Encyclopedia of California's Catholic Heritage, 1769-1999

Article excerpt

Encyclopedia of California's Catholic Heritage, 1769-1999. By Francis J. Weber. (Mission Hills, California, and Spokane, Washington: St. Francis Historical Society and The Arthur H. Clark Company. 2001. Pp. 1148.)

The reverend archivist of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has gathered some 1600 of his own brief accounts of people, places, and events in the Golden State and woven them into a reference work on Catholicism in California. The editors of the Catholic Encyclopedia need not worry that a rival publication has come on the market. Theirs is still the place to look for definitive information about sacraments, saints, creeds, and heresies. This volume instead is a compendium of the immigrants who brought Catholicism to California and the ways in which they "passed that precious jewel to new generations."

The basic arrangement is topical: the missions, the hierarchy, the laity, and the secular clergy. Within each section the organization is generally alphabetical, but readers are advised to make liberal use of the eighteen-page index. Even with the help of the index, it is possible to miss some gems of encyclopedic information: the murders at Mission San Miguel (page 67); Cardinal McIntyre and the UFOs (page 290); the ghost in the cathedral at Monterey (page 584). Some topics overlap, and in a few cases the treatment is uneven. One section has to do with"Friars," while another discusses "Religious Men and Women." Under the heading "Ecclesial Institutions" there are twenty pages devoted to the Archival Center, of which the author is director. The remaining fifty pages explain the history of the various churches, chapels, schools, and universities not covered in other sections of the volume.

In discussing individuals Monsignor Weber saves his assessments for those who are safely dead. He admired Francis Cardinal McIntyre, "a man principled enough to have opponents, but Christlike enough to have no enemies." Admitting that Timothy Cardinal Manning was seen by some as "passive and unresponsive," the author instead found that Manning "epitomized a totally different approach, one that paralleled and extolled the relationship of Jesus with His apostles. Both men have gone to their reward, but Roger Cardinal Mahony has not. His two-page biography contains not a single word describing the archbishop's personal qualities, positive or otherwise.

Some of the entries have only a vague connection with California. …

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