The history of the Catholic Church in the United States oftentimes is not taught in parochial schools and colleges on a regular basis. Such an omission in the educational curriculum needs to be remedied. One book by Reverend Charles Connor remedies this situation with his book, Pioneer Priests and Makeshift Altars.

Father Connor traces the roots of American Catholicism from the perspective of the various heritages in European Catholicism that gave birth to the Church in the English Colonies culminating with the emergence of American Catholicism with the establishment of the Church in colonial Maryland.

In a narrative manner rich with historical scholarship the nascent Catholic Church in the American Colonies is examined in the context of how the Church developed in the original colonies. Maryland figures prominently with the religious tolerance experiment by Lord Baltimore provides a masterful explanation of the Church’s growth as a result of Jesuit missionaries and their efforts to establish permanent mission churches in Maryland. The redaction of the tensions between secular aspects of Maryland’s colonial government and the activities of the Jesuits is examined closely. Father Connor provides detailed explanations of how the Church developed from the rural travels of Jesuit missionaries, travelling on horseback from mission to mission, to permanent parish entities.

Father Connor also describes the religious attitudes towards Catholics in the Thirteen Colonies and focuses on William Penn’s religious experiment in Pennsylvania which provided freedom for all faiths including Catholicism. Connor’s book provides information that critically examines the American Catholic Church’s transformation in Pennsylvania, due mostly to the work of astute Jesuit priests who diligently worked to establish a permanent Catholic presence in Penn’s colony which was favorable to Catholics and their beliefs.

The books treatment of the roots of American Catholicism, illustrates how the faith developed because of the influences of the Reformation and English cultural biases against Catholics. Clearly, Father Connor methodically reviews the cultural, social and political components of life in the 18th century and explains their contributions towards the successful germination of the Catholic faith in the Thirteen Colonies.

Lovers of history will embrace this scholarly work, which provides insights into the dynamics of how the Catholic Church evolved in American from Jesuit outposts of missionary activities into a critical influence on colonial life both politically and spiritually. Remarkably, the Catholic faith developed in all the original British colonies and ultimately flourished. Father Connor’s work exposes the often-omitted contributions of American Catholics, that led to the establishment of the United States.

Missionary activities, political entanglements and issues of consternation with the Jesuits are examined in Father Connor’s work. They are examined in a manner that is both scholarly and inviting to the reader. A debt of gratitude is owed to Father Connor. His remarkable historical narrative tells the tale of the Catholic Church that every American Catholic needs to know and understand. The events described in Father Connor’s book present a Catholic perspective on American History that is usually taught in a sanitized manner, neglecting the great contributions Catholics made to the establishment of the United States through their faith and political determinations to ensure complete religious tolerance.

Father Connor’s book is published by EWTN Press and is distributed by Sophia Institute. The cost of the book is $19.99



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