Catherine O’Donnell

Arizona State University
Candidate for Executive Council (Seat B)

Candidate statement

I’d be grateful to be given the opportunity to serve the ACHA as a member of the Council.  I’ve come later in my career to this organization, and as I ventured into writing about American Catholic history, I benefited tremendously from the warm welcome and congenial, intellectually productive forums the organization provides.  I’ve also had the pleasure of learning from the work of the many archivists who are essential to the ACHA, and of working with graduate student presenters at the conferences, both from my own institution and others.  I would love to work with colleagues, some of whom have decades of experience with the ACHA, to extend further this welcome to graduate students and to scholars who may not yet recognize that their interests and projects can become a part of the ACHA’s community. Having held many administrative positions in my own large, public university (faculty head, undergraduate director, and others at Arizona State University), I would appreciate the opportunity to put some of the skills I’ve developed to this new and important use. 

Over the last decade, I’ve explored the lives and legacies of two people essential to the early years of the Catholic Church in the British North American colonies and United States: John Carroll and Elizabeth Seton.  After publishing articles in journals such as the William and Mary Quarterly and U.S. Catholic Historian, I completed a full-length biography, Elizabeth Seton: American Saint (Cornell University Press, 2018). In that and current research, I’ve benefited from moving among a number of scholarly communities, including the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, the Conference on the History of Women Religious, the Society of Early Americanists, the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies, and of course the ACHA itself.  I’ve also in the past year had the opportunity to participate in a number of podcasts and digital journalism outlets, as well as to give public lectures on themes of Catholicism, biography, and women’s history.  The ACHA is already a connector for many scholars and a participant in public-facing humanities, and I would love to have the opportunity to work with others to forge more links and create more opportunities for collaboration, preservation, and traditional and digital publication.  I’ve been moved and inspired by the vibrancy and self-reflection evident in the ACHA, and would love to work with others to build on its successes and extend its reach


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