MISSION AND FRONTIERS:
PERSPECTIVES ON EARLY MODERN MISSIONARY CATHOLICISM
Symposium Venue: National University of Ireland, Galway, 4th and 5th June, 2013
When, in 1893, Frederick Turner spoke of a phenomenon that ‘broke the bonds of custom, offered new experiences, [and] called out new institutions and activities’, he was referring to the American frontier, but his description can be aptly applied to the missionary challenges the Catholic church encountered at the ‘frontiers’ of mission in the early modern era. These were places and spaces with amorphous cultural and/or politico-geographical boundaries, unsettled or changing ‘certainties’, and innovations stemming from the shifting realities of contact and diffusion which those involved in mission experienced within and without Europe.
This symposium will seek to examine afresh the contours of mission in frontier zones, exploring the character and impact of missionary activity at the boundaries of Catholic culture and geography.
Possible topics for consideration include but are not limited to:
• Defining the meaning and applicability of frontier in relation to early modern Catholicism
• Exploring the meanings of ‘mission church’ and ‘missionary Catholicism’
• Competition and co-operation in the competition for souls
• Cohesion and difference, relating to gender, native ‘church’, and inter-religion contacts
• Colonial religion and the ‘process’ of imperial empire-making
• Centre and periphery – authority and autonomy in missionary enterprises
Photo: Church of the Holy Family, Cahokia, Illinois, originally a 17th-century French Jesuit mission in “New France.” According to the parish website, the first mass was celebrated at Holy Family on December 8, 1698. At the Suppression, remaining Jesuit priests were shipped back to France on the “Minerve” on February 6, 1764. In the end, only Fr. Sebastian Meurin was allowed to remain. After the Restoration, Meurin’s remains were exhumed and re-interred across the Mississippi River at Florissant.
Resources are available at the Center for French Colonial Studies / Centre pour l’etude du pays des Illinois.