Between 1823 and 1865 members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Missouri utilized the labor of more than seventy enslaved individuals at locations including Saint Stanislaus Novitiate, Saint Louis University, and regional parishes and missions. The Jesuits were obligated to provide for the spiritual wellbeing of the enslaved and recorded their efforts. Although it is more difficult to grasp spiritual life from the perspective of the enslaved, sacramental and other records show that the Jesuits' bondspeople made the faith their own by selecting kin to be witnesses at sacraments, by choosing spaces in which they performed their faith, by actively participating in their faith communities, and by remaining Catholic for generations after they became free. Analyzing sacramental and sodality records allows us to look in new ways at the debate about whether faith was imposed by Jesuit masters or hybridized by the enslaved. Digital mapping tools expose patterns regarding whom the enslaved chose as sponsors, showing how the enslaved valued kinship in the sacraments that the Jesuits provided. This approach helps reveal the obscured history of the Catholic faith life of bondspeople and how they appropriated the rituals and religious spaces the Jesuits felt duty-bound to provide.


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pp. 49-81
Launched on MUSE
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