How the Jesuits Settled in New York: A Documentary Account

By Schroth, Raymond A. | The Catholic Historical Review, April 2004 | Go to article overview

How the Jesuits Settled in New York: A Documentary Account


Schroth, Raymond A., The Catholic Historical Review


How the Jesuits Settled in New York: A Documentary Account. By Thomas C. Hennessy, S.J. (New York: Something More Publications, Distributed by Fordham University Press. 2003. Pp. xii, 286. $24.00 paperback.)

In this and in its companion volume, Fordham, The Early Years (1998), Thomas C. Hennessy, professor of education emeritus at Fordham University, completes a scholarly labor of love. As Gerald McCool, S.J., says in an epilogue, if Hennessy and his collaborators had not assembled and translated these documents it never would have been done, and scholarship would have suffered a serious loss.

We have the letters, diaries, short biographies, reports, portraits, essays, and appendices, many of which have already fed three histories of Fordham and will serve future researchers in nineteenth-century Catholic education and urban and ethnic history. One of Hennessy's major accomplishments is in documenting who lies where in the Fordham Jesuit graveyard-all to refute a myth popular among students that it was a "fake" cemetery with no actual bones.

Why else read the book? For the stories, some only hinted at in the details that spark these otherwise formulaic documents from missionary territory meant not for our eyes but for religious superiors in Rome, who would perhaps take them with a grain of salt.

Hennessy has divided his documents into four sections, the first three centered around strong personalities whose leadership determined the future of the apostolate: Clement Boulanger, S.J., the mission superior who pulled the French Jesuits out of Kentucky and moved them to Fordham; August Thebaud, S.J., the first Jesuit president of Fordham (then called St. John's College), a scientist, historian, writer, Renaissance man; and John Larkin, the rotund orator who founded Xavier College, now Xavier High School and parish in lower Manhattan.

To best navigate these pages, pick a name like Peter Tissot, S.J., a young French scholastic who first shows up on one of Boulanger's lists in 1846, then again in 1847, among scholastics not assigned to (not having jobs at) the college, but appears in the minister's diary as beginning his long retreat at the college in 1846. …

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