Italians Coming to the United Kingdom

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There have been Italians within the confines of the United Kingdom since Roman times, however modern immigration began with churchman, academics, artists, merchants and aristocrats from around the 13th Century. This gave way to an influx in the 19th Century with the vast majority coming from villages in the North of Italy, usually as seasonal workers who had walked across France to the French ports.

During the period of 1820 – 1850 there were approximately 4,000 Italians living in England with around half of them living in London and hailing from the Como and Lucca region’s. By the 1870s this had grown to include the regions around Parma and Liri.

Many of these migrants who came for seasonal work remained beyond the season, often marrying local women or bringing their families with them.

The London epicentre of the Italian community was known then, as now as Little Italy and is located in Clerkenwell. Across many Victorian writings there are descriptions of the cramped and poor conditions which the Italians shared with the Irish population and the English poor. The hope always being that families saved enough money to improve their living conditions, often the reality was very different.

Some of the Italian population spread across the North of England into Scotland and to Wales, although not in huge numbers. The majority remaining in London. By 1891 the Census indicates that the majority of those in London worked as street sellers and organ grinders. The Italian population in Manchester indicates that many were involved with modeling, plastering and tile makers. In Yorkshire many were involved in the cutlery industry especially around the Sheffield area. In contrast, those in Wales were involved with shipping, either working in industries that serviced shipping or as seaman on board British ships. Others worked in the coal industry, for which Wales is famous.

From the 1861 Census in Scotland we can determine that there was only 118 Italians in the region, by 1901 this had grown to a substantial 4,050. These Italian communities were becoming economically stronger often running food or ice cream venues and in some cases moving from the Cities to smaller towns.

The First World War reduced the Italian migration substantially and it remained fairly low until after the Second World War when we see a rise in Italians coming to the United Kingdom.

Some Italians came to the United Kingdom as Prisoners of War and after the war ended remained here, taking an English wife and building a new life. This then lends the way to the post war boom of immigration which often joined the earlier established Italian communities.

Furthermore, from the 1950s there was an influx from the Southern towns of Italy and Sicily. Those regions were often poor with limited work, therefore they travelled to the United Kingdom and became part of a workforce to rebuild Britain after the war. The most noticed communities are in Woking, Bedford, Nottingham and in Cambridgeshire.

Regardless of when those Italian migrants arrived they came bringing with them moments from home, recipes, traditions, language and of course their religion. They say that the Church is often at the heart of the community, and that is especially the case with the Italian population. We shall see over the rest of this 4-part series about the Italian Churches that formed as part of the wider Catholic community.

The Books They Leave Behind: Preserving Family Bibles and Religious Books

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When my mother-in-law passed away several years ago, we inherited her Catholic prayer books, Bibles, and missals. Some were obviously very old, others were new and scarcely used. My husband and I carefully examined the books and found Mass cards, newspaper clippings, and other  genealogical gems. Religious books can hold a wealth of family history information, as well as clues to the faith and cultural life of the owner.

As the designated “keeper of the stuff” for my family, I have become the curator for several collections and discovered how to organize and preserve all kinds of family treasures. I share what I’ve learned in my new book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes (Family Tree Books, 2012).

Catholic Gene Author Lisa Alzo also knows what it’s like to inherit a family home and its contents, and recently reviewed my book at her genealogy blog, The Accidental Genealogist. In “For the Packrat and the Genealogist: A Review of How to Archive Family Keepsakes, Lisa writes “I wish How to Archive Family Keepsakes had been available seven years ago!” Me too! It is the handbook I needed when I inherited my first family collection.

For the past two weeks I have been on a virtual book tour with How to Archive Family Keepsakes, and am pleased to make a special stop at The Catholic Gene with this article on safely storing and organizing your family Bibles, prayer books, and religious books. Whether you inherited the treasured ancestral Bible or your great-grandmother’s leather missal, I hope you will take time to safely preserve your family keepsakes for future generations.

The Books They Leave Behind

Many family collections include printed books such as novels, Bibles, and songbooks, or handwritten volumes such as diaries, journals, or notebooks. Sometimes, treasured family keepsakes are a combination of printed pages and handwritten entries, such as found in a wedding or baby book, or a guest book from a funeral. Whether printed or handwritten, your family books will have a better chance of survival from one generation to the next when stored using archival methods.

Before storing any books, closely examine the volume for genealogical clues to your family history. You may find slips of paper or other items used as bookmarks, or written notes or comments on the pages. Family Bibles may hold a special section of Family Record pages listing Births, Marriages, and Deaths.

I overlooked a family Bible in my grandmother’s collection for many years. The badly damaged book had been set aside when I first inherited boxes of papers, photos, and documents that once belonged to four generations.

Bible-1

This photograph doesn’t tell the entire story. The Bible binding and pages are soft with damp and wear. The binding and most of the pages are completely loose from the leather cover. The edges are feathered and torn. It looks like the book was once completely soaked in water (flood? rain?) and never recovered. Some pages show signs of mildew.

Kinsel Bible

Kinsel Bible – inside cover

But. . .

in the center of the book, between the Old and New Testaments, right where you might expect it to be. . . I found the family record of the E.B. Kinsel Family. These pages record the Births, Marriages, and Deaths of four generations. They also give the only evidence of the birth and death of a child whose existence was previously unknown to the present generation.

Kinsel Bible Record

Family Record Pages

Where to Store Treasured Family Books

In many homes, the best, and easiest place, to store family books is with our current volumes. Your bookcase is probably located in the temperate environment of your family room, living room, or den and relatively free from dust, insects, and extreme changes in temperature or humidity.

Avoid storing books or other family keepsakes in basements, garages or attics where extreme temperature and humidity changes can cause permanent damage.

Stable bound books in good condition may be stored upright on sturdy shelving. Many hymnals and school yearbooks are candidates for this kind of simple storage. Rare, damaged, or fragile volumes, however should be stored flat and in special archival boxes. These boxes are available from museum archival suppliers, and are well worth the cost.

DropSpineBox

DropSpineBox

Purchase the right size box for your book by measuring height, width, and thickness. You want the box to fit snugly so the book does not slide around inside.

Another option is to buy (or make) an archival book wrap with flaps that fold around the sides of the book to protect all edges. This is a good choice for rare, fragile, or damaged books with loose covers or broken spines.

Fitted Book Box

Exact fit Book Box

Record the History of Your Book

Take time to write a brief history, or provenance, or your treasured books. Include the names (birth and death dates, and addresses if you know them) of previous owners. You could write the information in pencil on the flyleaf of your book, or on a piece of acid-free paper tucked inside the first pages.

