Diversity and the Common Good: Civil Society, Religion, and Catholic Sisters in a Small City

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With this, the door to truly establishing the Catholic Church in Massachusetts was opened. Drag along the timeline to see the parish growth in Greater Boston from the earliest records through Zoom in on the map and click each gold pointer to see more about individual parishes. Explore the slideshow to see more detail about key moments in the history of the Boston Catholic community. The Massachusetts constitution legalizes Catholicism in A parish of French and Irish Catholics begin worshipping in a small brick French Protestant meeting house located on the south side of School Street in Boston.

These early sacramental records include the first official Catholic baptisms in Boston, in this case presided over by the French priest Florent Bouchard de la Poterie, who will later be deposed for "unworthy conduct. Catholics remain scattered across eastern Massachusetts.

A report made to Bishop Carroll during this time states that there are only Catholics in Boston, 15 in Plymouth, 21 in Newburyport, and 3 in Salem. An epidemic of yellow fever strikes Boston along with New York City and Philadelphia hard in the summer of , killing thousands. Fathers Cheverus and Matignon tirelessly care for the sick, earning praise and respect from Protestants and Catholics alike.

Planning for the construction of the Holy Cross Church begins in Father Cheverus is appointed Bishop of Boston in , and the Diocese of Boston is officially established. In the s, the city of Boston grows alongside the rest of the young country as New World trading and manufacturing companies launch to great success. Nationally, this decade sees the creation of the stars and stripes insignia and the writing of "The Star Spangled Banner.

Having committed the engineering details of English and Scottish power looms to memory in secret, a young Francis Cabot Lowell returns to Massachusetts in and founds The Boston Manufacturing Company. For a detailed look at the relationship between the textile industry and the growth of the Catholic Church, see our section on "Faith and Industry in Lowell. In , Boston changes its status from town to city. Infrastructure improvement projects begin in earnest. A steady number of Catholic immigrants settling in and around Boston results in new churches in Roxbury, Waltham, and Quincy.

While Irish priests try their best to minister to all Catholics, newly arrived immigrants from other countries — including Germany -- prefer to practice their faith in their own language. Bishop Benedict Joseph Fenwick requests German priests, and several arrive in Boston, but most choose to move on to the Midwest where they can serve larger German Catholic parishes. Thomas Aquinas in As more Catholics pour into Boston, their presence expands to the North Shore.

Twenty new churches are established during this decade in the city and surrounding towns in eastern Massachusetts, from Marblehead to Foxboro. While expansion of the church continues outward from the Boston area, with parishes founded as far north as Amesbury, the Greater Boston Catholic community grows as well.

In the s, the original Holy Cross Cathedral is demolished to make way for its much larger successor in the South End. Additionally, Massachusetts plays a significant role in the American Civil War as a long time center of abolitionist thought and activism. The choice by many Catholic immigrants to take up the Union cause had the lasting effect of softening anti-Catholic prejudice in the North. In , after decades of conflict, the Kingdom of Italy consolidated the city-states along the Italian peninsula into a single nation. Facing new economic difficulties under the regime, and encouraged by the call for laborers in America following the death tolls of the Civil War, many Italians made their way to the United States.

Despite regional differences, in Boston, Italian immigrants famously settled together in the North End neighborhood. Saint Leonard Church of Port Maurice, founded there in to serve this growing population, was the first Italian Catholic parish in the country as well as the city. While some worked in the booming textile mills or other industries, many brought their skills in whaling and fishing.

Its name evokes the significance that both work and faith played in the fraternity of Portuguese-American Catholics. Much like the Irish, Lithuanian Catholics arrived in the United States in high numbers following a great famine and political turmoil at home. Since Lithunia did not yet exist as a country, many Lithuanians were recorded in immigration documents as being Russian or Polish, but national and cultural identity was strong among the immigrant community.

By the end of the 18th century, Catholics of various ethnicities were spread widely around New England, but there were very few priests and no centralized church to lead them. At this time the only American diocese was in Baltimore—it encompassed the entire eastern seaboard, including the cities of New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. French Catholics decided to organize further leadership locally. Father Francis Anthony Matignon was a refugee of France's own Revolution, but when he came to New England in , he became an essential figure in Boston's Catholic community.

