Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Missionary Movement in American Catholic History

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Missionary Movement in American Catholic History

Article excerpt

The Missionary Movement in American Catholic History. By Angelyn Dries, O.S.E [American Society of Missiology Series, No. 26.] (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books. 1998. Pp. xviii, 398. $20.00 paperback.)

Missionaries are foreign no more! Angelyn Dries moves them from ancillary status in American Catholic history to their rightful position as gospel evangelizers possessing their own story and purpose. Drawing upon archival sources, secondary literature, and interviews, Dries establishes a narrative which successfully "outlines the main contours of the mission movement" (p. 1).

Dries correctly argues that following the colonial period (1492-1775), immigrant, frontier, and overseas evangelical zeal predated American Catholicism's own 1908 independence as a mission land. Thus the nineteenth century "is not a bleak picture in terms of overseas missions as is popularly believed" (p. 58).

From the Spanish-American War (1898) through World War I (1918) American missionaries moved onto the international stage. Missionaries' relationship to the Modernist controversy in the United States, German anthropology and grace, and the romance of the martyr-hero myth receives Dries's attention, as does the significance of Mission Congresses and the Society for the Propagation of the Faith of the late nineteenth century, and the founding of Maryknoll (1911) and the American Board of Catholic Missions (1919). The Catholic Student Mission Crusade, the Bishops' Committee on Latin America, and the influence of women in medical missions help shape the 1920's.

A skillful narrative which uses well dates, facts, statistics, biographical sketches of missionaries, analysis of missionary meetings and organizations, and examination of varied cultures invites a larger polemic. Who are the animators of twentieth-century American Catholic missionary impulse-individuals (men and women), religious orders or lay missioners, bishops, or sponsoring organizations? …

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