If you have a large collection, you may want to catalog the books and include the ownership information in your inventory. Keep a copy in your archive or with your family history records so you remember what books you own and where they came from.

The Heirloom Registry provides another way to record the history of your family book by offering an online registration service for family heirlooms. A unique serial number is used to record history and ownership information online where future generations can find it, and other family members can share the story of your book.

Heirloom Registry numbers are available as attractive stickers or metal plaques that can be attached to a box or book. Individual serial numbers are also available, and could be penciled on the inside cover of your book. I’ve used the Registry service to record the history of a family toy chest, but the idea is the same as registering a book. You can see my Registry record and read about my research on the chest here.

Cautions

  • Remove bookmarks and pressed flowers from pages of books.
  • Consider removing news clippings and replacing with photocopies on acid-free paper. The acid in newsprint can easily damage adjacent pages due from acid-migration.
  • Take care when removing upright books from shelves. Do not pull the volume by the spine; instead push back on the volumes on either side and grasp the volume to remove.
  • Avoid writing in rare or fragile books. Add identifying notes on a piece of archival paper inserted in the front of the book.
  • Use a hose attachment to vacuum your bookshelves regularly to keep dust-free.

Tips

  • Look for book and pamphlet storage options in archival catalogs.
  • Protect the cover or dust jacket with clear archival plastic covers.

from How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia & Genealogy Records by Denise May Levenick (Family Tree Books, 2012). Copyright, 2012, Denise May Levenick. All Rights Reserved. www.thefamilycurator.com.

How to Archive Family Keepsakes
Author: Denise May Levenick
Publisher: Family Tree Books, 2012
ISBN 1440322236
Paperback / eBook Family Tree Books, Amazon.com, Scribd, iBooks, Barnes&Noble.com.
10% Savings Coupon ShopFamilyTree.

Blog Book Tour

Visit the Blog Book Tour for How to Archive Family Keepsakes for author interviews, book excerpts, giveaways, and more. 

Proceeds from the sale of How to Archive Family Keepsakes during the Book Tour will help fund the 2013 Student Genealogy Grant founded in 2010 in honor of Denise’s mother, Suzanne Winsor Freeman.

About the Author

In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” Denise May Levenick is a writer, researcher, and speaker with a passion for preserving and sharing family treasures of all kinds. She is the creator of the family history blog, The Family Curator www.TheFamilyCurator.com and author of the new book How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records, (Family Tree Books, 2012).

Catholics, Mormons, and Genealogy

The opinions expressed below are solely those of the author.

There’s an old joke that goes something like this:

Papal Aide: Holy Father there is exciting news. Some of it’s good but some of it’s bad.
Pope:Okay, give me the good news first.
Aide: The Savior has returned to Earth! He’s on the telephone asking for you!
Pope: What could possibly be the bad news then?
Aide: He’s calling from Salt Lake City!

As such ecumenical matters sometimes go, relations between Catholics and Mormons have been relatively without rancor over the past several decades. Despite deep doctrinal rifts, the relationships between individual Catholics and Mormons have been free of the personal hostility which characterizes relationships between certain other denominations. In fact, the Bishop of Salt Lake City has said that Catholics and Mormons work together and get along fine in the Mormons’capital city.

But the facial peace between Catholics and Mormons has been strained by issues related to genealogy. It is well-known that the LDS church has some of the greatest genealogical information in the world in both quantity and quality. They obtain those records by going out all over the world and collecting or copying the original records. What is less well known is the doctrinal motivation for collecting ancestral records. Not being a member of the LDS church I’m hesitant to characterize their purposes other than to say that I am informed that it has to do with so-called re-baptism of non-LDS ancestors. That is the least what the Vatican knew in 2008, when the Holy Father instructed Catholic parishes not to cooperate with Mormon records seekers.

This issue had been brewing for quite a while. In 1995, Mormons and Jews reached an agreement that the LDS church would no longer “re-baptize” or “seal” Holocaust survivors that some LDS members had characterized as their ancestors. In 2001, Pope John Paul II approved a statement from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which stated that baptism in the LDS church cannot be held to be a valid Christian baptism. The statement went on to say that because of differences between the Catholic and Mormon understandings of the Trinity, “one cannot even consider this doctrine to be a heresy arising from a false understanding of Christian doctrine.” L’Osservatore Romano, a newspaper which frequently reflects inside thinking at the Vatican said the ruling “changes the past practice of not contesting the validity of [Mormon] baptism.”  The head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time was Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

Nothing much seems to have happened on this issue between 2001 and 2008. But then in January 2008, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a letter which expressed “grave reservations” about the Mormon practice of posthumous baptism. A few months later, Pope Benedict XVI approved an order that each bishop should not “cooperate with the erroneous practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”  Cooperation includes allowing Mormon genealogists to have access to Catholic parish records. Ironically, just 10 days after this order was approved, Pope Benedict embarked on a visit to the United States during which two Mormons participated in a papal ecumenical service. According to the Catholic news service this was the first time any member of the LDS church participated in such a service.

This is a difficult issue for a Catholic genealogist to write about.  Somewhat surprisingly, both the Vatican and the Mormon hierarchy seemed to downplay the impact of the letter on general relations between the two churches.  Father James Massa, an official of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service that while the order had the potential to disrupt relationships between the two churches, the Catholic Church was embarking on a new friendship with the LDS church. At about the same time a spokesman for the LDS Church in Salt Lake City said that he had not seen the order and thus could not comment on it. He went on to say “We don’t have an issue with the fact that the Catholic Church doesn’t recognize our baptisms, because we don’t recognize theirs.”  It’s a difference of belief.”

Other Catholic and LDS spokespersons further emphasized that the ban on allowing parish records to be given to LDS genealogists was not a major rift between the two denominations. The Catholic vicar general of the Diocese of Salt Lake City said that Catholics and Mormons enjoyed a long-standing mutually beneficial relationship. He said that the order concerning parish records was nothing new, because the Salt Lake diocese long had refused to give parish records to anyone “not authorized to have them.”  This policy was much broader than Mormon genealogists.

So how should Catholic genealogists react to the church’s official ban on giving Mormon genealogists access to parish records?

Here are some things to consider: first of all, the Mormons do have the greatest collection genealogical records in the world. Additionally they have been an incubator for new advanced archival technologies.  They allow free access to most of their records and have been known to create digital archives of Catholic parish records for the parish to keep.

I recall on my visit to the parish of Prairie du Rocher, Illinois in 2007, that the priest had labored alone and with great difficulty to get the parish records organized in a computer database. And before the completion of the project is computer crashed and the data was lost. Today, the records of St. Joseph parish in Prairie du Rocher  are available free of charge as part of the set of records of the diocese of Belleville, Illinois on the LDS-run site FamilySearch.org.

