Posts Tagged ‘History’

A Jesuit in Little Italy: A Look Back at a Priest Working Among the Poorest in New York City

CathPT_NicholasRusso_1At the start of the 20th century, Italian immigrants were arriving at Ellis Island at the rate of 100,000 a year. Many stayed in New York City, settling in an area that came to be known as “Little Italy.” Life was rough: large families were crowded into tenement apartments, men eked out a living on subsistence wages and they faced prejudice from their neighbors. There were few places they could look for help.

One of them was the Catholic Church. Michael A. Corrigan, the Archbishop of New York, made outreach a priority of his administration, founding Italian parishes throughout the metropolitan area for their benefit. He also assigned some of the best priests in the archdiocese to this work. After asking the New York Jesuits to start a new parish on the Lower East Side, Jesuit Father Nicholas Russo (1845-1902) was picked to head it.

Born in Italy, Russo joined the Jesuits at 17 and studied in France and the United States. After his ordination, he was sent to Boston College as a philosophy professor. Over the next eleven years, he wrote two textbooks and served as acting president of the college. Between 1888 and 1890, he taught in New York and Washington before returning to a Manhattan parish, where he doubled as a speechwriter for Archbishop Corrigan.

Flexibility is a cornerstone of Jesuit life, the readiness to go anywhere and assume any task for what founder St. Ignatius Loyola called “God’s greater glory.” A respected professor and college president, Russo gave up a successful academic career to serve in the tenements. A biographer writes, “It must have been, humanly speaking, no small sacrifice . . . for he had held high positions in Boston and New York and his work had lain almost entirely among the better instructed and wealthy.”

To read more about Fr. Russo and his work with the Italian immigrants of New York City, go to the Patheos.com website.

EWTN Live: Jesuits Mitch Pacwa and John Padberg Discuss History of the Society of Jesus

Jesuit Father Mitch Pacwa, the host of “EWTN Live,” recently interviewed Jesuit Father John Padberg, noted historian and director of the Institute of Jesuit Sources based in Saint Louis, Mis., in which he speaks at length about the Society of Jesus, it’s foundation and history.

“I got a chance to go to the Institute that you have up in Saint Louis and see all this material, but so little of it is that well known,” said Fr. Pacwa. “I thought that this might be a great chance to let the institute and the books you make available on spirituality and the history of the Jesuits a little bit better known.”

The segment, which runs almost an hour, features many tidbits of Jesuit history, including:

  • Jesuits opened the first schools for the laity.
  • Jesuits invented the use of grade levels, which advanced students by testing.
  • Jesuits created the school system by founding multiple schools for the laity.
  • Blessed Peter Faber was one of the first ecumenicists, working with Protestants soon after the Reformation.
  • The Jesuits are the only religious order founded by 10 University graduates.
  • St. Francis Xavier was one of the first missionaries to Asia.
  • A Jesuit named Ippolito Desideri was the first European missionary to successfully understand and study the Tibetian language and culture.

Reopening of Colonial Maryland Jesuit Church Brings Tears to Eyes of Jesuit Father Edward Dougherty

Photo Courtesy Washington Post
The pine and oak doors of the rebuilt Brick Chapel were opened to visitors last weekend in Historic St. Mary’s City, Maryland, completing a 15 year fundraising and historically accurate construction effort to bring the chapel back to life. The chapel was initially constructed by the Jesuits in the 1630s, when they arrived as some of the first European settlers to America to assist in forming the new English colony.
When the chapel burned down in 1645, it was rebuilt by the ruling Calvert family of Maryland but the chapel was locked by decree of royal governors from England in the early 1700s. After that ruling, the chapel was eventually dismantled.
“The first time I saw it, it actually brought tears to my eyes,” said Jesuit Father Edward Dougherty of St. Ignatius Church in Port Tobacco, Md., the oldest continually serving Catholic Parish in the U.S. He described the settlers’ actions as “the experiment that was derailed a bit but has never stopped and has grown to what it is today.”
To read more about the opening of the Brick Chapel in Historic St. Mary’s City, visit The Washington Post.

njn_stmaryschapel_washpostThe pine and oak doors of the rebuilt Brick Chapel were opened to visitors last weekend in Historic St. Mary’s City, Maryland, completing a 15 year fundraising and historically accurate construction effort to bring the chapel back to life. The chapel was initially constructed by the Jesuits in the 1630s, when they arrived as some of the first European settlers to America to assist in forming the new English colony.

