They are a distinctly American phenomenon, born in the Nineteenth Century, and peaking in the mid Twentieth Century. Never has the world seen their like, and their legacy is an intelligent electorate and a tremendous collegiate and university presence in a country known for its higher education.
One of their special special projects was the education of the more than a million immigrants the U.S. accepted during that time, most of them from Christian Europe. The schools were made possible by the thousands of religious — nuns. brothers, and priests — who worked for subsistence wages as part of their calling.
Of course, there are those alumni who only remember that the nuns and brothers were tough, strict, using corporal punishment. I ask, how would you be if you had to control large classes? I personally knew a nun who had ninety (yes, 90) first graders in one classroom in Idaho.