Here are some other things to consider: the ban is directed to bishops and clergy, not to individual Catholics. So Catholic genealogists who cooperate with Mormon genealogists will not need the “Get out of Hell Free” cards available from my colleague Sheri Fenley.

Despite the ban, FamilySearch.org  seems to add new Catholic parish records every week. Curiously most of those seem to come from outside the United States.

Perhaps the LDS spokesman quoted above was on the right track. Why should we as Catholics care that the Mormons believe in something that we don’t believe in? It is, as he said, a matter of belief.

One objection to the use of records by LDS genealogists has been the complaint that some of the Mormon records are inaccurate.  Mormon leaders say that there are inconsistencies and inaccuracies primarily in the IGI. They say that they have taken steps to weed out inaccurate information in the IGI. Finally, the ban on cooperation relates only to the LDS church. No doubt there are many many other faiths with severe doctrinal differences with the Roman Catholic Church, who are not banned from examining parish records. And we’re not going to change their belief system by refusing to cooperate on genealogical records.

One of the ironies here is that the Catholic Church once had the biggest collection of genealogical records in the world. They weren’t centralized  like the LDS records are. But for many centuries, the only place that genealogical records were kept was in the local church.  After the Reformation, Catholic and Protestant churches alike continued to be the main repositories of genealogical records. Civil involvement in matters of birth, marriage and death is a relatively new phenomenon.

Because Catholic records aren’t centralized, there was an opportunity for cooperation that could have led to greater accessibility of Catholic records to historians, genealogists and the general public.

In 2008 I wrote:

“The LDS Church has been more than generous in sharing their extremely costly research endeavors with the world at little or no cost. I would hope that my church, had it been in their shoes, would be as magnanimous. In fact, what the Mormons have done is downright Christian. . .

” . . .  Catholics and our faith are actually strengthened in a way by knowing and understanding our past and appreciating our ancestors. Curiously, we have the Mormons to thank for that.” See Catholics, Mormons at Odds Over Genealogical Records?  at GeneaBlogie.

That’s still my thinking on the matter.  What do you think?

Also posted at GeneaBlogie

A forest path and a favorite rock: Our happy discovery of the stomping grounds of a saint

Playing in the Grotto's spring waterIt was by happy accident that my family and I wandered into St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s old stomping grounds: a forested oasis of solitude a little over an hour away from the busy metropolis of our nation’s capital. We had spent a hectic and exciting series of days in Washington D.C., and were now on our way to spend the rest of the week on a little tour through Pennsylvania. We planned to stay our first night in Gettysburg. How to get there? We spontaneously decided on driving through Emmitsburg, Maryland and possibly making a stop at the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes.

Our little detour turned out to be a beautiful way to spend the afternoon. After a short drive up Mount St. Mary’s, we parked, entered the gates and walked down the forested path edged by a series of shrines and statues: corners for prayer and meditation inspired by Jesus, Mary and many of the saints.

Our Lady of Guadalupe welcomes pilgrims at the gate

Our Lady of Guadalupe welcomes pilgrims at the gate

The Assumption of Mary

The Assumption of Mary

The Crucifixion of Jesus

The Crucifixion of Jesus

St. Louis Marie de Montfort

St. Louis Marie de Montfort

We had the place almost to ourselves. The kids loved the long walk into the woods and the discovery of each new treasure along the way, including the pool of spring water near the end that had the look of Tolkien’s Lothlorien.

The Grotto’s water comes directly from Mary’s mountain creek

The Grotto’s water comes directly from Mary’s mountain creek

At the very end of our walk, we found the anticipated Lourdes Grotto – the oldest known replica of Lourdes which dates back to 1875. (Although, believe it or not, we didn’t get a nice photo of it.)

We also found another little surprise. At the conclusion of our walk, just before the beautiful Lourdes Grotto, we found a historical marker noting “Mother Seton’s Rock”.

Plaque indicating Mother Seton's Rock

Here, between the grotto and a quaint little chapel, was the spot where St. Elizabeth Ann Seton had spent many Sunday afternoons teaching children of the mountain parish in the early 19th century.

Mother Seton's Rock

My own children were thrilled to have the chance to sit on the very rock that she had, and to get a taste of the humble life she lived and the natural surroundings in which she spent many of her afternoons sharing her faith with others.

“Seek God in All Things”: Mother Seton, American Saint

Portrait of Elizabeth from a locket given to her husband William Seton, property of Sisters of Charity, Mount St. Vincent, NYC

Portrait of Elizabeth from a locket given to her husband William Seton, property of Sisters of Charity, Mount St. Vincent, NYC

Today St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is an inspiration to many – to mothers, to teachers, to religious sisters, to those who serve the sick, to converts, to those in many walks of life.  But as a young woman, she probably never imagined that her life would take the turns it did and that she would be remembered by so many people centuries after her death.

Elizabeth Ann Bayley was born into a wealthy Episcopal family in New York City in 1774, two years before the United States Declaration of Independence. (Read about her and her husband’s genealogy on this Emmitsburg Area Historical Society webpage.)

A child of privilege, young Eliza went on to face much adversity during her short life.  By the time of her death at age 46 from tuberculosis, she had suffered many sorrows.  When she was 3 years of age, her mother died. As a teenager, she was all but abandoned by her father and step-mother.  As a wife and mother, she suffered the death of her husband William Seton, faced destitution with no means to care for her five children, and mourned the loss of two of her children. Yet, despite these struggles, Eliza kept her peace and trust in God.

Elizabeth (Bayley) Seton's home in lower Manhattan still stands today

Elizabeth (Bayley) Seton’s home in lower Manhattan still stands today

After converting to Catholicism thanks to the inspiration of Italian Catholic family friends, Elizabeth (Bayley) Seton went on to leave an incredible legacy of faith in American Catholicism.  She founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s (the first Catholic religious order to originate in the United States, which after her death became linked with the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul).  She founded the St. Joseph’s Academy and Free School, which many point to as the beginnings of the parochial school system in the United States.  In 1975, Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first native-born American citizen to be declared a saint.

In 1809 Elizabeth formed the Sisters of St. Joseph, took her vows, and began to wear a habit modeled after the Italian widow's dress and bonnet she had worn while mourning the death of her husband

In 1809 Elizabeth formed the Sisters of St. Joseph, took her vows, and began to wear a habit modeled after the Italian widow’s dress and bonnet she had worn while mourning the death of her husband

Elizabeth became known as Mother Seton after her move to Emmitsburg, Maryland in 1809 to found the St. Joseph’s Catholic school for girls. She had a true heart for the souls of children, as evidenced by her Sunday lessons “from the rock”, and many letters she wrote to her own daughters and to other young girls in her care.

