I write to extend my greeting to all members of the American Catholic Historical Association. It’s early March in Albuquerque where I live, which means the weather is turning and the sandhill cranes are flying overhead, headed north. Last year our president Fr. Richard Gribble inaugurated this quarterly newsletter in order to share news and events of interest and relevance to our members, and as the organization’s 2019 president I’m pleased to follow him in this initiative. I’m fortunate as I settle into my year of ACHA leadership to be joined by our new vice-president, Jim Carroll, and a supportive and invested Executive Council. I’m also thrilled to be working closely with Charles Strauss of Mount St. Mary’s University, who became the new executive secretary-treasurer of the ACHA in 2018.
In January I attended the organization’s annual meeting, which took place over three days in Chicago. The conference was carefully planned by Jim Carroll and our program committee, and each of its many elements—including the forty individual papers delivered, the presidential luncheon, the Saturday evening liturgy, and the evening social hour—was a success. There were many conference highlights honoring the association’s centennial; these included a plenary address by Joseph White entitled “The American Catholic Historical Association, 1919-2019: A Centennial Appreciation,” as well as four “critical terms” roundtables, held consecutively, which interrogated each of the four words that comprise our name—“American”, “Catholic”, “Historical”, and “Association.” I attended all of these, and they were occasion for especially lively conversations oriented toward imagining the future of Catholic studies. We’re hopeful we’ll be able to provide a summary of these in some form later this year.
The seventy-five individuals who attended this year’s presidential luncheon had the pleasure of hearing our 2018 ACHA president Fr. Gribble speak on “Humberto Medeiros and the Quest for Low-Income Housing in Boston, 1971-1982.” At the luncheon we also were pleased to announce our annual prizes, and to give three very special awards for lifetime achievement in scholarship, teaching, and service. This year our distinguished scholarship award was received by Philip Gleason of the University of Notre Dame, our distinguished teaching award was received by Fr. Wilson Miscamble, C.S.C., of the University of Notre Dame, and our distinguished service award was accepted by Jim McCartin, on behalf of Fordham University. At this year’s luncheon the ACHA also extended a one-of-a-kind “Centennial Award” to Monsignor Robert Trisco, for his nearly half century of service steering the organization. I had the absolute pleasure of sitting next to Msgr. Trisco during the luncheon, and I know I speak for the whole of the organization’s leadership when I say that we were incredibly honored by his presence in Chicago this year.
As we head through 2019 I’m focused on two things. First, because I was so impressed by the positive energy I saw in Chicago, I want to do everything I can to maintain it. I’ve begun work with our wonderful program committee, now chaired by Mary Henold, as well as with Jim Carroll and many others, to build an annual conference in New York City in 2020 that will have sessions representing the truly exciting work being done right now within Catholic history and its adjacent fields, and that will also take full advantage of our host city, both to spend time thinking about—and also to explore– Catholic New York. The program committee has distributed the 2020 call for papers, and the ACHA has a submission deadline of March 15th, which is almost upon us. Hopefully many of you are at work on proposals. If not, do consider submitting something—it could be your idea for an individual paper, a full session, or even a session with a less-traditional format. In New York City we’ll also be trying out something new; a pair of “joint sessions” held between the American Catholic Historical Association and the American Society for Church History. More details on this soon!
I should note that the ACHA will not be having a spring conference in 2019, but Charles Strauss and I have begun plans for both our 2020 spring conference (location to be announced soon). We are also in conversation with the Canadian Catholic Historical Association, and are making plans to hold a joint conference between our organizations in the spring of 2021. Current CCHA president Peter Baltutis and I are both excited about this, as we think it will create a unique space for considering transnational and continental (rather than either simply U.S. or Canadian-centric) themes within the study of Catholicism. And many thanks to Dennis Castillo for initiating this joint venture!
My second major focus for 2019 is the perhaps less exciting, but no less important, work of supporting Charles Strauss as he settles into his new role of executive secretary-treasurer, and doing everything I can to assure that the many affairs of the organization—from its finances, to the workings of its standing committees and its many different prize, award, and grant committees, are both in good order and are set up in such a way that they will continue to function smoothly as committee members change, year-by-year, and as ACHA officers (myself included) come and go. I am fortunate to have assistance in this work from a reconstituted finance committee, as well as from an ad hoc prize committee, established by Fr. Gribble during his presidency, which will soon begin a full review of ACHA prizes, including committee structures and procedures. Finally, I’m enthused to share that at its annual meeting in January the Executive Council approved a major and much-needed upgrade to the organization’s website, which will also take place during the first half of 2019. Ahead of that upgrade, I’ve begun to work with Andy Metzger, our highly capable webmaster, to increase the information available to our membership. You can now learn the full and current makeup of all our standing committees here. I also encourage you to check out information on the Catholic Research Resources Alliance’s Catholic News Archive, which is now accessible via our website here.
In closing, I want to offer my sincere thanks once more to Fr. Gribble for the hard work he put in during a year of unexpected transitions for the organization. I’m the fortunate heir to his efforts, and am excited to be building on them as we the membership of the ACHA move through this year together. I wish each of you well during this final month of winter and as the Lenten season begins.
ACHA President (2019)
Founded by Peter Guilday in 1919, the American Catholic Historical Association has done much good to advance the study of Catholic history.