December 30, 2018

  Today marks the passing in 1903 of a seminal figure in early Paulist history, Father George Deshon, C.S.P. (1823-1903). A descendant of Puritan leader William Brewster of  Mayflower fame, Deshon was raised a Congregationalist in New London, Connecticut, before receiving an appointment to the United States Military Academy in at sixteen. His roommate was future general and president Ulysses S. Grant, with whom he kept strong ties throughout his life. After graduating second in the Class of 1843, Deshon taught… Read more

December 29, 2018

On this day in three separate years, three significant figures in the early history of Catholic Brooklyn passed away: John Loughlin (1817-1891), founding bishop of the Brooklyn Diocese. James Alphonsus McMaster (1820-1886), editor of nineteenth century New York’s premier Catholic periodical, The Freeman’s Journal. Father Sylvester Malone (1821-1899), activist and pastor of a Brooklyn church for fifty-five years straight. The three were widely different in temperament and outlook. While the fiery McMaster loved controversy, Bishop Loughlin assiduously avoided any public… Read more

December 28, 2018

As we travel around the nations’s Catholic college campuses this week, we come to Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. Founded in 1856 by Newark’s first Bishop, James Roosevelt Bayley, it was named for Bayley’s cousin, the future Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821). It is the oldest diocesan-run Catholic university in the United States. From 1868 to 1873, Father Michael Augustine Corrigan served as President of what was then known as Seton Hall College. (It became a university… Read more

December 27, 2018

One of the reasons I got into American Catholic history was as a way to understand my own background a little better. Unfortunately, most Irish Americans know little about their history. When he was growing up in the Bronx, author Peter Quinn recalls: “As far as I knew, Brian Boru was a bar on Kingsbridge Road.” Similarly, most American Irish, especially those whose ancestors came during the Great Famine, know little about their family history. “Of all the New York… Read more

December 26, 2018

As readers might guess, I’ve long been interested in the intersection between Catholic history and American history. When I was a History major at Fordham in the Bronx, I took a great course on the war with Dr. Paul Cimbala, for which I wrote a paper on Catholic chaplains. That was the spring of 1988, and almost nothing was written on the subject. Even books on American Catholic history passed it over, so I despaired of ever finding anything. Things,… Read more

December 25, 2018

On Christmas Day, I always enjoy watching movies with a spiritual theme, and one of my favorites is a 1944 film The Keys of the Kingdom,  with a young Gregory Peck playing a missionary priest in China. It was a movie that my dad and I watched together often through the years, and for that it reason alone it brings back many happy memories. It’s also one of those films from Hollywood’s Golden Age, one which more than holds up… Read more

December 22, 2018

Today marks the birth of a priest known as “the Apostle of the Alleghenies,” one of the true pioneers of Catholic America. Born a Russian aristocrat, the son of a Prince, Demetrius Gallitzin converted to Catholicism at age seventeen. (He took the middle name Augustine at that time.) After traveling to the United States on a tour, he decided to stay and become a Catholic priest, thereby foregoing his inheritance. He studied at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, the nation’s… Read more

December 21, 2018

Founded in 1870 in downtown Buffalo, Canisius College is one of twenty-eight Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States. According to the college website: What began in a single building in downtown Buffalo now consists of 37 buildings located on 72 acres in a residential neighborhood in North-Central Buffalo. We are a masters-level, comprehensive university offering undergraduate, graduate and professional programs that are distinguished by close student-faculty collaboration and experiential learning opportunities that transform the mind and spirit. Canisius… Read more

December 20, 2018

In 1800’s England, becoming Catholic was, writes historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, “a fate worse than death.” Englishmen, one contemporary observed, feared Catholics “more than they fear heathens.” When England’s Roman Catholic hierarchy was re-established in 1850, three centuries after the Reformation, effigies of bishops were burned in the streets and “No Popery!” was graffiti’d on walls. Still, many converted, thanks largely to the Oxford Movement. This started in the 1830’s as an attempt to reclaim Anglicanism’s prophetic role, but led many… Read more

December 19, 2018

Michael Bloomberg wasn’t the first New York Mayor to learn Spanish. That distinction belongs to William Russell Grace (1832-1904), an Irish immigrant who made a fortune in the Latin American shipping business. His 1880 election was a major breakthrough for New York Catholics, as he was the first successful Roman Catholic candidate. Born to a respectable family in County Cork, Grace left Ireland at sixteen for New York during the height of the Irish Famine. For most of his two years… Read more

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