Here is an example – a letter Elizabeth wrote to her youngest sister-in-law Cecilia which includes a sweet little poem.

Let your chief study be to acquaint yourself with God because there is nothing greater than God, and because it is the only knowledge which can fill the Heart with a Peace and joy, which nothing can disturb – Father of all Beings how extensive are thy mercies! How great how inexpressible. It is in Thee we live and move and have our being . . . Thy paternal cares are over all mankind. . . .

As a little child relies
on a care beyond his own
knows he’s neither strong nor wise
fears to stir a step alone
let me thus with Thee abide
as my Father guard and guide.

- Elizabeth Ann Seton, letter to her sister-in-law Cecilia Seton, November 19, 1802

I loved reading Elizabeth’s letter to her firstborn daughter Anna Maria (Annina) on her eighth birthday:

This is your Birth day – the day that I first held you in my arms – May God Almighty Bless you my Child and make you his Child forever – your Mother’s Soul prays to Him to lead you through this world, so that we may come to his Heavenly Kingdom in Peace, through the merits of our blessed Saviour.

- Elizabeth Ann Seton, letter to her daughter Anna Maria (Annina) Seton, May 3, 1803

One more example of Elizabeth’s correspondence – a letter giving spiritual direction to one of her former students, reminding her of the religious education she received at her First Communion and encouraging her to place God at the center of her life:

God bless you, my loved child, Remember Mother’s [Elizabeth's] first and last lesson to you: seek God in all things. In all your actions submit your motives to this unerring test: ‘Will this be approved by God’s all-seeing eye?’

- Elizabeth Ann Seton, letter to a former student, about 1818

Our family was blessed to become a little better acquainted with this holy woman as we made our visit to Mother Seton’s former hometown in this beautiful area of Maryland during our drive that day. From the back of the little chapel that sits just a stone’s throw from “Mother Seton’s Rock”, a statue of her likeness overlooks that spot where for many years she gathered children of the mountain parish on Sunday afternoons to teach them the Catholic faith.

Statue of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on the back of the Corpus Christi Chapel overlooking "Mother Seton's Rock" (built in 1906 to replace the original)

Statue of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on the back of the Corpus Christi Chapel overlooking “Mother Seton’s Rock” (built in 1906 to replace the original)

For more about St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s life, her shrines and memorials, visit:

Venerable Mother Henriette Delille Awaits Beatification

November is National Black Catholic History Month.

Many Americans would have found antebellum Louisiana to be exotic place, with its French and Spanish influenced culture. Other southern Americans most likely would have been surprised that Louisiana’s tolerance of the nearly equality of les gens de couleur libres [free people of color]. But the Anglo-Saxon Protestants who prevailed in America would’ve been positively shocked at the practice of plaçage. This was a cultural phenomenon in which white men (usually of wealth and sometimes legally married to a white woman) entered into de facto marriages with free women of color.

These relationships produced children who were often openly acknowledged by their fathers and sometimes by the legal wife of the father.

In 1812, Henrietta Delille was born into such an arrangement. Her father, Jean Baptiste Delille-Sarpy, was a well-to-do white man, unmarried, who had a plaçage relationship with Marie Josef Dias, a free woman of color.

Henrietta’s mother, Marie, envisioned a life similar to her own for her daughter. But Henrietta had ideas of her own. She rejected the plaçage lifestyle, which cost her her  relationship with her mother as well as monetary fortune. And although like most of her family, her complexion was light enough that she could have passed for white in Louisiana’s stratified racial society, she declined to do so, proclaiming herself a free woman of color.

Henriette Delille

As to the latter matter, race and color, Henrietta’s principles worked against her immediate interests. Because she was nonwhite by her own admission, the very devout Henrietta was denied entrance as a postulant by both the Ursulines and the Carmelites.

Under the tutelage of Sister Marthe Fortier of Dames Hospitalières, 14-year-old Henrietta began a ministry serving the poor, black, white, and mixed race, in the streets of New Orleans.

I believe in God. I hope in God. I love God.
I want to live and die for God.

Prayer of Venerable Mother Henriette Delille

After her parents died Henrietta used her inheritance to buy a house which she used as a school to teach religion to free blacks and poor whites. She was assisted in this regard by a French immigrant priest, Père Etienne Rousselon, and her friend, Juliette Gaudin. Later, another free woman of color, Josephine Charles, join in the effort.

With the help of Father Rousselon, the women eventually were recognized as a religious order of the Catholic Church. They originally called themselves the Sisters of the Presentation, but later changed the name of the order to Sisters of the Holy Family.

The Sisters of the Holy Family operated parochial schools and did other charitable work. By the middle of the last century, their membership numbered over 400. Today, although there are only about 200 Sisters of the Holy Family,the order continues its work. The sisters run schools and nursing homes in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, California, and the District of Columbia. They also do charitable work in Belize.

The Sisters of the Holy Family opened a cause for canonization of Mother Delille in 1989. In 2010 with the documentation of one miracle ascribed to Mother Delille, Pope Benedict XVI declared her “venerable.” the church’s investigation continues and with the documentation of another miracle she may be declared beatified. The process to formal recognition of sainthood can be lengthy. But many believe that Henrietta Delille will become the first US-born person of African descent to be canonized.

There is some controversy surrounding the potential canonization of Henrietta Delille. One issue is that she was a slave owner. She owned one slave, a woman named Betsy, whom she freed in her will. The other issue springs from the poisonous well of racism.

There are some who object to characterization of Venerable Mother Delille as the first “African-American” or black potential saint. They claim that she was not a black woman but a “Creole.”

The term Creole with respect to people in Louisiana has several divergent meanings, all of which arise from the racialist need to classify people. It was the same “need” that led to the so-called “one drop rule.” Under that rule, Henrietta Delille is certainly a black woman. In any event, she self-identified as “nonwhite.”

This dispute illustrates our continuing human failure to see life the way God wants us to see it. It illustrates as well the conundrum of “race” in America. As Catholics we all want to celebrate the holy life of a good person. On the other hand, tucked into our little human-defined niches, we don’t want others to take what we believe is ours. I know that the ways of God are but a mystery to us but somehow I feel certain that in welcoming Henrietta Delille to his kingdom he didn’t turn around account and see how many blacks, whites or Creoles were already there.