When the chapel burned down in 1645, it was rebuilt by the ruling Calvert family of Maryland but the chapel was locked by decree of royal governors from England in the early 1700s. After that ruling, the chapel was eventually dismantled.

“The first time I saw it, it actually brought tears to my eyes,” said Jesuit Father Edward Dougherty of St. Ignatius Church in Port Tobacco, Md., the oldest continually serving Catholic Parish in the U.S. He described the settlers’ actions as “the experiment that was derailed a bit but has never stopped and has grown to what it is today.”

To read more about the opening of the Brick Chapel in Historic St. Mary’s City, visit The Washington Post.

400 years of Canadian Jesuit Archives Now Under One Roof

The Jesuit Archive in Canada, a witness to the activity of all the Jesuits who worked both in English and French Canada and its foreign missions since the arrival of the first Jesuits to Canada in 1611, has been joined under one roof in Montréal, to better serve historians, researchers and those interested in Canadian Jesuit history from the 17 century until today. The Archive includes rare books, works of art, documents and publications relating to Canadian Jesuit and early Canadian history.
A celebration of the official opening of the Jesuit Archive in Canada will take place from September 22 – 23 in Montréal. For the schedule of events, please visit jesuit.org.
For more information, (including bios, photographs, and historical material), contact:
• Pierre Bélanger, S.J. – service des communications – les jésuites at:
514-387-2541, ext. 339 – email: pierre.belanger@jesuites.org
• Céline Widmer – Directrice, Archives des jésuites au Canada at:
514-387-2541, ext. 238 – email: cwidmer@jesuites.org
• Erica Zlomislic – Communications Officer – Jesuits in English Canada at:
416-962-4500 ext. 225– email: communications@jesuits.ca

njn_canada_archivesThe Jesuit Archive in Canada, a witness to the activity of all the Jesuits who worked both in English and French Canada and its foreign missions since the arrival of the first Jesuits to Canada in 1611, has been joined under one roof in Montréal, to better serve historians, researchers and those interested in Canadian Jesuit history from the 17 century until today. The Archive includes rare books, works of art, documents and publications relating to Canadian Jesuit and early Canadian history.

A celebration of the official opening of the Jesuit Archive in Canada will take place from September 22 – 23 in Montréal. For the schedule of events, please visit jesuit.org.

For more information, (including bios, photographs, and historical material), contact:

• Pierre Bélanger, S.J. – service des communications – les jésuites at:

514-387-2541, ext. 339 – email: pierre.belanger@jesuites.org

• Céline Widmer – Directrice, Archives des jésuites au Canada at:

514-387-2541, ext. 238 – email: cwidmer@jesuites.org

• Erica Zlomislic – Communications Officer – Jesuits in English Canada at:

