Catholicism and Colonialism

Through my work on the Cercle Harmonique, I have become increasingly interested in the intersections of Catholicism and colonialism—in particular, the intersections of Catholicism, race, and power. I explored some of these tensions in my 2014 contribution to the Journal of Africana Religions roundtable on black Catholicism. I’m still sitting on some research on black Catholicism in New Orleans. For a religious institution that has always claimed an identity of universal, Catholicism in the Americas has a complicated past and present with racial minorities. If “Catholics are surprising absent from [tellings of] U.S. history,” as Robert Orsi claims, the stories and experiences of non-white Catholics are a step beyond absent.

Prando Collection image
Image from the Peter Paul Prando, S.J. Collection, JOPA; available via Artemis Primary Sources

To try to tell these stories, I’ve brought a number of my undergraduate classes into the Jesuit archives on Gonzaga’s campus. We formally housed the archives of what used to be called the Jesuits in the Oregon Province (now merged with California to become Jesuits West). These archives are in a mix of English, Latin, Italian, and various Native languages and the materials include handwritten dictionaries of native languages, an amazing collection of photographs taken by priests with old brownie cameras, the early house diaries of the Jesuit order headquarters, and numerous reports from the mission field. The Jesuits centralized their archives to a new facility at St. Louis University and the archives left Gonzaga’s library in late spring 2019. You can see some work I facilitated with my students in the archives here: Digital Jesuits.


“Jesuit Missionaries in Early-Twentieth-Century Alaska, Colonialism, and Categories of ‘Superstition,’” Western Historical Quarterly, accepted and forthcoming.

The Sisters of Our Lady of the Snows: An Indigenous, Alaskan Sisterhood,” American Catholic Studies 131.3 (2020): 57-91.

Jesuits, the Iñupiat, and Catholicism on the Seward Peninsula Coast, 1898–1937,” American Catholic Studies 130.3 (2019): 37-66.