References:

C. Davis, Henriette Delille, Servant of Slaves, Witness to the Poor,” (Sisters of the Holy Family,New Orleans 2004)

Answers.com: Henriette Delille (2012) http://www.answers.com/topic/henriette-delille

National Black Catholic Congress, Mother Henrietta Delille, http://www.nbccongress.org/black-catholics/mother-henriette-delille-famous-blacks.asp

The Catholic Genealogists’ Feast Day: Lifting Your Family Tree to Heaven on All Souls Day

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A woman visits a cemetery in Czech artist Jakub Schikaneder’s 1888 painting “All Souls Day”

If there is one day that is the holiday for Catholics who are genealogists, it is All Souls Day. This is the day that our efforts to seek out the stories of the lives of our ancestors intersects directly with our Catholic faith and our responsibility to care for the souls of others. Masses for the dead are known to have been said as far back as the 5th century, but the memorial feast dedicated to All Souls originated in the 11th century and is focused on praying for all those who have left this world in the friendship of God.

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Today is the day of all days to freshly print out our family tree, display as many photographs of our ancestors as we can, and send our prayers up to God for all of those who have gone before us – those who departed from us recently and those that lived generations ago.

All Saints Day (November 1), All Souls Day (November 2) and the entire month of November have also traditionally been a time for Catholics to visit family cemeteries. In fact, in many Catholic countries you can find cemeteries decorated elaborately on the days and evenings of All Saints and All Souls with flowers and candles lit “to illuminate the way of the departed souls to Heaven”.

The grave of my great-great-grandparents and their family members in Legrad, Croatia’s Catholic Cemetery decorated with flowers and candles

Whether or not you are able to visit a family cemetery today or have time to put together a display of your ancestral photos, this is the day that every Catholic should try to attend Mass and offer it for the repose of the souls of their family members as well as others who have left this life in need of our prayers. Although not a holy day of obligation like All Saints Day, the feast of All Souls is an important one. I like how the All Souls Day page on the Catholic Culture website describes it:

The Church, after rejoicing yesterday with those of her children who have entered the glory of Heaven, today prays for all those who, in the purifying suffering of purgatory await the day when they will be joined to the company of saints…The celebration of Mass, the sacrifice of Calvary continued on our altars, has ever been for the Church the principal means of fulfilling towards the dead the great commandment of charity.

“Le jour des morts (The Day of the Dead)” by French artist William Bouguereau, 1859

Today is indeed the Catholic genealogist’s feast day. It is the day when our research into the history of our family comes full circle with our reason for living as Catholics: to lift our souls and those of our loved ones to Heaven.

Here are a few ways that you can help to renew the memory of your ancestors and assist your family in praying for your ancestors’ reception into Heaven with the saints on this All Souls Day:

    • Attend Mass. Priests have permission to say three Masses on All Souls Day. Attend at least one and pray for your family members and others in need of God’s mercy.
    • Visit a cemetery. Your local cemetery may not have a beautiful candlelight procession on the evening of All Souls Day, but making a visit to the grave(s) of your loved ones or another cemetery within your reach is a traditional and valuable way to celebrate this special feast. If you’re interested, look online to see if your local cemetery has something special planned. (Like the All Souls Event at Vancouver’s Mountain View Cemetery which features “music, warming fires and fragrant teas comfort[ing] the living, public shrines remember[ing] the dead”, and a Celebration Hall where you can “find space and materials to craft your own personal memorials”. Sounds like my kind of event!)
    • Do a little research and say a few extra prayers. Indulgences have gotten a bad rap in the history books, but they are alive and well in the Catholic Church. This Year of Faith 2012-2013 is a good time to refresh your understanding of this special avenue of God’s grace. Making the effort to say a few extra prayers while attending Mass or visiting a cemetery on All Souls Day in addition to making the sacrament of reconciliation is a special way to remember those who have need of your prayers.
    • Print out that family tree. If you’re like me, my family tree gets additions regularly but I don’t often take the time to print out the latest version to share with the rest of my family. All Souls Day is a great time to print a fresh copy of your research, post it on the wall or put it in a book, and share it with family as you pray together for those who have passed before.
    • Bring out the photographs. Set up a display in your home of photographs of deceased loved ones to refresh your family’s memory of those that have passed. If you haven’t done so, start or finish the ancestral family photo wall project you’ve been wanting to do for so long.
    • Make or visit an online memorial. If you are like me, most of your family members are buried far away. Online memorials give us a chance to “visit” the graves of our family members without traveling. I have set up  a number of family memorials on Find A Grave and have appreciated the connections I have made through the site with locals who have taken photos of my ancestors’ gravesites. Make a visit to the site to see if memorials have been created for your ancestors. If not, take the time to set up memorial pages and upload photos of them and their gravemarkers, or request a local volunteer to take a photo for you.

It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins. (2 Maccabees 12:43-44)

It is a sobering experience to contemplate the feast of All Souls, no matter how elaborately or simply you commemorate it. As Catholic genealogists we are no strangers to death certificates and cemeteries, yet the prayers and focus of All Souls Day makes it hard to ignore our own personal mortality.

French artist Jules Bastien Lepage’s 1882 painting “All Souls Day” depicts a man and two children carrying wreaths for the decoration of graves at a cemetery

The Handbook of Christian Feasts of Customs by Fr. Francis Weiser shares an Austrian All Souls custom:

In Austria the holy souls are said to wander through the forests on All Souls Day, sighing and praying for their release but unable to reach the living by external means that would indicate their presence. For this reason, the children are told to pray aloud while going through the open spaces to church and cemetery, so the poor souls will have the great consolation of seeing that their invisible presence is known and their pitiful cries for help are understood and answered.

If there is any truth to this Austrian legend, I hope that our “wandering ancestors” will look into our homes this All Souls Day and see a sign that we remember them and include them within the prayers of our family.

Beyond Faith and Reason: Catholic Scientists

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From time to time, I get to hang out with a wild and crazy gang of fisheries biologists.  They speak a different language as they discuss subjects like turbidity,  effluent limitations, and Secchi depth.

When I first heard that last term, Secchi depth,  I had to look it up.  Secchi depth, sometimes called Secchi disk depth,  is a measure of water clarity.  It is determined by use of a device called a Secchi disk.

A Secchi disk is a circular plate divided into quarters painted alternately black and white. The disk is attached to a rope and lowered into the water until it is no longer visible. Secchi disk depth, then, is a measure of water clarity. Higher Secchi readings mean more rope was let out before the disk disappeared from sight and indicates clearer water. Lower readings indicate turbid or colored water. Clear water lets light penetrate more deeply into the lake than does murky water. This light allows photosynthesis to occur and oxygen to be produced. The rule of thumb is that light can penetrate to a depth of 1.7 times the Secchi disk depth.

Upon further investigation, I learned that the Secchi disk was  invented in 1865 by a Catholic priest, Father Pietro Angelo Secchi. Although it has been improved upon a number of times, Fr. Secchi’s basic design remains in place today.

