Re-Evaluating the Role of "National" Identities in the American Catholic Church at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: The Case of Les Petites Franciscaines De Marie (Pfm)

By Waldron, FlorenceMae | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2009 | Go to article overview

Re-Evaluating the Role of "National" Identities in the American Catholic Church at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: The Case of Les Petites Franciscaines De Marie (Pfm)


Waldron, FlorenceMae, The Catholic Historical Review


Ethnic divisions and nationalism dominate the scholarship on the Church's efforts to incorporate immigrants in the decades around 1900. By studying nuns' perceptions of their place in the Church in their own words, the author argues that female religious may not have prioritized ethnic distinctions as highly as their male counterparts did. Examining how founding members of the Petites Franciscaines de Marie (PFM) understood their ethnic identity in relation to their identity as nuns, this article challenges prevailing interpretations of nationalism among ethnic Catholics in the United States, while suggesting the importance of incorporating women's views into a fuller understanding of church history.

Keywords: French Canadians; gender; nuns, nationalism; New England

Despite recent growth in interest and scholarship on North American female religious orders, much work remains with regard to incorporating these insights into the historical narrative of the U.S. Catholic Church or considering what an analysis sensitive to chang- ing definitions of manhood and womanhood can add to this history. Because female religious had different positions and responsibilities within the Church, seeing the Church through their eyes can poten- tially offer new perspectives on the history of Catholicism in the United States. French Canadian immigrant nuns remain especially marginalized in this historiography. By focusing on the Petites Franciscaines de Marie (PFM), an order established in the United States by French Canadian immigrants, this essay will consider how shifting our focus from male church officials to female religious can alter our understanding of the relationship between religious and ethnic identities. Moreover, its use of previously unavailable sources highlights the importance of exploring how nuns understood their position in Church and society through their own words and records.

On an organizational level, the Catholic Church is a universal institution whose loyalties supersede national boundaries. Yet within U.S. immigrant communities, ethnically homogeneous local parishes have often served as bulwarks of ethnic identity and sometimes as bases of collective action on behalf of political battles still being waged at home. Scholarship on French Canadian migration to the United States in the decades around 1900 contains numerous accounts of how important such "national" parishes, defined by common language and ancestry rather than geography, were to Québécois1 migrants. In the New England communities where they settled, priests and lay leaders alike fought to preserve their distinct French Canadian identity at the parochial level. Periodic skirmishes with bishops over the right to ethnically homogeneous congregations with priests from Quebec were part of this struggle. While interactions between Irish American bishops and their French Canadian constituents were not always antagonistic,2 the ethnic presses of the late 1800s and early 1900s indicate that overall these relationships were, as one historian put it, "rarely amicable" - an assessment echoed by the bulk of the secondary literature.3

In this regard, Quebecois émigrés had much in common with other Catholic immigrants at the time. By 1900, most U.S. bishops descended from earlier Irish immigrants,4 who had never faced the language barrier that later non-English-speaking migrants encountered. These Irish American bishops were keenly aware of antiCatholic currents in mainstream American society, which culminated in the xenophobic campaigns of the 1920s Ku Klux Klan revival.5 By adopting English and acculturating to life in the United States, many bishops believed, the newer migrants would help to unite the U.S. Catholic Church and strengthen the Church in its battles against the dominant Protestant culture.6 As a result, later generations of German, Italian, French Canadian, and Polish immigrants, along with Mexican Americans, all fought with U. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Re-Evaluating the Role of "National" Identities in the American Catholic Church at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: The Case of Les Petites Franciscaines De Marie (Pfm)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.