His work in Boston was that of a missionary. He was sent there at the request of Baltimore's Bishop Carroll, in the hopes that his influence could help settle cultural differences between Boston's Catholics and create a unified congregation. Then, in , he oversaw the completion of the first Holy Cross Church, which was funded in large part by donations from non-Catholic Bostonians, including U.

President John Adams. The community was still relatively small at this time, but soon other churches began to pop up. Matignon and Cheverus laid the stage for Boston's Catholics, but new waves of immigration to Boston in the 19th century would come to define the community as we know it today. Famine and poverty hit Ireland hard in the first half of the century, most notably during the Great Irish Famine of , pushing more than a million working-class Irish to seek better lives across the Atlantic.

By the s, the Irish were Boston's largest ethnic group. Catholics from other European countries followed during this time as well, most notably the Italians who established a community in Boston's North End. As Boston's Catholic population grew, so did the prominence and power of the church, but prejudice still ran deep in the city. Over time, anti-Catholic sentiment evolved further away from its roots in the Protestant Reformation, and came to serve more and more as an excuse for xenophobia and classism.

For example, during the worldwide cholera epidemic of the early 19th century, disease spread via contaminated water in densely populated areas; in Boston, non-Catholics blamed the Irish Catholic community for the sickness. Fights and riots broke out in the streets between immigrant groups and the English-descended elite. The historically Puritan society distrusted the pageantry of Catholic religious practice, especially when it came to the loud music and keening of Irish funeral processions. But as time went on and ethnic diversity increased, it became difficult to deny the Catholic Church's place in the fabric of Boston.

Late on the night of August 11th, , an estimated fifty to a hundred men on a supposed rescue mission stormed the grounds of the Ursuline Convent in Charlestown, Massachusetts, now part of modern-day Somerville. The mob had been riled by rumors that a "mysterious woman" was being held captive by the nuns after one of the Sisters visited with a Protestant family and expressed doubts about her religious committment that she later retracted.

In the riots that ensued, the mob set fires, broke down doors and windows, and ransacked the building. The firemen called to the scene joined with spectators instead of intervening. The following night, on August 12th, a crowd returned and further destroyed the orchards, gardens, and fences. Anti-Catholic sentiments ran high in early New England, even after practice of the faith was made legal in the s. Rumors that the Ursuline Convent, which also housed a school for girls, were holding residents against their will were fueled by a convergence of prejudice and paranoia. Old pains from Reformation-era Europe carried over into colonial fears that the Pope would influence American politics.

Most of the students at the school were from wealthy Protestant families, and the working-class Protestant rioters feared what they saw as a conspiracy between their economic and religious antagonists. Xenophobia was also a factor, as many Catholic immigrants to the United States came from different national and ethnic backgrounds than the Anglo-Saxon settlers. The city of Boston officially condemned the actions of the rioters at the Ursuline Convents, although of the thirteen men arrested, all were acquitted except one who was later pardoned.

Most of the nuns dispersed to Quebec. Without insurance or sufficient remittance to rebuild, the ruins sat unchanged for fifty years afterwards, in stark contrast to the nearby Bunker Hill Monument built in the s. The land was eventually leveled and developed for housing, but a few stones from the ruins were repurposed for a vestibule archway in Boston's Cathedral of the Holy Cross. As the population of the Catholic community increased, the need for more and more churches to serve the city and surrounding suburbs grew. Boston's sharply divided ethnic neighborhoods fueled divisions in the Catholic community.

In the 19th century, the Catholic Church in America was perceived by many outside of it as being an Irish church, but by , a sizeable population of German Catholics in Boston wanted priests who understood their customs and spoke their language. Beginning in , German-speaking priests were recruited to the area and they started to keep separate sacramental records for this local group of German Catholics.

