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Turns of the Centuries Exhibit > Newcomers 1880-1920 > Beliefs
This theme in other eras: 1680-1720 | 1780-1820 | 1880-1920

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.

Beliefs : American Religion and Immigration


The First Amendment of the United States Constitution was the institutional acknowledgment of what travelers and observers had long noted. Americans were a potpourri of religions, denominations, and sects. At the same time, the evangelical Protestantism that drove the Second Great Awakening remained the dominant form of religious expression well into the 1800s. By the turn of the twentieth century however, the religious landscape of the United States changed dramatically.

The Catholic Church became the largest church in the nation. Its unprecedented and tremendous growth was due almost entirely to immigration. Many American Protestants reacted to these newcomers with a mixture of anti-Catholicism and nativism. As for the American Catholic Church itself, it struggled repeatedly to assimilate various immigrant groups. Immigration and immigrant issues largely defined the Church's identity in this period. As the first large group of Catholic immigrants to arrive, the Irish dominated the Catholic Church in the United States for several decades. Only after years of agitation did newly arrived German Catholics successfully challenge Irish control and gain a place in the Church hierarchy. Almost immediately, new conflict rocked the Church stemming from the arrival of millions of Polish immigrants.

By 1900, one in every ten Catholics in America was of Polish origin, but not a single bishop in the entire American Roman Catholic Church was of Polish origin. Some Poles reacted to the lack of Polish representation in the Church by establishing small independent parishes. Father Francis Hodur, himself a recent immigrant from Cracow, Poland, formed the Polish National Catholic Church in 1897. For many Polish immigrants, their language, ethnicity, and patriotism was inseparable from their Catholicism. Significantly, the Polish National Church insisted that its priests offer masses in Polish.


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Holy Name of Jesus Church

date   c. 1929
location   South Deerfield, Massachusetts
process/materials   half-tone paper print
item type   Photograph/Photograph - Postcard
accession #   #1997.08.01.0033

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See Also...

St. Ann's Church

St. Stanislaus

St. James / Monument Church

Holy Name of Jesus Church

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