Roman Catholic immigrants to the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries faced multiple issues as they attempted to acculturate into their new nation. Distrusted by Protestant-Americans for both their religion and their ethnicity, they were further burdened by the biases of their own church leadership. The Catholic leadership in the United States, comprised of earlier-arrived ethnic groups like Irish and Germans, found the Catholicism of the new arrivals from Europe and Mexico to be inferior to the American style. American bishops dismissed the rural-based spirituality of the immigrants, with its reliance on community festivals and home-based religion, as "superstition" and initially looked to transform the faith of the immigrants to more closely align with the stoic, officious model of the U.S. church. Over time, however, the bishops, with guidance from the Vatican, began to sanction the formation of separate "ethnic" parishes where the immigrants could worship in their native languages, thereby both keeping them in the church and facilitating their adjustment to becoming "Americans."
Additionally, immigrants to the western frontier helped transform the Catholicism of the region, since the U.S. church had only preceded their arrival by a few decades. Catholicism had been a major presence in the region for centuries due to Spanish exploration and settlement, but American oversight of the area had only been in place since 1848. Thus, the Catholic immigrants were able to establish roots alongside the American church and leave their imprint on frontier Catholicism. As the city of Pueblo, Colorado industrialized in the 1870s and 1880s large numbers of immigrant laborers were drawn to the city's steelworks and smelters. Pueblo's position on the borderlands established its reputation as a multicultural melting pot, and the Pueblo church ultimately incorporated many of the religious practices of the immigrants while at the same time facilitating their acculturation to American society through its schools, orphanages, and social-service organizations. The story of Pueblo's Catholic immigrants and their formation of a new ethnic identity is a microcosm of the American immigrant experience.
|Commitee:||Crewe, Ryan, Wagner, William E.|
|School:||University of Colorado at Denver|
|School Location:||United States -- Colorado|
|Source:||MAI 52/04M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Religious history, History, Ethnic studies|
|Keywords:||Catholics, Colorado, Immigrants, Italians, Mexicans, Slovenians|
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