Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Edward Barron, 1801-1854: Unsung Hero of the Mission to Africa

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Edward Barron, 1801-1854: Unsung Hero of the Mission to Africa

Article excerpt

Edward Barron, 1801-1854: Unsung Hero of the Mission to Africa. By Scan E Farragher, CSSp. (Blackrock, Co. Dublin: Blackrock College. 2004. Pp. xii. 226. euro20.00 paperback.)

Father Farragher's biography of Edward Barren, the leader of the American Catholic Church's first mission to Liberia, clearly can be considered a missionary hagiography as Farragher focuses on the events of Barren's life. In that respect, this volume is not a "life and times" that uses biography as a lens through which to examine a specific period.2

The book is divided into five chapters. The first chapter provides extensive information on the Barren family history in County Waterford, Ireland (the family tree would be useful), Edward's formative years and schooling in England, France, and Rome, and his ordination and work at St. John's College in Waterford. Chapter 2 deals with Barren's life from his arrival in Philadelphia as Francis Patrick Kenrick's vicar general in 1837 to his decision to volunteer for the ill-fated mission to Liberia, his arrival at Cape Palmas in February 1842, and his subsequent departure for the United States and Europe two month later to find additional missionaries for the mission. The next chapter follows Barron in his travels through Italy, France, England, and Ireland, his efforts to secure funding and personnel for the mission, his meeting and collaboration with Francis Libermann and the Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary-seven of whom volunteered for the West African mission, and their departure for Cape Palmas in August 1843. Chapter 4 details the failure of the mission to Liberia including the deaths of seven of the eleven missionaries, the abandonment of Cape Palmas in favor of French trading centers on the West African coast, and Barren's resignation as vicar apostolic. It also briefly discusses developments that resulted in successfully implanting the Catholic Church in West Africa under libermann's direction. Chapter 5 narrates the events of Barren's return to the United States, his pastoral work in Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Savannah, where he died during a yellow fever epidemic in September 1854.

Farragher's work is the first monographic study related to the church's mission to Liberia in twenty-five years.3 It is exceedingly well researched, as Farragher has consulted numerous archives in Europe and the United States. He did not, however, consult the papers of the American Colonization Society or the Maryland State Colonization Society or standard works on the expatriation of freed American slaves (e. …

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