My discovery of Father Secchi led to an interest in other Catholic scientists. And indeed, history provides many outstanding examples.  The  list is so long that I’ve pared it down to five exemplary individuals.

Father Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)

Gregor Mendel, baptized as Johann Mendel, is universally acknowledged to be the father of modern genetics. He was born in what is now the Czech Republic. His family was German. He began studying for the priesthood in 1843 at the Abbey of St Thomas, an Augustinian institution.  Before entering the abbey, Mendel had worked his family’s farm.  He also studied physics and philosophy at Brno (then the principal city of Moravia; now in the Czech Republic).

After eight years at the abbey, Mendel was sent to the University of Vienna for two years.  At Vienna, his physics professor was another renowned scientist, Christian  Doppler. When Mendel returned to the abbey, he became a professor of physics.

Father Gregor Mendel

Father Gregor Mendel

Mendel had also studied astronomy and meteorology.  Most of his surviving academic writing concerns meteorology. But Mendel is best known for his paper, Experiments in Plant Hybridization.

Mendel’s magnum opus was based on his study of variations in peas which had been planted at the abbey.  He also studied honeybees, with which he had been familiar since his childhood experience on the family farm. From his experiments, Mendel derived two Laws of Inheritance. The first, the Law of Segregation, states that each individual has a gene or genetic locus for individual traits such as hair color, eye color, etc.  Each parent also contributes a gene to the offspring. The gene that becomes dominant will control the nature of the trait.

The second law, the Law of Independent Assessment states that any particular gene is passed from parent to off-spring independently from another gene for a different trait.

Mendel’s work was not widely understood during his lifetime.  It wasn’t until the early part of the twentieth century that scientists embraced Mendel’s genetic theories.  Today, Fr. Mendel’s work is the basis from which all modern genetic science proceeds.

Father Jean Picard (1620-1682)

Fr. Picard was a Jesuit mathematician, astronomer, and hydrologist.  Born to a large family in La Fleche, France, he later attended the Jesuit College Royal Henry-le-Grand. In 1644, he moved to Paris, where he began assisting a math professor named Pierre Gassendi.  Together Picard and Gassendi observed numerous lunar eclipses.  After Gassendi’s death, Picard became Professor of Astronomy at College de France in Paris.

In 1761, Picard became the first person to nearly accurately measure the size of the earth.  His 17th century numbers were 99.56% of the modern figures.

Father Jean Picard

Picard communicated with other scientists of his era and made significant discoveries outside his main field of  astronomy.   Very little else is known about Fr. Picard’s life.

Ignaz Phillipe Semmelweis (1818-1865)

Semmelweis was not a cleric at all, but he was Roman Catholic. He was born in what is now Hungary to  a well-to-do family. He set off to the University of Vienna, intending to study law. somehow, he ended up in medicine. At age 30, he was made assistant to the director of one of two maternity clinics at Vienna General Hospital.  This first clinic was used for the training of medical students.  The second maternity clinic was staffed by midwives.

Semmelweis soon discovered an odd statistic: maternal mortality rates at the first clinic where the students trained had twice, sometimes three times the rate of the midwife-staffed second clinic.  The leading cause of maternal mortality was septicemia.
After eliminating all the variables he could, Semmelweis was left with the conclusion that the only significant difference between the two clinics was the staff. But why did the medical students, with superb academic training have a greater mortality rate than the midwives who had not the benefit of academic training?

The answer turned out to be rather simple: the medical students also trained with cadavers and the midwives had no contact with cadavers.  The medical students took no hygienic steps between cadavers and infant deliveries and often used the same instruments for both activities. When Semmelweis  realized this, he instituted a procedure requiring the students and staff at the first clinic to wash their hands with a chlorine based solution.  Within a month, the mortality rate at the first clinic dropped to parity with the midwife clinic.

Semmelweis had proven something the significance of which escaped even himself: that hand washing could prevent the transmission of germs between persons. He believed he had succeeded only in preventing “cadaver contamination.”

Even the simplest understanding of Semmelweis’ accomplishment drew scorn and ridicule in the scientific community. Semmelweis was forced out of his position and run out of Vienna.

Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis

Aggravated, outraged and bitter, Semmelweis began to speak out against his opponents. He wrote vicious screeds against them. His associates and family came to believe he was  insane and had him committed to an asylum.  He died there two weeks later.  Some sources say septicemia was the cause of his death.

Father Pietro Angelo Secchi (1818-1878)

We end where we began.   Father Secchi was primarily an astronomer.  He studied astrophysics. After training by the Jesuits in Rome, Father Secchi embarked on an academic career.  He taught in the United Kingdom and at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.  When he returned  to Rome, Fr. Secchi was made the director of the Observatory of the College of Rome (now called the Pontifical Gregorian University).

Father Pietro Angelo Secchi

His work in astronomy was prodigious.  He discovered three comets, including one named for hm.  He created the first classification scheme for stars. He made precise maps of lunar craters and color drawing of the planet Mars. And he invented the Secchi disk for use in another field in which he was interested.

Faith and Reason

As said above, the list of Catholics, both clerical and lay, who have made substantial contribution to science is a long one. It includes Roger Bacon,  Galileo Galilei, Rene Descartes, Nicolas Copernicus, Louis Pasteur, Blaise Pascal, André-Marie Ampère, Enrico Fermat, and many more.

Some Catholics and non-Catholics question whether the Church can really exist successfully in  a  science-influenced world.  Aren’t faith and reason polar opposites? And by the way, what about that business with Galileo, whose publications were banned and who spent the latter portion of his life imprisoned or on house arrest for suspected heresy?

For what it’s worth, Galileo was effectively rehabilitated in the 18th century.  In the twentieth  century, Pope Pius XII called Galileo one of the “most audacious heroes of research.”  In 2008, the Church celebrated the 400th  anniversary of Galileo’s earliest telescopic observations.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church holds:

159      Faith and science: “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.”

“Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.”

The Catholic Gene celebrates church “Doors of Faith”

Welcome to The Catholic Gene‘s celebration of the opening of the Year of Faith 2012-2013. Officially proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, this worldwide focus on faith will last from today, October 11, 2012 (the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican Council II and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church promulgated by Blessed Pope John Paul II), to November 24, 2013, the Solemnity of the Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King.

This special year is intended, according to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to “contribute to the rediscovery of faith” and to help “lead those many people who are seeking it to the door of faith”.

