is that in the last 25 years the Institute was able to gather an impressive amount of all sorts of material, but most valuable is the archives which hold important facts about the Croatian parishes in the United States and Canada. A large number of published works about parishes, clubs and their anniversaries have found their place in the Croatian Ethnic Institute. A large token of gratitude is due Fr. Ljubo Krasic for gathering and arranging of all this. He is also the current Director of the Institute.
Zadarski nadbiskup Ivan Prendja u Institutu The Zadar Archbishop Ivan Prendja at the Institute
In addition to the archives, the Institute also has a vast library containing about 12,000 books and 300 different newspapers. These are valuable mainly because they were printed in the United States and Canada. An ethnological collection, and a collection of documents and books about the appearances of Our Lady in Medjugorje can also be found there. A number of valuable publications from abroad and the homeland can be found in the library. Unfortunately, some projects are not finished, for instance, the census of all the Croatian institutions and individuals of great importance living in the United States and Canada.
With all the difficulties involved in these projects, and the small number of personnel who work here, it is still amazing at how many important things have been accomplished.
The Directors of the Institute:
fr. Hrvoslav Ban 1975.-1976.
fr. Ljubo Krasić 1976.-1980.
fr. Dionizije Lasić 1985.-1995.
fr. Ljubo Krasić 1995. -
The Croatian Schools of America and Canada (CSAC)
Even though this project does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Franciscan Custody, still many Franciscans assisted as the founders, directors, and teachers in the Croatian schools throughout the United States and Canada. Therefore it is also important to mention CSAC here as well. Since there were no adequate textbooks for the children, and the Croatian schools abroad and in the homeland were full of lies written in a Yugoslay and pro-communist manner, a strong need arose to publish appropriate books for the teaching of the Croatian language. Most places needed to organize Croatian schools, and they needed to be woven into an academic network. The teaching programs were coordinated in this way, and teachers were prepared for the very important and responsible task of imparting the Croatian language, history, and awareness to the younger generations. In all of this Fr. Ljubo Krasic played a major role. In 1974, together with a group of Croatian intellectuals and sympathizers in the United States and Canada, he founded an institution which was named Croatian Schools of America and Canada (CSAC-HISAK). By 1978 CSAC already had 55 Croatian schools. During the same year 12 schools from Australia joined them. Therefore the name of the institution was changed to the Croatian Schools of America, Australia and Canada. The headquarters was then in Canada, where in 1978 the first seminars for the Croatian teachers were organized. In 1984 and 1986 CSAC's central committee, consisting of Fr. Ljubo Krasic, Ante Beljo, Gojko Susak and Vinko Grubisic, organized the international seminars of the Croatian language and folklore. During those years over 100 CSAC schools operated abroad.
According to the most recent statistics there are over 30 active Croatian Schools, and over 2700 students in the United States and Canada."9 Since the arrival of democracy in Croatia most of the schools function independently, and in most cases use textbooks from the homeland, while in some cases the textbooks by HISAK authors are used. In these schools the Croatian children, besides learning the Croatian language, learn the Croatian national folklore and dances, and to a lesser degree, Croatian geography and history.
In addition to this, it is important to mention that in a large number of Croatian parishes, those served by the Croatian Franciscan Custody and others, large folklore dance groups have been established. They are composed of young Croatian men and women, most of whom have learned the Croatian dances while attending the Croatian school as children. In that way the Croatian cultural heritage is being in some measure maintamed, even among younger generations. These individuals were born in the United States and Canada, but with roots from various parts of Lijepa Nasa (Our Beloved).
Bust of fra Dominik Mandić, distinguished Croatian historian, made by Ivan Meštrović
Dr. Francis Raul Preveden is distinguished Croatian polyglot who spoke 13 languages
Photos by Nenad Bach
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