Many other ethnic groups throughout Massachusetts also established parishes to meet their specific needs, culturally and geographically. Eventually, particularly in small towns where there was often just one church, geography trumped ethnicity, and a mix of ethnic groups could be found in many parishes. Some urban parishes, such as St. Paul's Church in Cambridge's Harvard Square, reflected a greater and more tolerant diversity than Boston.

There are even records that interracial marriages were performed within this parish through Many Portuguese Catholics, too, were of African ancestry or multiple ethnicities, arriving from the island colonies of Cape Verde and the Azores. The church came to play an essential role in Catholic life. For working class individuals, work often involved dispersal: whether factories and lumber yards, or as servants in wealthy Protestant homes. Because of this, church services on Sundays became the place for neighbors to come together, and for young people to find spouses.

The late 19th century saw an increase in young men's and women's programs at churches, designed to centralize social life within the Catholic community. Lowell, Massachusetts, and the surrounding cities and towns in the Merrimack Valley in northern Massachusetts played an important a role in the growth of the Catholic community.

Considered the "cradle of the American Industrial Revolution," Lowell is named after the textile merchant who brought power looms to the area in the s. The construction of dams to harness the Merrimack River's energy and the proliferation of manufacturing in the area coincided with early waves of immigrant groups seeking work, mostly French Canadian, Irish, and German Catholics. The majority of the textile workforce in particular were women and young girls. As industry grew, the organization of society changed, too. Densely-populated ethnic neighborhoods replaced company-owned boarding houses, and churches became the hearts of their communities for politics and recreation as much as worship.

The number of parishes increased dramatically as immigrants came to work in the Lowell mills. After the Civil War, with the expansion of the Merrimack Valley mills and the growth in immigrant worker populations, the number of Catholic parishes tripled in both Lowell and Lawrence, including French-speaking parishes to meet the needs of French-Canadian immigrants. Catholics had struggled for the right to practice their religion and won.

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Now, alongside other laboring immigrant and minority groups, they fought for fair pay, overtime, and educational opportunities. In this way, the effort for religious acceptance by a once-outlawed demographic was inextricably linked with the origins of a national movement towards organized labor. In , the Religion Census reported that 45 percent of Massachusetts residents self-identify as Catholic—a massive presence for a religion whose practice was constitutionally illegal just three hundred years ago.

Today, Boston is known as an iconic Catholic city. In , after Bishop Cheverus stepped down from his position, Bishop Benedict Joseph Fenwick became the first non-French leader of the Boston diocese. As a missionary and a cultural outsider, Cheverus had been focused on propagation and conversion; Fenwick instead worked on uniting the existing Catholic community and smoothing over relations with Boston as a whole.

In he founded a Catholic newspaper which still exists today, now known as The Pilot. He also published a number of pamphlets explaining the true nature of Catholicism to the public. In addition, Fenwick opened Boston College, which began its life as a series of lectures in the basement of his cathedral; later, he opened a Jesuit school in Worcester called the College of the Holy Cross.

He worked hard to deal with riots spurred by anti-Catholic sentiment, to create positive relationships between the Church and Boston's Protestant elite, and to promote Catholic education across Massachusetts—and the institutions he created still stand today. By peering into the records of our past, from the very first parish on, we paint a picture of a quintessentially American city.

We see a microcosm of diverse cultures, and we can trace the threads of these cultures across time. We can see how the threads knit together, and how they clash against each other. We can understand the complex social fabric we live within today. Images of Boston's oldest parish records, including those from Holy Cross Cathedral and Holy Trinity, are available immediately to browse, which means you can view the records online but can't yet search records by name searchable records will be available at a later date.

However, if you know the parish and rough years of the name you are looking for, you may be able to find it using our index. Locating records in this unique collection varies slightly from volume to volume and parish to parish. Additional parishes will be made available as we complete them. Please watch this short video to learn how to browse parish records on our website.

Humble Beginnings In the summer of , an earnest young French priest named Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus arrived in Boston, eager to serve the American Catholic church any way he could. Painting by Gilbert Stuart, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The 7 Sacraments.


