Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024
The Observer

Lecture features Jesuit history

John T. McGreevy, dean of the College of Arts and Letters and professor of history, presented the Cushwa Center Lecture as part of a yearlong celebration of the bicentennial of the birth of Fr. Edward Sorin, founder of the University.

The lecture, titled “The Jesuits, Father Sorin, and the 19th-Century Catholic Revival,” focused on the Jesuit order, who McGreevy said are oddly contemporary in their focus on internationalism.

McGreevy said one of the impressive aspects of the Jesuits is their development of a Catholic community more attuned to the reverberations of global Catholicism than seemed imaginable in 1816.

Jesuits came from Europe to the United States for two reasons, McGreevy said. Jesuits followed the Catholic tide of emigrants who left Europe between 1820 and 1900, as more than half of the 60 million people were Catholics.

Another reason McGreevy said Jesuits came to the United States was because they were kicked out of 22 European and Latin American countries between 1840 and 1900.

When the Jesuits came to America, they carried the books, journals, devotional pamphlets, chalices, rosaries and holy water from a European Catholic world in crisis and translated them into an American idiom, McGreevy said.

McGreevy used the example of Fr. John Bapst, a Jesuit priest in Maine, to describe the range of missionary work in the United States during the 19th century.

“One way Bapst is part of the 19th century revival is [through his] devotional culture. A second way is education. A key component to the 19th century Catholic Revival is a focus on Catholic education and more broadly Catholic institutions,” McGreevy said.

Bapst started his own Catholic school after he lost his case protesting the use of the King James Bible in public school, he said.

“There are almost eerie similarities between Bapst's story and that of Notre Dame’s founding president Reverend Edward Sorin,” McGreevy said. “Like Bapst, Sorin was marinated in Catholic devotional culture, [which was] just reaching full pitch.”

McGreevy said Jesuit globalism has a history that peaked in the 19th century, declined and then re-emerged again in the Second Vatican Council.

“Their orientation to the world, their linguistic curiosity, ... now seems oddly contemporary,” McGreevy said.

“While it is uncertain how this new era of Catholic globalization is going to work, the Catholic connections and communities now being forged by text messages and Skype necessarily follow the paths that were laid by Bapst and Sorin,” he said.