416-962-4500 ext. 225– email: communications@jesuits.ca

The History of Jesuits Coming to North America Institute Convenes in Santa Clara

The author Mark Twain once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”
While this may not have been the official theme of the “History of Jesuits Coming to North America Institute”, it could have aptly served as one. Organized by the National Jesuit Brothers Committee, the Institute, held over four days at Santa Clara University, illustrated a contrast; both the commonalities and the differences within the Society’s North American history.
Common themes such as missionary spirit, the frontiers and adaptation to local cultures were threaded throughout the talks, but the specific applications were varied and unique. The historical tales and themes ‘rhymed’ with the challenges Jesuits face today, but the frontiers in which they work now are very different.
The presentations were geographically segmented, and often illustrated by focusing either on specific Jesuits and their works or particular missions within the region.
Fr. Raymond Schroth (NYK), in his overview of Jesuits Coming to North America, shared with attendees the missionary outreach techniques of Fr. Eusebio Francisco Kino, and how Kino both earned the trust of the indigenous peoples and improved their lives.
“Kino developed the stock raising industry we know today, not just for Jesuit profit,” commented Schroth, “but to help the local people to eat and learn a trade. He was a tough, but humble man. He would weep while reading the breviary, he would angrily reprimand sinners, but absorb all criticism of himself. Sometimes he would spend the night in the chapel and have himself whipped. He would take his food without salt or seasoning so that it would taste bad, he took no tobacco, no snuff, and no wine. He slept not in a bed, but on a horse blanket with his saddle for a pillow. Sick with a fever for days, he would get up only to say Mass, then go back to bed.”
Not to be outdone by their western counterparts, the Jesuits in the southern parts of the United States faced the similar struggle of earning the trust of the native peoples. The Jesuits were working against rumors and stereotype. The Indians worried that the Jesuits would treat them much the same way the Spanish Conquistadors did. Plus, there was the added complication of a reputation the Huguenots had credited the Jesuits with; the French warned the Indians of devils in black robes who had come to steal their souls.
The frontiers faced by the Jesuits in New Spain, or present day Mexico, involved ministering to the indigenous people, but also, quelling internal conflict within their own ranks.
According to Fr. Allan Deck (CFN), “Rome would alternate the provincial in Mexico between Spaniards; a Spaniard born in Spain and then a Spaniard born in Mexico to keep the peace between those two sets of Jesuits. There was a delicate balance between those two groups.”
Despite this unsteady balance, the Jesuits of New Spain were very successful in their work and ministry.
“Jesuits became the second largest owner of land in New Spain. They primarily owned sugar plantations, mostly run by the brothers, and operated with thousands of slaves. They developed the cattle industry and agriculture in Mexico, and many of the standards in today’s industry were pioneered by these missionaries,” said Deck. “The Jesuits of New Spain were very successful with the native people because of their baroque style of ministry; they were required to learn at least one native language in addition to Latin and Greek. They met the local people where they were at, much as we do today.”
Conference presenters also invited attendees to reflect on those moments in history where the Society has fallen short of its ideals. Jesuits are men of God but that has never meant the Society was immune to temporal divisions of the day. While many things can influence a Jesuit’s work, whether secular or spiritual, personal affiliation and loyalty have potential to cloud decision and opinion, as seen in the Civil War.
“Now, during the Civil War, it would be pleasant to report that the American Jesuits were more enlightened than their contemporaries, and were opposed to slavery and thus supported the Union cause — far from it. The Maryland Jesuits, as you know, owned slaves, [which] split up families,” commented Schroth. “At Boston College, which was then a Scholasticate for 46 Scholastics and 8 Brothers from all over the World, including France, Germany, England and Ireland, the Rector, Fr. John Bapst, wrote ‘when Lincoln was inaugurated in March 1861, we are at this moment sitting on a volcano.’ The community was made up of men from everywhere, which meant their opinions matched where they came from … community members were forbidden to talk about slavery, or the war,” as fights were prone to break out.
Many of the presentations discussed the physical, tangible connections between Jesuits of the past, and those of today; the missions founded by Italian Jesuits on the West Coast, the influence on cattle and agriculture industries throughout the continent, the foundation of numerous schools and universities, all of which have lasted through time, and continue to affect countless lives. Yet, the special connection between the history and present day became particularly evident in Fr. David Suwalsky’s (MIS) presentation about the Jesuits in Missouri and the Midwest.
“To symbolize the connection between Jesuits of today and those of the past, the chalice of the last French Jesuits working in the Missouri Province before the suppression, which was used by the Pope in 1999, is used and presented by the bishop to the Jesuit ordinandi at their ordination,” said Suwalsky.
But perhaps the most poignant juxtaposition of Jesuit mission history meeting present day was found in Br. Jim Boynton’s (DET) presentation on New France.
“The reason that I was originally directed toward the Society of Jesus was the men I am going to talk about today, and the reason I am going to stay is people like yourself,” commented Boynton. “However, I would like to point out that right here I am holding my tribal membership card to the Sioux-Saint Marie tribe of Chippewa Indians. I am a member of the Indian tribe by blood through my mother.”
Despite the Society’s immense historical breadth, vast like the North American continent itself, the commonality of the missionary spirit became manifest throughout the Institute. While the differences between Jesuits and the regions profiled were evident; be it culturally, geographically or generationally; they were connected through their Jesuit identity, and their desire to better the world they knew, for the greater glory of God.
Kaitlyn McCarthy is a communications specialist for the Jesuit Conference in Washington, D.C.

njn_institute_brosby Kaitlyn McCarthy

The author Mark Twain once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”

While this may not have been the official theme of the “History of Jesuits Coming to North America Institute”, it could have aptly served as one. Organized by the National Jesuit Brothers Committee, the Institute, held over four days at Santa Clara University, illustrated a contrast; both the commonalities and the differences within the Society’s North American history.

Common themes such as missionary spirit, the frontiers and adaptation to local cultures were threaded throughout the talks, but the specific applications were varied and unique. The historical tales and themes ‘rhymed’ with the challenges Jesuits face today, but the frontiers in which they work now are very different.

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