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Also known as Last Rites, this sacrament is administered to those who are dangerously ill, entrusting them to the Lord who will relieve their suffering and save them. Its essential properties are unity and indissolubility, which in Christian marriage obtain a special firmness by reason of the sacrament. See examples of early Church records. In later history, throughout the 19th century following British settlement, other Muslims came to Australia including the Muslim 'Afghan' cameleers, who used their camels to transport goods and people through the otherwise unnavigable desert and pioneered a network of camel tracks that later became roads across the Outback.

Australia's first mosque was built for them at Marree , South Australia in Other outback mosques were established at places like Coolgardie , Cloncurry , and Broken Hill — and more permanent mosques in Adelaide, Perth and later Brisbane. A legacy of this pioneer era is the presence of wild camels in Outback and the oldest Islamic structure in the southern hemisphere , at Central Adelaide Mosque. Nonetheless, despite their significant role in Australia prior to the establishment of rail and road networks, the formulation of the White Australia policy at the time of Federation made immigration difficult for the 'Afghans' and their memory slowly faded during the 20th century, until a revival of interest began in the s.

From the s onwards, under the leadership of Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser , Australia began to pursue multiculturalism. Overseas born Muslims come from a great variety of nations and ethnic groups — with large Lebanese and Turkish communities. Following the 11 September attacks , associations drawn between the political ideology of Osama Bin Laden and the religion of Islam have stirred debate in some quarters in Australia regarding Islam's relationship with the wider community — with some advocating greater emphasis on assimilation, and others supporting renewed commitment to diversity.

The deaths of Australians in bombings by militant Islamic fundamentalists in New York in , Bali in —5 and London in ; as well as the sending of Australian troops to East Timor in , Afghanistan in and Iraq in ; the arrest of bomb plotters in Australia; and concerns about certain cultural practices such as the wearing of the Burkha have all contributed to a degree of tension in recent times [80] [81] A series of comments by a senior Sydney cleric, Sheikh Taj El-Din Hilaly also stirred controversy, particularly his remarks regarding "female modesty" following an incident of gang rape in Sydney [82] [83] Australians were among the targets of Islamic Fundamentalists in the Bali bombings in Indonesia and attack on Australian Embassy in Jakarta and the South East Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah has been of particular concern to Australians.

The Australian government's mandatory detention processing system for asylum seekers became increasingly controversial after the 11 September attacks. A significant proportion of recent Asylum seekers arriving by boat have been Muslims fleeing the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere. Some Islamic leaders and social commentators claim that Islam has suffered from unfair stereotyping [85] [86] [87] Violence and intimidation was directed against Muslims and people of Middle Eastern appearance during southern Sydney's Cronulla riots in Today, over , people in Australia identify as Muslim, with diverse communities concentrated mainly in Sydney and Melbourne.

More than half are non-practising [91] cultural Muslims. Since the s Islamic schools have been established as well as more than mosques and prayer centres. At least eight Jewish convicts are believed to have been transported to Sydney aboard the First Fleet in , when the first British settlement was established on the continent.

An estimated , Jews currently live in Australia, [96] the majority being Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern European descent, with many being refugees and Holocaust survivors who arrived during and after World War II. The Jewish population has increased slightly in recent times [97] due to immigration from South Africa and the former Soviet Union. The largest Jewish community in Australia is in Melbourne , with about 60,, followed by Sydney with about 45, members. Smaller communities are dispersed among the other state capitals. Following the conclusion of the British colonial period, Jews have enjoyed formal equality before the law in Australia and have not been subject to civil disabilities or other forms of state-sponsored anti-Semitism which exclude them from full participation in public life.

Sydney's gothic design Great Synagogue , consecrated in , is a notable place of Jewish worship in Australia. The Sydney Jewish Museum opened in to commemorate the Holocaust "challenge visitors' perceptions of democracy, morality, social justice and human rights". Until the s, all synagogues in Australia were nominally Orthodox , with most acknowledging leadership of the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom.

