Cover image for The missionary movement in American Catholic history
The missionary movement in American Catholic history
Dries, Angelyn.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Maryknoll, N.Y. : Orbis Books, [1998]

Physical Description:
xviii, 398 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BV2240.N7 D75 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



This is the first general history of American Catholic mission treating not only its institutions but its human and religious aspects as well. It shows how the church in the United States not only sent thousands of men and women overseas but also evangelized internally, and incorporated millions of immigrants. Angelyn Dries offers a thoroughly researched and nuanced view of this history, and its profound influence on the emergence of a distinctive American Catholic identity.

The Missionary Movement in American Catholic History opens with Iberian and French mission efforts on the continent prior to 1776, moves to the situation within the English colonies and the fledgling United States, and then on to mission beyond U.S. borders from 1820. Dries continually places the movement in context, discussing such issues as Nativism, the frontier experience of whites, the fate of Amerindians, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the growth of African-American Catholicism.

From 1898 to 1980 Dries considers the experiences of the two World Wars, the rapid decolonizations of Africa and Asia, and the U.S.'s increasingly anti-Communist political stance. With the advent of Vatican II, Dries shows, American Catholics entered more deeply into conscious dialogue with their Protestant brothers and sisters, as well as with Jews. By 1980 this "public" dialogue included non-believers and followers of the world religions in a broadening ecumenism.

Dries concludes with issues facing the missionary movement beyond 1980, including formation and gender issues, the understanding and practice of mission in the future, and the unfinished agenda of the U.S. Bishops' pastoral, "To the Ends of the Earth." TheMissionary Movement in American Catholic History is a remarkably comprehensive work, must-reading for missioners and church historians.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

In her introduction, Dries (Cardinal Stritch College, Milwaukee) is forthright about her selective emphases in this history. Although the narrative begins in 1492, her focused attention begins after the U.S. Catholic church was formally commissioned (in 1841) to send missionaries to Liberia; it ends with critical events in Central America in 1980. The last chapter provides a brief analysis of factors that greatly influenced the American Catholic missionary movement. Those factors include changing gender roles; shifting theological orientations; and social contexts such as wars, political and economic concerns, Protestant missionary activity, and differences within the Catholic hierarchy. Stylistically, the book often appears to be a mere chronicle of meetings, organizations, and significant persons in the movement. However, several issues do receive fuller accounts: Latin America as a mission field, the expanding and changing role of women in mission work, how mission-experience made clear that socioeconomic structures affect the poverty and suffering of people. These matters brought about a changed understanding of mission. Documentation is thorough. Libraries with collections in American Catholic history, or Christian missionary movements, will want this book, which is quite readable, although the "chronicle" style may discourage some general readers. General readers, graduate students, researchers, faculty, and practitioners. R. L. Herrick emeritus, Westmar University