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Abstract

Richard Janet analyzes the early history of Saint Mary’s of the Barrens according to the historian Philip Gleason’s view of the development of American Catholicism. Gleason sees the arc of American Catholicism as moving from a period of “boundlessness,” in which institutions engaged in all types of works, to the mid-nineteenth-century period of “consolidation,” in which leaders tried to manage growth in a way that would stabilize those institutions. Gleason’s thesis is discussed in detail. The leaders of Saint Mary’s were visionary, and the contributions of Felix De Andreis, Joseph Rosati, and John Timon are examined. They faced many problems inherent in maintaining a Vincentian community while ministering to Catholics across a vast geographical space. Other challenges came from mixed instruction of seminarians for the diocese, seminarians for the Vincentians, and lay students; the motherhouse’s lack of funds; and a shortage of personnel as well as the loss of talented Vincentians to the episcopacy. Finally, there was conflict over jurisdictional authority, and even over the location of the seminary. The ways in which the Congregation adapted to meet different needs and resolve its difficulties are explained, as is its process of Americanization.

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