Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

An American Abbot: Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., 1809-1887

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

An American Abbot: Boniface Wimmer, O.S.B., 1809-1887

Article excerpt

AnAmericanAbbot:Boniface Wimmer OS.B., 1809-1887. By Jerome Oetgen. Revised edition. (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press. 1997. Pp. xxi, 466. $39.95.)

In 1976 Jerome Oetgen published An American Abbot. It was the first critical and comprehensive study of the life of Boniface Wimmer. With its appearance, Oetgen was able to introduce a host of new readers to the formidable personality and historically influential trajectory of the founding abbot of the first Benedictine community in North America. Publication of this new edition of the work more than two decades later is significant for several reasons. It is a credit to Oetgen that he has made this a true revision. He has incorporated material from a wide range of important works in American Catholic historiography that had not been accessible in the original work. He also did an extensive re-examination of his original sources, refining and re-evaluating earlier historical interpretations. The result is a substantial improvement over the original. The Catholic University of America Press also deserves credit for agreeing to publish this new edition and thus ensuring a wider reading audience.

Dominating Oetgen's perspective is a conviction that Wimmer's role has been underestimated in the history of American Catholicism. Despite the fact that no less a scholar than John Tracy Ellis described Wimmer as "the greatest Catholic missionary of nineteenth-century America," this patriarch of American Benedictines has been largely overlooked in most historical surveys of the Catholic Church in the United States. Oetgen's intent has been to redress that oversight and insert Wimmer's life and work in the context of that history

Like so many of the seminal figures of American Catholic history of the last century, Wimmer's life bridged two continents and cultures. …

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