Here at The Catholic Gene, our readers (and some contributors) are made up of not only Catholic genealogists, but non-Catholics whose ancestors worshipped in the Catholic faith. We are a unique spot within the blogosphere. Today’s compilation of links highlights a wide variety of Catholic churches in many different places with many diverse stories. The authors of these articles each have a connection to one (or more) of these churches, whose “doors of faith” have played a special role in their lives and/or the lives of their ancestors.

…They called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how He had opened the door of faith…(Acts 14:27)

Our “Doors of Faith” celebration includes forty churches presented within thirty different articles. Included are a humble Appalachian mission church in Maryland, an iconic New York City cathedral, a Boston church on the Freedom Trail whose bell was cast by Paul Revere, and a Lithuanian church that looks like it came right out of a storybook.

There are stories of visits to ancestral homelands: one blogger took her grandfather’s pipe along so he could “join her” on her trip to his parents’ childhood church in Germany; another blogger received a tour of an ancestors’ church in Italy from a 10-year-old distant cousin who joked in Italian.

You’ll read about church choirs in Germany’s Rhineland, a temperance parade on St. Patrick’s Day whose proceeds went to the benefit of an Ohio church, and you’ll hear about a caged bear that was captured by a Chicago pastor!

You’ll read how one blogger (me) discovered an ancestor’s contribution to a Croatian village church thanks to the help of a modern-day resident of the town and you’ll be surprised to hear the connection that one Ohio blogger found between her parish and the church of her great-great-grandparents.

We hope you’ll enjoy reading these stories and seeing the photos of these “Doors of Faith” that have been important to our contributors’ families, and that you’ll be inspired to seek out the heritage of faith within your own families. Continue below for summaries of our contributors’ articles.

The ‘door of faith’ (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. (Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei for the Indiction of the Year of Faith)

St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan is a much-frequented stop for tourists visiting the Big Apple, but few know the history of this grand building. Though she doesn’t have roots at St. Patrick’s, Ellie’s Irish heritage inspired her to write about the cathedral on her blog Ellie’s Ancestors for our “Doors of Faith” celebration. Her stirring article about Archbishop John Hughes, his tireless work for New York’s City’s poor Irish immigrants, and his connection to St. Patrick’s is one not to be missed.

Another church frequented by tourists is St. Stephen’s Catholic Church located on the Freedom Trail in Boston, Massachusetts. The only remaining church designed by the first American-born architect Charles Bulfinch, its bell was cast by Paul Revere himself. Yet last month’s celebration at the church was not focused on these famous connections, but instead centered on the history of the church’s role serving Catholic immigrants in Boston’s North End. For more of this story, visit my article An American Treasure: St. Stephen’s Celebrates 150 Years over at my blog A Light That Shines Again.

Through the help of an Italian cousin and his 10-year-old Italian-language-joke-telling son, Kathleen Scarlett O’Hara Naylor was introduced to the church of her grandmother’s family: Il Santuario del Beato Giacomo in the small town of Bitetto just outside of Bari, Italy. Hers is the story of a family’s devotion to a holy man who lived as far back as the 1400s, yet who continues to have a strong influence on the local people today – as well as those who have emigrated from Bitetto. Visit You Are Where You Came From for Kathleen’s story about her visit to the church in Bitetto and her family’s centuries-old connection to Il Beato Giacomo (Blessed Jakov Varinguez).

Marti Wallace of Marti’s Genealogy Adventures tells of her family’s 300-year-old connection to the church of St. Vincentius in Haselünne, Germany. She shares photos of her visit there, including her grandfather’s pipe which she brought along so that “some part of him would be in Haselünne” since he had never had the chance to visit his parents’ ancestral home. I was touched by Marti’s story of her great-grandfather’s childhood sorrow at the funeral held at St. Vincentius for his sister.

Also don’t miss Marti’s article Little Graces Connecting the Generations to read about her surprising realization of a connection between her parish and the church of her great-great-grandparents: St. Anthony Catholic Church in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jacqi Stevens of A Family Tapestry shares the story of St. Anne Catholic Church of “Southtown” Chicago that saw much change throughout its history. The church began humbly with Catholic families meeting in homes on “the plain beyond the lake where Chicago eventually stood”, saw the opening of its church building in 1880, then disappeared when parishioners moved out to the suburbs and progress demanded the building of a new expressway.

Speaking of churches that are no more, I’ve written about two such Manhattan places of worship on my blog 100 Years in America. Both Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and St. Stephen of Hungary Catholic Church originally resided on East 14th Street serving the busy immigrant neighborhoods that made up the Lower East Side of New York City. Both changed church buildings (one because of an urban renewal project; one because its congregation moved uptown), but both still have thriving parishes today. Read their stories within my “Disappearing Churches” series: Part 1 (Immaculate Conception) and Part 2 (St. Stephen of Hungary).

Donna Pointkouski of What’s Past is Prologue is a prolific blogger who writes about her Polish and German roots. Her contribution to our “Doors of Faith” celebration is the Church of St. John the Baptist (św. Jana Chrzciciela) in Mszczonów, Poland. She has found family baptismal records at the church as far back as 1816. Visit Donna’s blog to view photos of the church and to challenge your Polish language pronunciation skills by trying to read the list of names of its parish priests back to 1658.

Jasia is also proud of her family’s Polish roots, and has written much about her ancestors who lived in the old country and those who immigrated to Detroit, Michigan. Visit her blog Creative Gene to see her “Doors of Faith” article: a wrap-up of four churches in Poland and four in Detroit where her ancestors worshipped. She has compiled photos of each of these churches with links to the articles she has written about them. They include Polish churches St. Lawrence in Wojnicz, St. Mikolaj in Zgorsko, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Przeclaw, and Lodz Cathedral; along with Detroit churches St. Albertus, Sweetest Heart of Mary, St. Francis D’Assisi, and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Donna Peterson’s Hanging from the Family Tree highlights two of her ancestral churches, one in which she has found family records dating back to 1732! Visit her blog to read about her family’s roots at St. Mel’s Catholic Church in the Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois and at St. Antonius Catholic Church in Oberselters, Hesse, Germany - where her family goes back at least three centuries.

Denise Levenick of The Family Curator has shared two articles with us. The first is the story of Rosalie Lindberg’s Chicago-Polish roots at St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church in a Chicago neighborhood that looks very different now than when her family resided there in the early 20th century.

In “Dear Photograph” style, Denise and her husband celebrated their 35th anniversary by revisiting Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Montecito, California and taking some then and now pictures. Her photos are an inspiration to us to preserve the memory of our own personal milestones. How quickly our daily lives can turn into history!

