Essays

Roman Catholics and the American Mainstream in the Twentieth Century, by Julie Byrne

In the course of the twentieth century, the face of Roman Catholicism in America changed again, almost as dramatically as it had in the nineteenth century. In the nineteenth century, the change was predominantly demographic, as Catholic immigration added to church ranks thirteen million from far-flung corners of the world. In the twentieth century, the change was largely socioeconomic, as the children and grandchildren of Catholic immigrants began to make their own way—and their own kinds of Catholicism—in the United States. The most important thing to convey to your students is how issues of family structure, gender roles, social status, and national heritage unfolded through the generations after immigration—and how for Catholic immigrants and their children, religion stood at the heart of those issues.