Abstract

This article contributes to the study of American Catholic identity formation by exploring the process by which German-American Catholics in the late nineteenth century tried to negotiate an identity that allowed for cultural maintenance but also gave them a sense of national belonging in America. This is done by examining the rhetoric of a leading opinion-shaper in the German-American Catholic diaspora, Joseph Jessing, who edited a leading German language Catholic newspaper, The Ohio Orphans’ Friend (Ohio Waisenfreund). His mission of preserving German Catholicism in the face of “Americanization” faced a quandary. As the church in the United States itself began to Americanize, the “German” and “Catholic” pillars of the diaspora’s identity were increasingly at odds with each other. In the negotiation of a national identity, the forging and perpetuation of national myths played a critical role. Jessing and other opinion-shapers increasingly had to choose between the mythology of a “German America” and that of a “Catholic America,” which took as its main symbol the Catholic explorer Christopher Columbus. Although reluctant to make a clear choice, Jessing’s participation in the emerging foundational myth of a Catholic America ultimately made him an unknowing contributor in the Americanization of German-American Catholics.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2161-8534
Print ISSN
2161-8542
Pages
pp. 1-24
Launched on MUSE
2015-06-14
Open Access
No
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