To this day the vast majority of synagogues in Australia are Orthodox. However, there is a wide range of Orthodox congregations, including Mizrachi , Chabad and Adass Israel congregations. There are also Sephardi congregations. There had been short-lived efforts to establish Reform congregations as early as the s. However, under the leadership of Ada Phillips , a sustained liberal congregation, Temple Beth Israel , was established in Melbourne. Following these two congregations, a number of other Liberal synagogues have been founded in other cities.

Since Conservative Masorti services have been held as an alternative service usually in the Neuweg, the smaller second synagogue within Temple Emanuel, Woollahra, Sydney. In , Kehilat Nitzan , Melbourne's first Conservative Masorti congregation was established, with foundation president John Rosenberg. The congregation appointed its first rabbi, Ehud Bandel in In , the first humanistic Jewish congregation, known as Kehilat Kolenu, was established in Melbourne with links to the cultural Jewish youth movement Habonim Dror. Later in , a similar congregation was established in Sydney, known as Ayelet HaShachar.

The services are loosely based on the Humanistic Jewish movement in the United States and the musical-prayer group Nava Tehila in Israel. Buddhists began arriving in Australia in significant numbers during the goldrush of the s with an influx of Chinese miners. However, the population remained low until the s. Buddhism is now one of the fastest growing religions in Australia.

Immigration from Asia has contributed to this, but some people of non-Asian origin have also converted. Buddhist temples can be very active. Quang Minh temple in Braybrook, Melbourne, Victoria gets about 2, people through every Sunday and gives a free vegetarian meal to about people. For important events, more than 20, people come. Even more come to the Nan Tien Temple , or "Southern Paradise Temple", in Wollongong , New South Wales, began construction in the early s, adopting the Chinese palace building style and is now the largest Buddhist temple in the Southern Hemisphere.

Hindus number , according to the census, making Hinduism the fifth largest and the second fastest growing religion in Australia Many who remained worked in small business, as camel drivers, merchants and hawkers , selling goods between small rural communities. Their population increased dramatically from the s and s and more than doubled between the and census to around , people.

At present many Hindus are well-educated professionals in fields such as medicine, engineering, commerce and information technology. Among Australia's best-known Hindus is the singer Kamahl. It was established in to meet the needs of the growing Hindu community. Sikhism is currently the fastest growing religion in Australia. According to census data, Australia's Sikh population grew from 72, to , between and , an average growth rate of Jainism is currently the fourth fastest growing religion in Australia, recording 4, adherents in and growing an average of 7.

The overwhelming majority In the census , 32, Australians identified their religion as a Pagan religion including 8, people who identified their religion as Wicca or Witchcraft. Australia is one of the least religious nations in the developed world, with religion not described as a central part in many people's lives. Atheist interests in Australia are represented nationally by the Atheist Foundation of Australia.

Humanist interests in Australia are represented nationally by the Council of Australian Humanist Societies. Rationalist interests in Australia are represented nationally by the Rationalist Society of Australia.

Religious Liberty and the Fate of Civil Society

The Global Atheist Convention , a prominent atheist event, has been held in Melbourne. The census [] shows 53 listed groups down to members, most of them Christian denominations, many of them national versions such as Greek , Serbian Orthodox and Assyrian Orthodox. In general, non-Christian religions and those with no religion have been growing in proportion to the overall population.

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    Humble Beginnings

    Hinduism 1. Other religions 1. Not stated or unclear 9. No religion See also: Demography of Australia. No religion. Not stated. Main article: Christianity in Australia. Australian interchurch. Catholic Church in Australia.

    Anglican Church of Australia. Holiness and Pietist. Historical Protestantism. Eastern Christian. Antiochian Orthodox of Australia and New Z. Pentecostal and related. LDS Church. Main article: Islam in Australia. Main article: History of the Jews in Australia. Main article: Buddhism in Australia.

    Main article: Hinduism in Australia. Main article: Sikhism in Australia.


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    7. Main article: Jainism in Australia. Main article: Paganism in Australia. Main article: Irreligion in Australia. Australia portal Religion portal. In the Census the public was specifically informed there was no legal obligation to answer the question on religion. In , the instruction 'If no religion, write none' was introduced to the Census.

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