Ever heard of a Catholic church attached to a brewery? In Pottsville, Pennsylvania the famous Yuengling Brewery and the Church of St. Patrick are close neighbors. The building is actually St. Patrick’s third church since 1827, although there were Catholics in the area for decades prior to that date. Visit my article Coal region Catholics: The story of Pottsville’s Church of St. Patrick over at Small-leaved Shamrock for the history of this first Catholic church in the anthracite coal region that at one time drew the interest of the first American bishop to be canonized a saint.

Speaking of neighbors, St. John the Baptist Church in Quincy, Massachusetts played a large role in the lives of members of the Tierney family for the majority of the 20th century – in many ways. Not only was the family very involved at the church, but they were its neighbors and lived across the street from the priests’ residence. Visit my blog A Light That Shines Again for the story Good neighbors: The Tierney family and St. John the Baptist Parish, Quincy, Mass.

Amanda, blogger at the ABT UNK blog, has shared a number of churches with us for our “Doors of Faith” celebration. Join with her to visit the beautiful Baroque Šv. Jurgio (Saint George) Catholic Church in Smilgiai, Panevezys district, Lithuania where her great-great-grandparents were married. It looks to be straight out of a storybook!

Stop with Amanda in Texas at the Gothic Annunciation Catholic Church, the oldest existing church building in Houston (built in 1866) where members of Amanda’s family worshipped from 1901 until the 1980s. She also introduces us to Mission San Jose in San Antonio, Texas (where Amanda worked as a park ranger for one summer), St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Houston, Texas (Amanda’s childhood church), and St. Joseph Catholic Church in Houston, Texas.

St. Nicolas Catholic Church in Evanston, Illinois was established as a German language parish and was attended by Amanda’s German immigrant ancestors. It celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. You’ll also enjoy reading how Amanda used a clue on a church door in a wedding photograph to figure out the name of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Old Town, Chicago, Illinois; and don’t miss St. Margaret Mary Church (also in Chicago) whose pastor kept a caged bear for the Catholic school children to visit!

Two more articles at the ABT UNK blog highlight Hawaiian churches: St. Benedict’s Painted Church near Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and St. Peter’s By the Sea Catholic Church in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Craig Manson introduces us to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Prairie du Rocher, Illinois – a church that was the parish home for his wife’s family for seven generations (since 1722). Visit Craig’s blog Geneablogie for details about the church that left quite a legacy within this family, including inspiring several to religious vocations.

I love the way Kathy Gosz begins her article Catholic Choirs – A Joyful Noise Unto the Lord: “If you are writing a novel and you know your main character, your great-great-grandmother, came from a long line of Catholics and that…” Visit her blog Village Life in Kreis Saarburg, Germany to read more. She has used social history to research her family’s church life in Germany’s Rhineland within the towns of Zerf and Oberzerf (St. Laurentius Catholic church and the chapel of St. Wendalinus), and at St. Martin Catholic church of Serrig, and Saints Gervasius und Protasius church of Irsch. You’ll enjoy Kathy’s detailed look at German church choirs going back to the 18th century.

Katy Wech of the CentralPAGenealogist blog shares her family’s connection to the little St. Ann’s Mission Church in the Appalachian Mountains in Avilton, Maryland within her article entitled An Inheritance of Faith. Katy tells how her family first settled the area and how the entire church cemetery is probably related to her! Visit her article to read about the genealogical challenge presented to her by one of her ancestors who had lived in a neighboring state, died across the border in another state, and was buried back in Maryland at St. Ann’s.

Holy Angels Church in Sandusky, Ohio was the church home of Dorene Paul’s ancestors in the mid-19th century. Visit her blog The Graveyard Rabbit of Sandusky Bay to learn the story of her family’s role in the St. Patrick’s Day festivities of 1844 that included a public pledge in the newspaper against the use of intoxicating beverages, and a temperance parade whose proceeds benefitted the church.

The last article is a special one to me. Shortly after had I conceived the idea for and announced this “Doors of Faith” celebration here at The Catholic Gene, I received a message from a current resident of my ancestors’ village of Legrad, Croatia. Within a Croatian language history book, he had found information about my 3rd great-grandfather’s special contribution to the church back in the year 1858. I was thrilled to learn this bit of history, and to be able to share it here in celebration of the opening of the Year of Faith. Visit 100 Years in America to find my article What a surprise! Great-Great-Great-Grandfather’s “Doors of Faith” for the full story.

May our deepening of faith during this Year of Faith help us to long for justice and peace in the world. (from the Intercessions for the Year of Faith)

Thank you for joining us to celebrate the opening of this special Year of Faith 2012-2013 here at The Catholic Gene. We hope you’ve found some inspiration to seek out your personal heritage of faith within your own families, and we look forward to you writing and sharing it with us!

Share Your Family’s “Doors of Faith” at The Catholic Gene

Update: The Year of Faith has begun! Visit The Catholic Gene celebrates church “Doors of Faith” for our wrap-up of forty churches whose stories are told within thirty different articles by our contributors. 

Do you have ancestors who worshipped in the Catholic faith? Would you like to share photos and/or stories about a Catholic church (or churches) that played a special role in your family members’ faith lives? If so, please join The Catholic Gene in a celebration of Annus Fidei: the Year of Faith 2012-2013.

Pope Benedict XVI has declared a special focus on faith beginning on October 11, 2012 (the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council) and ending on the Solemnity of Christ the King: November 24, 2013.  The Year of Faith is “intended to contribute to a renewed conversion to the Lord Jesus and to the rediscovery of faith, so that the members of the Church will be credible and joy-filled witnesses to the Risen Lord, capable of leading those many people who are seeking it to the door of faith.”

“The ‘door of faith’ (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church.”- Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei for the Indiction of the Year of Faith

In honor of this new Year of Faith 2012-2013, the Catholic Gene is hosting a “Doors of Faith” celebration online. Here’s how you can participate:

  1. Share a photo and/or write a story on your blog about a Catholic church in which you and/or your ancestors worshipped that played a role in your family’s faith lives. (We’d love to see a photo of the “doors of faith” – the entrance doors of the church – but if a photo is not available, please at least share your story with us!)
  2. Send the link to your article to us by sending an email to CatholicGene@gmail.comDeadline: Friday, October 5, 2012. Extended to Sunday, October 7, 2012.
  3. Finally, celebrate the new Year of Faith with us on its opening day – October 11, 2012 – by seeing the photos and reading the stories of other families’ “Doors of Faith” that will be highlighted here at The Catholic Gene on that date.

Places of worship have played important roles within many of our lives and the lives of our ancestors. As this Year of Faith begins, we look forward to seeing the photos and reading the stories of the Catholic churches that have helped to spark the light of faith in the lives of your families over the centuries.

Please spread the word about “Doors of Faith” and feel free to use the image and logo above. See you there!

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