Thursday, June 20, 2013

Our Sunday Visitor: Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History

Welcome back to Stuart's Study. Today, I am reviewing a history nerd's dream book - Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History. Before I open up a book to read and review, I make a mental list (sometimes physical list if the book is long enough) of topics, aspects, and features that I expect to be included. If something is missing from my list upon completion of the reading, then it can lower the rating I give it. My method definitely helped review this encyclopedia.

Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History is an up-to-date and thorough single-volume encyclopedia that lives up to its name. Before I even cracked open the book, I was hoping that there would be some sort of timeline in it. Well, the first thing after the Table of Contents is a chronology that begins in 1492 and ends in 2011. This chronology featured important events that took place, like the first martyr in the United States or the birth of Elizabeth Ann Seton. Also included in this chronology were negative events in our history, like the clerical sex abuse scandal. I appreciate that Mr. Bunson did not ignore these warts in our history. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

After the chronology, there are approximately 1,000 pages of alphabetized information, spanning from "Abbelen, Peter M." to "Zumarraga, Juan de." I would be lying if I told you that I read every article in this massive tome. I instead chose topics that I knew about already, like my Archdiocese for example, and read these entries to see how accurate they were. Of the many articles I did read, the information was spot on and did not disappoint. Unlike most encyclopedias, this one was  lacking on images. There are some, but they are just sketches, so that was a bit of a disappointment.

After the articles, there are four appendices in this encyclopedia:  "Missionaries to the Americas," "Saints of the Americas," "Catholics in Statuary Hall," and the most interesting one to me "Cathedrals, Basilicas, and Shrines in the U.S." The first two appendices would be good starting places for reading articles in this work, but the last appendix would be a good vacation planner. Simply look up a state; see what cathedrals, basilicas, or shrines they have; and then plan a pilgrimage for your family or parish.

Overall, I would give this encyclopedia 5 stars merely for the fact that it even exists. It wasn't perfect, and information is always changing, but it serves its purpose. I would say though that the audience for this book is limited. I could see a history or religion teacher or even a history enthusiast wanting to own it, but who else? The only audience that I could think of is parents who homeschool. When your child is studying a certain point in U.S. history, they can supplement their studies with this book and see what was going on in the Catholic Church of the U.S. during this same time period. For example, without this book, your child might never learn that 500+ Catholic nuns helped tend to the sick and wounded during the Civil War.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papal Year of Faith.