December 31, 2008

The Church, wrote the French theologian Yves Congar, “must breathe fully with both its lungs: the Eastern Churches and the Western.” Until the 1880’s, there were no Eastern Rite Churches in America. Most of the first Eastern Catholic immigrants were Ruthenian (also called Byzantine). Today marks the death of Father Nicephor Chanath (1855-1898), a pioneer Ruthenian priest who worked in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. When many Eastern Catholics arrived, they got a cold reception from Latin bishops who didn’t understand… Read more

December 30, 2008

At the heart of St. Louis’ Italian community is a neighborhood known as The Hill. Beginning in the 1880’s, immigrants from Italy and Sicily moved there in search of work, and over the years it’s retained its distinctive ethnic character. (Fire hydrants are still painted red, white, and green.) Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola grew up there, across the street from each other. St. Ambrose was founded as an Italian parish on the Hill in 1903. In 1972, a monument… Read more

December 30, 2008

Jay Dolan has a new book on Irish American history, a slim one volume overview that’s very readable and incoporates recent scholarship. Dolan just retired from teaching history at Notre Dame, where he founded the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism. For a recent review of the book click here. Read more

December 30, 2008

In July 1906, the Jesuits bought the old Kings County jailhouse on Crow Hill from one of their former students, Bishop Charles E. McDonnell. For a long time they had wanted to come to Brooklyn, but McDonnell’s predecessor, Bishop John Loughlin, wouldn’t let them. (A local paper claimed that Loughlin had a strong “aversion for two classes of people—Jesuits and reporters.”) They had plans for a large domed church and college that would cover an entire city block. On September… Read more

December 30, 2008

Today marks the founding of the American Catholic Historical Association in Cleveland in 1919. It still serves as a national organization for scholars interested in Catholic Church history or Catholic aspects of secular history. The driving force behind its founding was Monsignor Peter Guilday (1884-1947), a Church History professor at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. As founder of the Catholic Historical Review, through his books and the seminars he taught, Guilday professionalized the field. One of his students, Monsignor John… Read more

December 30, 2008

John Adams said that Catholics were scarce as earth-quakes or comets in early America. Nowhere was this truer than in New Hampshire, where Catholics were banned from holding office until 1877. Yet it was here that one of the dramatic conversion stories ever ocurred. It began in 1817 when Virgil Horace Barber (1782-1847), an Episcopal priest, along with his wife and children were received into the Roman Catholic Church. The following year Virgil’s father (also an Episcopal priest) and mother… Read more

December 29, 2008

Today is also the Feast of St. Thomas Becket (1118?-1170), Archbishop of Canterbury, who was murdered this day in 1170 in his own cathedral. King Henry II (1154-1189) wanted to strengthen his control over the Church, and in his friend Becket he thought he had a “yes man.” But he was soon surprised. The new archbishop became a staunch defender of the Church’s rights against royal authority. As the conflict heightened, Henry is reputed to have said, “Who will rid… Read more

December 29, 2008

They really do go in threes. Today also marks the death of John Loughlin, Brooklyn’s first Bishop, in 1891 at age 74. Known as the “Good Old Man” among his priests, until his final illness he preferred to do all his work himself, without even a secretary. Some said he carried the Chancery around in his hatband throughout his 38 years as Bishop. In his later years, the Brooklyn Eagle described him as “a stout, middle sized man with ruddy… Read more

December 29, 2008

Today marks the death of Father Sylvester Malone (1821-1899), an Irish-born priest who served in Brooklyn for 55 years. His one and only assignment was at Saints Peter and Paul in Williamsburg, a parish he founded a few weeks after his ordination in 1844. A strong abolitionist, Malone is believed to have aided the Underground Railroad. He saw slavery as “a blasphemous rebellion against the ordinance of God—to love one another—a radical injustice that in any other land and any… Read more

December 29, 2008

Today marks the death of James Alphonsus McMaster (1820-1886), a giant in the nineteenth century Catholic press. Born in upstate New York, he converted to Catholicism as a young man and studied for the priesthood before becoming a journalist. In 1848 he took charge of the Freeman’s Journal, an independent Catholic newspaper based in New York. His editorial policy has been described as “ever intemperate and always arch-conservative.” In 1854, when Irish-American leader Thomas Francis Meagher physically attacked him for… Read more

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