A new encyclopedia of US Catholic history details the role that American Catholics have had in shaping the nation.
With over 2,000 entries, “Encyclopedia of US Catholic History” is authored by Matthew Bunson and Margaret Bunson (Our Sunday Visitor, 2013).
From the earliest missionary travels of the Spanish and French to the New World, Catholics had a prominent impact on US culture, entertainment, politics and business. Catholics also played a major role in the development of schools, hospitals, and infrastructure.
A few examples that can be found in the encyclopedia:
Archbishop John Carroll (d. 1815), the first American bishop, was a critical force in building the Church in America — from 30,000 in 1784 to over 200,000 at the time of his death in 1815;
Archbishop Carroll founded the first U.S. Catholic college — Georgetown — as well as Baltimore, and Mount St. Mary’s College. His influence was also important in church-state relations, care for the poor, and building dioceses;
During the Civil War, Mother Angela Gillespie established eight military hospitals, founded a teacher-training institute, and established 45 foundations all across the U.S.;
Bishop James Healy was the first African-American bishop in the U.S., and he founded 60 parishes, 68 mission stations, and 18 schools and convents;
In 1965 there were 11,000 Catholic elementary schools teaching 4.5 million students, and 2,400 Catholic high schools teaching more than 1 million;
Little-known James Hoban was the architect and designer of the White House, completed in 1803 — he was the most prominent lay Catholic in Washington at the time;William Grace was the first Catholic mayor of New York City, a noted philanthropist and among founders of the New York and Pacific Steam Ship Company, among many other enterprises.
The 1,000+ pages also include articles on the Catholic Church in all 50 states, the history of every diocese, a survey of Catholic communities in America, a detailed chronology, and much more.
The encyclopedia is written for Catholic laypeople, but is of service to anyone seeking historical context of the Church’s role in America.
“The Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History represents literally years of research and labor,” stated author Matthew Bunson. “It was, however, a privilege to bring together, because the story of the Church in America is one of heroism, fortitude in the face of adversity and anti-Catholic hatred, love for this country and above all a commitment to bringing Christ to every corner of a new continent. We owe a debt to the countless Catholic men and women who went before us, and we have an obligation to learn about them and celebrate their lives and achievements. The Catholic Church in the United States was built by giants.”
In the foreword, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, states, “I welcome this opportunity to urge my fellow American Catholics to take a deeper interest in their own history. It is a magnificent and inspiring story.”
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