Education and Transformation: Marianist Ministries in America since 1849

By Goodchild, Lester F. | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2002 | Go to article overview

Education and Transformation: Marianist Ministries in America since 1849


Goodchild, Lester F., The Catholic Historical Review


Education and Transformation:Marianist Ministries in America since 1849. By Christopher J. Kauffman. (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company. 1999. Pp. xvii, 366. $29.95.)

Since the publication of Tamers of Death: The History of the Alexian Brothers (1973), Professor Christopher J. Kauffman of the Catholic University of America has demonstrated a wonderful excellence in relating the histories of American Catholic religious communities and their service to the Church. This most recent book addition with its focus on the Marianist ministries in this country since 1849 reveals his most robust and full-fledged demonstration of, what may be called, the emerging integrative pattern for American Catholic institutional historiography. Building on eleven archival visits here and in Rome, Kauffman powerfully integrates appropriate thematic discussions of the national context, the founder of the community and his spirituality the growth of community, various apostolic directions and episcopal negotiating, the broadening ecclesial contextualism relating to the community's assimilation of American customs and ever increasing interest by Vatican authorities, and most recent responses to the Second Vatican Council. In other words, this work is an excellent interpretive model for the very demanding task of appropriately accounting for the external and internal forces that shape the history of a religious community. The Reverend Joseph P. Chinnici, O.F.M., in his praiseworthy foreword puts this task for the historian very well: a project that "points to an understanding of a religious group as a mediating institution in the context of church and society" (p. xv). Echoing Cardinal Newman's famous ecciesiological realpolitik on the university's role as a way station between the Church and the world, Chinnici's historical clarity of the community's journey and Kauffman's superb retelling offer the knowledgeable reader a delightful intellectual treatise.

Similar to his 1997 entry on the Marianists for The Encyclopedia of American Catholic History, Kauffman's organizational structure here follows the major transformations of the community: its founding, developments in France, missionary work in the United States, national expansion, internal conflicts between the apostolic and religious piety at the turn of the twentieth century, Americanization pressures on its German-speaking members, struggles in adopting the American high school model, international missionary activities, and adapting to the norms of the Second Vatican Council. In his other works, especially on the Sulpicians, and in this one, he knowledgeably explains initially the seventeenth-century French and Spanish spiritual roots of this lay sodality, as derived from the pieties of Ignatius Loyola and later of Jean Jacques Offer and Cardinal Pierre de Berulle in the prologue. Founded by William Joseph Chaminade (1761-1850), a sodality began with five lay people in 1817, devoted to Mary Immaculate and the Sacred Heart. This group was transformed eventually into the religious Society of Mary, dedicated to "ministering to young people" (pp. 6-8). The laity, brothers, and priests formed this apostolic community "to evangelize `from below"' (p. 18) through education in parish churches initially and later in Catholic schools in postrevolutionary Enlightenment France. While dressed in secular clothing, thereby not inciting the then prevalent anticlericalism among the populace, its members sought their own perfection and encouraged others "to lead a Christian life" (p. 23). They became a major educational force in the country by 1850 with sixty-two mostly elementary schools. Had the thirty-three year old founder lived beyond that year, he would have subsequently witnessed how the new liberte d'enseignement with the French lot Falloux allowed Catholic religious communities to establish their own secondary schools. Taking advantage of this law, the Marianist community established rapidly fifteen secondary schools with some 2,200 students. …

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