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Sacramento and the Catholic Church

Shaping a Capital City

Steven Avella

Publication Year: 2008

This book examines the interplay between the city of Sacramento, California, and the Catholic Church from the city’s beginnings to the twenty-first century, to illustrate the sometimes hidden ways religious communities help form and sustain urban community.

Published by: University of Nevada Press

Series: The Urban West Series

Title Page, Copyright Page

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xv

Rugged individualism is not the lot of the academic researcher and writer. While the toil may be lonely and even enervating at times, every author realizes the extent to which he or she is dependent on the kindness of others and their labors on his or her behalf. I sincerely and gratefully...

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pp. 1-12

At the corner of Eleventh and k streets in Sacramento, California, stands the stately Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament. Renovated and retrofitted in 2005, the cathedral buzzes with life every noon as a spectrum of worshipers—from street people to state officials—“catch mass” or confess their sins in the oak confessionals at the rear of the church. On Saturdays, ...

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1. A Cooperative Community, 1850–1886

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pp. 13-42

The primacy accorded commerce and civic advancement in Sacramento provided the social and cultural framework for the city’s religious communities and institutions. This was underscored in the recollection of a September 1849 Sabbath day in Sacramento by argonaut...

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2. Cathedral Building As Urban Project, 1865–1889

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pp. 43-70

Sacramento’s Catholics built the majestic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in 1889. At the time of its dedication it was the largest Roman Catholic church west of the Rocky Mountains. Although today dwarfed by large skyscrapers, for many years its stately dome and towers loomed large over the flat city. Together with the imposing state..

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3. Religious Sisters As Urban Agents, 1850–1920

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pp. 71-99

In February 1851 Gregory Phelan regaled eastern readers of the Freeman’s Journal with details of the dedication of Sacramento’s St. Rose Church. The “neat little chapel” now stood where only a few months prior “there was scarce a vestige of civilization.” Another “vestige of civilization” caught the eye of the observant physician. “Among the congregation...

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4. Catholics and the Ethnic Consensus, 1880–1930

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pp. 100-132

Sacramentans reveled in the results of a 2002 study by Harvard University that acclaimed the city “the most diverse” in the country. Time reported approvingly that Sacramento had a “Crayola culture” in which you could see a “Sikh casually strolling into a Mexican restaurant for takeout” and...

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5. Building the City Beautiful, 1890–1930

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pp. 133-159

Nearly fifty thousand people from all over California and Nevada turned out on the night of September 9, 1895, as Sacramento celebrated the forty-fifth anniversary of California’s admission to the Union. But Admission Day was only the pretext for celebrating a major milestone in the history...

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6. Catholic Social Provision: The Depression and World War II, 1930–1945

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pp. 160-186

“Sacramento is starting a new decade confidently expecting the next ten years will be as prolific in accomplishments and development as the past,” wrote the relentlessly upbeat Bradley Riter in the January 4, 1930, edition of the...

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7. Carving a Space and Creating Community: The Catholic Church and the North Area, 1940–1970

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pp. 187-214

In post–World War II Sacramento, Catholic parishes popped up like dandelions in suburban lawns. One of the first was named for the legendary St. Philomena. Its origins were typical of suburban parishes all over the country. Begun in 1947 in the Bungalow Club, a dance hall on Auburn Boulevard to the northeast of the city, it caught the crest of a wave of...

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8. Building a Visible Latino Presence in the City, 1930–1970

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pp. 215-246

On a rainy April day in 1945 hundreds of Mexicans filled the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament for a festive mass celebrated by Bishop Robert Armstrong. Afterward, the church emptied out on to Eleventh Street and assembled for a procession. Here was a virtual microcosm of Sacramento’s growing Latino/a community. “At the head of the procession,” noted...

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9. Homelessness and Fighting the City Consensus, 1970–2000

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pp. 247-274

There was yet one last use for the old St. Stephen Church at Third and o streets. Urban renewal had already begun to knock down the West End flophouses and cheap hotels. One of those left homeless by the demolition of the cheap housing was Abel Chacon, a migrant worker who followed the crops in the northern valley. In 1966 Chacon approached...

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pp. 275-279

The year 2005 was a major milestone in the history of Sacramento’s built environment. In May a new city complex quietly opened up behind the 1910 beaux arts–style city hall on Ninth and 1 streets. The five-story two hundred thousand–square-foot structure overcame a number of obstacles to its completion—including the discovery of a Miwok village on the construction...


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pp. 281-332


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pp. 333-353


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pp. 335-368

E-ISBN-13: 9780874177664
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874177602

Page Count: 384
Illustrations: 17 b/w photos, 3 maps
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: The Urban West Series

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Catholic Church -- California -- Sacramento.
  • Sacramento (Calif.) -- Church history.
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