Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Diary of a Frontier Bishop: The Journals of Theophile Meerschaert

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Diary of a Frontier Bishop: The Journals of Theophile Meerschaert

Article excerpt

Diary of a Frontier Bishop: The Journals of Theophile Meerschaert. Edited and annotated by James D.White. CI(lsa, Oklahoma:The Sarto Press. 1994; third printing, 1996. Pp. xx, 638. $32.50 paperback.)

When Belgian-born Theophile Meerschaert was named a titular bishop and Vicar Apostolic of Indian Territory in 1891, he began a personal diary. He did so primarily because the bishop under whom he had trained had also kept a journal. For the next thirty-four years, he continued to jot notes in his ordo for transcription at a later time. In the diary, Meerschaert recorded his daily life as the first resident bishop in Indian Territory and then after 1905 as the first bishop of Oklahoma. When this reviewer first read the original manuscript diary over two decades ago, the personality of its author leapt from the pages.This was in spite of the sometimes impossible task of deciphering the hastily written journal with its idiosyncratic abbreviations, punctuation, and syntax. The thought came to mind that a scholarly and professionally edited diary would remove this impediment and reveal even more of Meerschaert's missionary temperament. When James D. White edited and annotated the full text of the diary, he succeeded admirably in doing just this.

The picture of Meerschaert that emerges is that of a down-to-earth, matter-offact man. While he was devoted to building his church despite few resources and vast distances, he was also intensely loyal to his friends and family. He was something of a "bean counter as he numbered each confirmation by date and place and dutifully recorded the miles between towns. …

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