The American Jesuits: A History

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Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2008

With infectious energy and a genuine gift for storytelling, Raymond A. Schroth recounts the history of Jesuits in the United States. The American Jesuits isn’t simply a book for Catholics; it’s for anyone who loves a well-told historical tale. For more than 450 years, Jesuit priests have traveled the globe out of a religious commitment to serve others. Their order, the Society of Jesus, is the largest religious order of men in the Catholic Church, with more than 20,000 members around the world and almost 3,000 in the United States. It is one of the more liberal orders in the Church, taking very public stands in the U.S. on behalf of social justice causes such as the promotion of immigrants’ rights and humanitarian aid, including assistance to Africa’s poor, and against American involvement in “unjust wars.” Jesuits have played an important part in Americanizing the Catholic Church and in preparing Catholic immigrants for inclusion into American society.

Starting off with the first Jesuit to reach the New World—he was promptly murdered on the Florida coast—Schroth focuses on the key periods of the Jesuit experience in the Americas, beginning with the era of European explorers, many of whom were accompanied by Jesuits and some of whom were Jesuits themselves. Suppressed around the time of the American Revolution, the Society experienced resurgence in the nineteenth century, arriving in the U.S. along with waves of Catholic immigrants and establishing a network of high schools and universities. In the mid-twentieth century, the Society transformed itself to serve an urbanizing nation.

Schroth is not blind to the Society’s shortcomings and not all of his story reflects well on the Jesuits. However, as he reminds readers, Jesuits are not gods and they don’t dwell in mountaintop monasteries. Rather, they are imperfect men who work in a messy world to “find God in all things” and to help their fellow men and women do the same.

A quintessential American tale of men willing to take risks — for Indians, blacks, immigrants, and the poor, and to promote a loving picture of God—The American Jesuits offers a broad and compelling look at the impact of this 400-year-old international order on American culture and the culture’s impact on the Jesuits.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An enthralling celebration of the Jesuits’ presence in American Catholic life, masterfully testifying to the society’s achievements. It should also serve as a much-needed blueprint for similar histories of other influential orders in American Catholic life. Fr. Schroth has set the standard.”
-National Catholic Reporter

“Anyone who has encountered the Jesuits&#8212in a college, a high school, a parish, or one of their many social ministries&#8212will appreciate this well-written and comprehensive survey of the Jesuit experience in America.”
-James M. O’Toole,Boston College

“Schroth’s lively, detailed, scrupulously honest narrative does not dispel the Jesuit mystique, but instead provides concrete examples from throughout the centuries that explain the society’s origins and survival. . . . This is institutional history at its best. . . . Essential.”

“An engaging read, and an elegant synthesis of four centuries of Jesuit heroics, controversies, flops, and hard work in the United States. Should be assigned reading for students of American Catholicism.”
-Mark S. Massa, S.J.,The Karl Rahner Professor of Theology and Co-Director, The Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies, Fordham University

“Blending history and analysis, Schroth chronicles the society’s weaknesses and failures, too, including its foot-dragging on racial issues. . . . Schroth also discusses the community’s decline in numbers, but ends on a hopeful note. . . . This is an absorbing read for those with an interest in the Jesuits.”
-Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly

Schroth, a Jesuit priest and professor of humanities at St. Peter's College in Jersey City, N.J., tells the story of the Society of Jesus' presence in North America in this account that begins with a martyrdom on the coast of Florida in 1566. From humble beginnings as missionaries bent on converting Native Americans, the society grew over nearly five centuries on this continent into an organization best known today for its work in education and social activism. In between, members have served as war chaplains and antiwar protesters, high school and college educators, and writers and editors addressing church and societal issues through the community's influential magazine America. Blending history and analysis, Schroth chronicles the society's weaknesses and failures, too, including its foot-dragging on racial issues, ranging from its involvement in slavery in the 19th century to slowness in integrating its schools in the 20th. Schroth also discusses the community's decline in numbers, but he ends on a hopeful note, quoting the late Karl Rahner: "There will always be men who... pass by all the idols of this world and dare to give themselves unconditionally to the incomprehensibility of God, seen as love and mercy." This is absorbing reading for those with an interest in the Jesuits. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814740255
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2007
  • Pages: 316
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Raymond A. Schroth, S.J., is a Jesuit priest and a journalist. He is the author of six books, including Dante to Dead Man Walking: One Reader's Journey through the Christian Classics, and American Journey of Eric Sevareid. He has also written more than 300 articles and reviews on politics, religion, and the media, which have appeared in such publications as the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Newsday, and America, and he is an award-winning media critic for the National Catholic Reporter, for which he writes a regular column.

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Table of Contents

I In the Beginning
1 The World Scene
2 The Maryland Tradition
3 The Pioneers
II Suppression and Return
4 Death and Resurrection
5 The New America
6 A Nation and Faith Divided
7 Schoolmasters and Preachers
8 The Turning Point
III Engaging the World
9 The Social Question
10 At War
11 The Cold War
12 The Golden Age
IV The Modern Society Emerges
13 Freedom from Fear
14 The Arrupe Era
15 Into the 21st Century
Notes and Sources
About the Author

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