During the past quarter-century scholars have found many ways to approach the daunting task of diocesan history: scholarly landmarks by Leslie Tentler (Detroit) and Thomas Spalding (Baltimore); a people's history by David O'Brien (Syracuse); groundbreaking collections edited by Robert Sullivan and James O'Toole (Boston) and Steven Avella (Milwaukee) that pointed in the direction of future studies; and numerous works centered on a single bishop or archbishop. Vincent A. Lapomarda's history of the Diocese of Portland, Maine, The Catholic Church in the Land of the Holy Cross, represents still another model. It is a compact, extensively illustrated work by a professional historian intended to commemorate multiple anniversaries: the Diocese of Portland's 150th in 2003 and four hundred years since the founding of the first Catholic community in what is now the state of Maine.
Ten of Lapomarda's twelve chapter titles indicate a central focus on the episcopacy—Portland's bishops have included luminaries such as James Augustine Healy (1875-1900), the nation's first African-American bishop, and William H. O'Connell (1901-1906), future Archbishop of Boston—however, in Lapomarda's succinct, yet detailed narrative, bishops and pastors share center stage with the laity and women religious. At the heart of the history of Catholicism in Maine, past and present, are complex, ever-changing patterns of interaction between ethnic communities, and Lapomarda examines this aspect of the narrative deftly in all twelve chapters and in three useful appendices on the historic sites, parishes, and Catholic schools of Maine. Lapomarda has served historians and Maine's Catholics very well. His history will be useful to both of these constituencies for decades to come.