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9780813124865
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Frontiers of Faith

Bringing Catholicism to the West in the Early Republic

American religious histories have often focused on the poisoned relations between Catholics and Protestants during the colonial period or on the virulent anti-Catholicism and nativism of the mid- to late nineteenth century. Between these periods, however, lies an important era of close, peaceable, and significant interaction between these discordant factions. Frontiers of Faith: Bringing Catholicism to the West in the Early Republic examines how Catholics in the early nineteenth-century Ohio Valley expanded their church and strengthened their connections to Rome alongside the rapid development of the Protestant Second Great Awakening. In competition with clergy of evangelical Protestant denominations, priests and bishops aggressively established congregations, constructed church buildings, ministered to the faithful, and sought converts. Catholic clergy also displayed the distinctive features of Catholicism that would inspire Catholics and, hopefully, impress others. The clerics' optimism grew from the opportunities presented by the western frontier and the presence of non-Catholic neighbors. The fruit of these efforts was a European church translated to the American West. In spite of the relative harmony with Protestants and pressures to Americanize, Catholics relied on standard techniques of establishing the authority, institutions, and activities of their faith. By the time Protestant denominations began to resent the Catholic presence in the 1830s, they also had reason to resent Catholic successes—and the many manifestations of that success—in conveying the faith to others. Using extensive correspondence, reports, diaries, court documents, apologetical works, and other records of the Catholic clergy, John R. Dichtl shows how Catholic leadership successfully pursued strategies of growth in frontier regions while continually weighing major decisions against what it perceived to be Protestant opinion. Frontiers of Faith helps restore Catholicism to the story of religious development in the early republic and emphasizes the importance of clerical and lay efforts to make sacred the landscape of the New West.

About the Author

John R. Dichtl is executive director of the National Council on Public History and former deputy executive director of the Organization of American Historians.

Reviews

"This small gem of a book tells the dramatic and important story of how a variety of European priests with diverse backgrounds and expectations adapted their essentially European church to a complex and often oppositional American frontier environment. Clearly written, persuasively interpreted, and illustrated by apt quotations, the book fills a significant lacuna in U.S. religious historiography." "Thoroughly researched and meticulously documented."Important. . . for understanding half a century of history. . .of Catholicism in America and the early West." —John B. Boles, Rice University"

"Dichtl's work is well-written, well-documented, and well-reasoned. Here is a fresh, nuanced approach that expands the reader's perspectives. The materials on devotional life and ritual are particularly enlightening." —Clyde F. Crews, University Historian, Bellarmine University"

"It is a solid work of research and interpretation that nicely fills a previously unexplored niche in the development of the Catholic Church in America." —Edward R. Kantowicz,Journal of Illinois History"

"Dichtl's work is thoroughly researched and meticulously documented, but he employs enough anecdotes of fiery priests, recalcitrant laymen, and saintly (and not-so-saintly) bishops to give his narrative a lively pace." —Andrew Stern, Ohio Valley History"

"It is a great addition to American Catholic Church history and is highly recommended to those interested in this period of American Catholic Church history." —Br. Benet Exton, www.catholicnewsagency.com"

"Dichtl's work in an important and vital history. Well researched, topically organized, and clearly written, it adds immensely to our understanding of the place of religion, especially Catholicism, in the nineteenth-century United States." —Jim Norris, American Historical Review"

"Dichtl's work is thoroughly researched and meticulously documented, but he employs enough anecdotes of fiery priests, recalcitrant laymen, and saintly (and not-so-saintly) bishops to give his narrative a lively pace. Dichtl's story is an important one for understanding half a century of history, both of Catholicism in America and of the early West." —Andrew Stern, Ohio Valley History"

"This is a very well-written presentation of the history of the Catholic Church as it expanded into the West. It is a great addition to American Catholic Church history and is highly recommended to those interested in this period of American Catholic history." —Benet Exton, Oklahoman, www.curledup.com, Sooner Catholic, www.newsok.com"

"In his study of Catholic development in the early American West, John R. Dichtl describes the challenges and tribulations of missionary efforts that seemed nearly hopeless in those early years." —James M. Bergquist, Journal of American History"

"Dichtl is especially to be commended for exploring an under-researched period and locale in American Catholic history." —Leslie W. Tentler, Indiana Magazine of History"

"Dichtl is especially to be commended for exploring an under-researched period and locale in American Catholic history." —Indiana Magazine of History"

"Puncturing sentimental assessments of frontier Catholic piety, Dichtl's account of early frontier Catholic life challenges conventional wisdom concerning the period as a golden age for lay trusteeism, a parish ownership model treasured by those seeking alternatives to clerical centralization." —First Things"

"In this gracefully written book, John R. Dichtl draws attention to an underrated but crucial topic—the role of organized religion as a central component in shaping local community and cultural identity in western regions." —Anne M. Butler, Western Historical Quarterly"

"Dichtl uses diaries, letters, and records of Catholic clergy to analyze the changing perceptions of non-Catholics and, indirectly, Protestant perceptions of Catholics...Dichtl's work reveals a world of cooperation, however tentative and temporary, and its gradual disappearance." —Journal of Southern History"

"While there have been a number of monographs on specific persons or places covered in these books, there is a need for an updated work on this topic. This book fills that niche." —Catholic Library World"

"An important attempt to address a somewhat neglected chapter in American Catholic history and early republic religious history... Dichtl has produced one of the finest studies of Catholicism in the early republic." —Journal of the Early Republic"—

9780813124865 : frontiers-of-faith-dichtl
Hardback
250 Pages
$60.00 USD
9780813138817 : frontiers-of-faith-dichtl
Electronic book text
250 Pages
$60.00 USD
9780813172934 : frontiers-of-faith-dichtl
Electronic book text
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