The Catholic University of America

Rare Books and Special Collections

American Catholic Pamphlets and Parish Histories Database

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American Catholic Pamphlets Databbase: The CUA Rare Books and Special Collections department has assembled the largest collection of American pre-Vatican II pamphlets in the United States (over 12,000 items) together with an additional 3,700 parish histories from Catholic parishes across the country. These titles, which generally date from the 19th to the mid-20th centuries, are accessed through an online database maintained by the department. At the present time these titles are not listed in WRLC Catalog.

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Covering topics from confession to Communism, dating, temperance, suicide, and vocations, the pamphlets were often packaged in small formats with eye-catching cover art and text by well-known writers including Daniel Lord, S.J. and Fulton J. Sheen. Some pamphlets were written specifically for children, printed in large type and colorfully illustrated. Other pamphlets address the laity's responsibilities as members of the Church, or of religious benevolent societies.

Titles reflect diverse aspects of American social history including economic justice, race relations, parochial schools, peace and war, patriotism, prohibition, Nativism and anti-Catholic prejudice. Official Vatican translations of Papal documents, pastoral letters written to interpret these for American Catholics, and pastoral letters reporting on Church synods and councils explain the Church's position on the major issues of the day. The pamphlets as a whole document the development of the American Catholic Church, its relationship with the Vatican, Americanism, and changes in liturgical practices.

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Parish Histories: This collection contains more than 3,700 items, ranging in date from 1791 to the present. Researchers interested in the early history of Catholic settlements, the continuity of ethnic parishes, the development of Catholic institutions within a parish, parishioners' participation in local and national lay organizations, or in local or foreign missions, will find this collection useful.

The histories were usually written to commemorate an important anniversary such as the twenty-fifth, fiftieth or one hundredth year since the founding of the parish or the dedication of the church building. Many of them include photographs from the early years of the parish and biographies of the parish's priests. In addition to the printed histories there are newspaper clippings, photographs, postcards, and other ephemeral material which provide additional information about the establishment of the parish, the anniversary celebrations, or the architecture of the parish buildings. Also included in this collection are parish directories for a single year containing photographs of the parishioners and congratulatory notices from local merchants, anniversary programs, booklets, dedication programs, regional or diocesan histories, and jubilee biographies of bishops.

Some of the parish histories include information on the schools, orphanages, seminaries, religious orders, or civic and social groups associated with the parish. Armenian, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Slovenian, Slovak, Spanish, or Ukrainian speakers sometimes published their parish histories in their native language, with little or no accompanying English text.

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