Item description for Lady Blackrobes: Missionaries in the Heart of Indian Country by Irene Mahoney...
A unique account of the Order of Ursuline nuns and their attempt to convert Native Americans in Montana to Christianity in the face of adversity. Delves into the mission's negative impact on Native culture.
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Studio: Fulcrum Publishing
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9" Width: 6.08" Height: 0.91" Weight: 1.05 lbs.
Release Date Nov 30, 2006
Publisher Fulcrum Publishing
ISBN 1555916171 ISBN13 9781555916176 UPC 757739061719
Availability 0 units.
More About Irene Mahoney
Irene Mahoney, a member of the Ursuline Order of nuns, is a retired professor and writer in residence at the college of New Rochelle. She has taught English in Taiwan, and has researched Ursuline missions in China, Thailand, and most recently, Montana where she lived for five years to research Lady Blackrobes.
Reviews - What do customers think about Lady Blackrobes: Missionaries in the Heart of Indian Country?
Great Book but Amazon only sent 1 and charged for 2 ripoff.... Dec 27, 2007
Great book, but I paid for 2 books and only got sent 1, so it was pricy. I feel ripped off and this site has not responded to this!!!!! It is very difficult to contact them and they don't respond when they do something wrong.....
Amy Welborn's review Jul 20, 2007
It's quite simply, the story of the Ursuline mission in Montana, which lasted from 1884 to the mid-third of the 20th century, for the most part. The original group came from Toledo and grew, impressively, over the decades they were present, to the point where they had their own novitiate, drawing candidates from all over the country.
The original mission was, of course, to the Native Americans. Their male counterparts were for the most part Jesuits. They were involved in 8 missions - some more succesful than others, all involving education, in the form of boarding schools of the children of various tribes.
I'm not going to give a detailed synosis of the book - it's really impossible, involving the vagaries of 8 missions, plus some forays into Alaska, Canada, and Europe. But I think for those interested in the "state of the Church" - which is most of us - those who look at the current condition of the Church who are tempted to think it must have been so much better in the past - or even just those interested in what it means to be Catholic, past and present - this is a great read.
Irene Mahoney utilizes the archival material very, very well, and tells the story with clarity. And it's all there:
*The struggle between charismatic leadership and institutional needs. The great hero of the Montana missions, Sr. Amadeus Dunne, drove the foundations with her courage, imagination, and trust that "God would provide." However, she also drove it into debt, and ended her days pursuing an ultimately untenable dream of Alaska missions. A complex, fascinating figure.
*The struggle between male and female religious. This recurrent theme reminded me of one of my favorite J.F. Powers' stories, which involved a group of nuns and an insensitive, bloviating pastor, the title of which I cannot immediately recall. Some of the Jesuits were marvelous, and some treated the Ursulines like a convenient group of domestics. One of the interesting things to watch develop is how, with each foundation, the Ursulines get more and more specific about what their duties are in their agreements with the Jesuits.
*The struggle between female religious and the episcopacy. A continual theme in American Catholic life, of course (and beyond). The letters Mahoney quotes - from both sides - are direct, forceful and even biting.
*Humanity. Oh, the humanity. A sister leaving, and ultimately being released from her vows and marrying. Alcoholic priests. Extreme conflict when Amadeus decided it would be fantastic to bring in some Quebec Ursulines. It wasn't.
*The struggle to figure out how to live out religious life in the mission field - this is related to the last point above. Given what they were doing and how they were doing it, the Ursulines of Montana were, in the eyes of outsiders, "loose" with their religious observance of prayer and cloister and so on.
*And, of course, the subject of mission itself. The question of the "success" of these missions is a difficult one, and perhaps not even appropriate. To us, the goal of the missions - to Christianize the Native Americans, mostly by taking their children totally out of their native culture via the boarding schools - perhaps seems rather scandalous and doomed to fail. Most of the missions closed, ultimately, because of political factors, the changing landscape of the government's activity (for example, when they began, the government supported the mission schools with fund. That policy was changed eventually, which made operating the missions even more difficult financially than it had been), and quite often because of disaster - almost all of them, at one time or another, suffered devastating fires.
But at the same time, in the context of the time, one can imagine that the service these women (and men) provided the natives was invaluable, even if the fruit seemed, at the time, to sour rather quickly. The context, being, of course, the government's treatment of the various tribes - it is clear that the Catholic presence, from the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions to the bishops to the religious women and men on the ground - were the primary defenses that the Indians had against rapacious white settlers. The religious had not one iota of sympathy for the latter and saw their prime ministry, along with evangelization, to do what they could to protect the Indians and their interests from the greed of the settlers, who were constantly getting reservation boundaries moved, making Indians wait in limbo for years and years, and physically attacking them. It was a terrible situation, one in which the native Americans were left with little to no resources to provide for themselves, under constantly changing and uncertain conditions, and the Catholic religious were, to the extent that they could be, the champions for the communities in general, as well as for their children, giving them the skills to survive in this new environment.
Great stuff, then, and not just for history nerds. Irene Mahony does a marvelous job with the archival material, it's fascinating stuff and timely, too.
Just one quote - pulled at random. Rather amusing. The Mother General of the Ursulines traveled to Montana to try to sort out a mess, a conflict in leadership.
But, although she was enjoying the American spirit and the hospitality of the Ursulines, she was less sanguine about the clergy. As in Montana, she found them self-satisfied and ill-prepared theologically. In the same letter to Angela Lincoln, she continued, 'Yesterday I gave a pastor a little course in philosophy and catechetics. He needed it badly. He's an Irishman who trusts more to feelings than to reason.'