Irish missionaries in America

A Patchwork Quilt: Pallottines in the USA I and II
Donal F. McCarthy, SCA (available directly from, €28.00)

J. Anthony Gaughan

The Pallottines are a religious congregation who are more formally known as the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Societas Apostolatus Catholici). 

The congregation was founded in Rome in 1835 by Fr Vincent Pallotti. He set out the aims of the new congregation as: (1) the diffusion of the true faith among pagan people, (2) the revival of faith and charity among Catholics and (3) the diffusion of corporal and spiritual works of mercy throughout the world. Fr Pallotti was beatified in 1950 and canonised in 1963 during the Second Vatican Council.

The congregation flourished and even before Fr Pallotti died in 1850, aged 55, it had spread throughout the world. In 2010 it had a world-wide membership of 1,648 priests and 2,379 brothers across 45 countries of five continents. 

In 1909, the congregation was structured into four provinces, one of which is the Irish province, whose college in Thurles was established in that same year. In the early 1960s the provincial house was transferred from London to Dublin and the congregation took responsibility for the administration of three parishes in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

Members of the Irish province served in Argentina, Tanzania and the US. Donal F. McCarthy records their service in the US. His sources are mainly correspondence between Irish provincials and bishops seeking his help in staffing their dioceses.

One such diocese was Amarillo in West Texas. Due in no small measure to the skill and dedication of the Irish Pallottines in developing the missions and parishes committed to them there, it was possible to establish the new Diocese of Lubbock in 1983.

Apart from their parishes in West Texas, the author provides a detailed account of the development and personnel of the parishes staffed by the Pallottines in East and Central Texas, Nevada, Virginia, West Virginia and Michigan.

Among the challenges faced by the Irish Pallottine missionaries McCarthy lists the long distances to be travelled between Mass centres and the need to be proficient in a second language to adequately care for the Spanish-speaking Mexicans, a large component of their parishes in Texas.

Until the 1960s there was overt anti-Catholicism in the so-called Panhandle (North West Texas). Priests were refused service in shops, they were jeered in public and occasionally the Ku Klux Klan marched up and down before their churches before pelting them with stones. There was also widespread discrimination against Catholic Spanish-speaking Americans.

The author includes an interesting cameo on the Schoenstatt movement which placed considerable emphasis on Marian devotion. It developed within the Pallottine congregation from the 1920s onwards. Its chief promoter was Fr Joseph Kentenich. A native of the Rhineland, he was incarcerated by the Nazis during World War II in Dachau, where he was an inspiration to his fellow priest-inmates. Following disagreements about its place within the Pallottine family, it separated from the congregation in 1965, and continues to flourish. 

Fr McCarthy’s narrative provides an insight into the remarkable structural evangelisation of the US by the Catholic Church in the 19th and 20th Centuries.  His extensive research will be immensely useful to those compiling histories of the dioceses in which the Pallottines served.

It is a magnificent report for loyal benefactors to the congregation. His generous profiles of the missionaries will be very much appreciated by their extended families. His volumes will be particularly welcomed by his confreres who will see