- American Crusade: Catholic Youth in the World Mission Movement from World War I through Vatican II
Throughout the nineteenth century America was a mission field for the Roman Catholic Church, a status it retained until 1908. Ten years later, the American Catholic Church became a mission-sending church. This timing is ironic in that the great explosion of American Protestant interest in missions had occurred in the generation before World War I and probably peaked in terms of its visibility in the general culture just as American Catholics were entering the field in the years immediately following the war's end. One of the great engines of this Protestant movement, which saw the number of American Protestant missionaries soar from about 900 in 1890 to perhaps 14,000 in the 1920s, was the Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions (SVM). The SVM was a recruiting and mobilizing organization for missions that worked on behalf of all the mainline Protestant denominations. American Catholics, marveling at this organizational juggernaut, attempted to create one of their own: the Catholic Students' Mission Crusade (CSMC).
The SVM and the CSMC were similar in that they both reached out to youth, adopted the heroic rhetoric of the period, attempted to mobilize youth in an effort to evangelize the world, and were energized by the optimism and belief in a special American destiny that characterized nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century America. Until the 1920s, the SVM reflected a broad Protestant consensus that embraced both evangelical Christianity and the Social Gospel. When this consensus became untenable in the 1920s as the battle between modernism and fundamentalism roared to life, the SVM soon lost its way and ceased to be an effective organization. The CSMC, unencumbered by this crisis of authority in American Protestantism, was rapidly rising in stature just as the SVM was becoming moribund. The CSMC would endure for another half a century, becoming a fixture in American Catholic life.
David Endres does an excellent job bringing this history to life, charting the CSMC's story through four generations: the World War I generation that mirrored the Victorian optimism of the SVM; the interwar generation that saw itself as producing Crusaders to conquer the infidel; the post-World War II generation that produced Cold Warriors for Christ; and the generation of the 1960s that alternately gloried in and was mired in the social and ecclesial revolutions of the period. Endres's account, well written and convincing in its depiction of the evolution of the organization, is essential reading for anyone interested in twentieth-century Catholic missions.
The reader, however, is left wondering at times just how influential and important the CSMC actually was. We are told, on the one hand, that in the late 1960s, the organization had 1 million student members in 3100 American educational [End Page 861] institutions, but, on the other hand, that these numbers were clearly inflated because some dioceses simply enrolled all the students in their schools into the organization. Moreover, the reader is never told how much money for missions the organization raised or how many missionaries it succeeded in recruiting. Perhaps this type of hard evidence is difficult or impossible to obtain. One would expect, then, that the writer would provide copious amounts of anecdotal evidence, but even this is scant.
The CSMC disbanded in 1970, just one year after the SVM was formally terminated. Endres uses this and other evidence to conclude that "the collapse of the CSMC was impacted by broader changes in the mission world and Christianity in general" (p. 158). This is true as far as it goes, but he fails to note that the decline in mission activity was largely limited to the mainline churches associated with the World Council of Churches, and that the SVM had long since been replaced as a missionary recruiter of college students by the...