This collection of essays by various authors, presented at the 2004 Walter Prescott Webb Memorial Lectures at the University of Texas at Arlington, looks at Catholicism in the western United States, an under-examined aspect American Catholic Church history. In order to remedy this deficiency, Roberto R. Trevino and Richard V. Francaviglia have compiled this academic presentation of various topics and places in the western United States, one the general reader will also enjoy.
Steven M. Avella’s introduction precedes essays by Anne M. Butler on the need for more research into the history of the Catholic Church in the western U.S. This history began before the hierarchical Church was established in the then-thirteen United States on the East Coast: the Church already existed and was operating in what became today’s western U.S. due to the efforts of Spanish and French Catholics.
Fr. Michael E. Engh, S.J., writes on women activists in Los Angeles (and later in San Antonio, Texas) who worked to improve conditions for the poor and immigrants. Matthew Pehl’s essay examines Catholicism’s existence in southeastern Utah. This Catholic colony within the Mormon state of Utah refused to give up faith even though they had few priests and churches. William Issel explores Catholic Action and how it helped the needy and united Catholics in northern California, demonstrating how these Catholics’ faith and country were both important to them. Gina Marie Pitti writes on the national churches and racism in the Church in San Francisco. Hispanics wanted their own national churches like the Irish, Italians, Germans and others had but were not allowed to. Robert R. Trevino’s essay on the Chicano movement in Houston shows how it changed the Catholic Church in that city and the state of Texas.
Catholicism in the American West covers specific areas within the entire western portion of the United States, and there remains more to be covered - this collection of essays is a beginning. The essayists have tapped into seldom used material for research. Most of the U.S. West is still considered mission territory for the Catholic Church, as is true of the South.
Black-and-white illustrations are presented in most of the essays, and endnotes follow each essay. A list of the contributors and their credentials is included at the end of the book. Highly recommended to those interested in the history of the Catholic Church in the western United States.