(Oconomowoc, United States) The eighth triennial conference hosted by the Institute for Redemptorist Historical Studies of North America took place October 21-24, 2019 at the Redemptorist Retreat Center in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. The theme for this year’s conference, “Redemptorists and Race,” discussed the Redemptorists’ pastoral history involving various cultural and racial groups. The week’s lectures were a mix of historical research and the self-reflection of Redemptorist presenters, with each lecture discussing the Redemptorists’ presence among a particular population.
The first full day of events began October 22, and consisted of three lectures and two short evening presentations. Fr. Glen Parker, C.Ss.R. and Nicholas Rademacher, Ph.D. (Cabrini University) opened the conference with talks on the “Redemptorist Pastoral Response to African Americans.” Following Fr. Parker’s appraisal of the Redemptorists’ presence in the American South and his own reflections as an African-American confrere, Dr. Rademacher’s presentation concentrated on Holy Trinity Church and Christ the King Church of Orangeburg, South Carolina, a town at the forefront of racial desegregation. His research, which was conducted largely at the Redemptorist Archives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, revealed the parish’s decades of work to overcome racial and social barriers.
Susan Bayles-Ridgley, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Wisconsin, presented “The Story of Integration in Newton Grove, North Carolina.” Bayles-Ridgley’s lecture was derived from a series of oral history interviews with members of the Newton Grove community and archival research conducted at the Redemptorist Archives in Philadelphia. Together, these sources told the story of the nation’s first Catholic integrated parish—a transition that deeply disturbed the parish’s close-knit community and eventually forced the Redemptorists into a long hiatus in providing pastoral care there.
North of the United States, Bishop Jon Hansen, C.Ss.R., discussed the “Redemptorist Pastoral Response to Indigenous Peoples of Canada.” In light of the Catholic Church’s involvement in Canada’s residential school system for indigenous children, Bishop Jon addressed this problematic history and how Redemptorists are currently working to build relationships and offer pastoral services to Canada’s indigenous peoples in remote locations, particularly his own diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith, in the Northwest Territories.
On the conference’s second full day of events, Fathers Gary Lauenstein, C.Ss.R. and Gil Enderle, C.Ss.R., opened with a presentation on “Redemptorist Pastoral Responses to Hispanics.” Fr. Lauenstein provided a broad overview of Redemptorist parishes that opened for Hispanic communities. Fr. Enderle followed with a discussion of his experience working with Hispanic parishioners and learning Spanish to meet the needs of the communities he has served. He singled out Fathers Tom O’Connell and Elmer Toups as formative for him and others. The Extra Patriam’s Michael J. Truongluan Nguyen, C.Ss.R. followed the morning presentation with his own lecture on “Redemptorist Pastoral Responses to the Vietnamese in America,” which reviewed the province history and examined the various cultural influences that affect pastoral services to the Vietnamese.
The conference’s final lecture was the combined efforts of Patrick J. Hayes, Ph.D., and Rev. Ako Walker, C.Ss.R., who both discussed “Redemptorist Pastoral Responses to Afro-Caribbean Ministry.” The presentation consisted of a survey of Redemptorist missionary work relating to various populations in the Caribbean as well as a reflection upon the histories and cultural differences that make up the peoples across the Caribbean Islands.
Fr. Enderle was one of two recipients of this meeting’s Blessed Francis X. Seelos Award for outstanding service to Redemptorist history. The other recipient is a long-time collaborator and archivist emerita from the Edmonton-Toronto Province, MC Havey.
Brittnee Worthy, Archivist, Denver Province