American Catholic China Missionaries, 1918-1941

Breslin, Thomas A., Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Israel, John, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia

For decades the Catholic mission effort in China was an integral part of American Catholicism. Publicists trumpeted that American Catholic missioners were needed and wanted in China; that they were crucial for the Church's growth in that land; and that they would add the dimension of practicality to the sagging European Catholic missions there. The great American financial contributions aside, the publicists deliberately obscured the minor significance of the actual American Catholic contribution to the Church in China. American Catholic missioners did keep alive the foreign mission presence in some areas of China but because they usually worked by themselves, they did not vitalize the far larger European Catholic effort. Indeed, the Americans imitated their European counterparts who, generally speaking, did not want them in China. This dissertation, then, examines the major groups of American Catholic missionaries in China during the years of their greatest involvement there. It describes the roots of that endeavor as well as its rhetoric, its institutional components, and its meagre ecclesiastical result. It delineates the relationship of the missionaries with both Chinese and Japanese in China including Manchuria. It also outlines the marginal but crucial role of the mission as a focal point of communal interest in the disintegrating American Catholic community.

The author used State Department records as well as records from the archives of several religious Orders In researching the subject. Interviews with surviving missionaries also provided information as did mission magazines and other secondary sources.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Catholic Church -- Missions, Missions -- China

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

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