Louisiana State University
Candidate for Vice President (2022)/President (2023)
Back in 2007, I attended the annual meeting of the ACHA for the first time. I was in graduate school. I delivered a presentation about French priests in the antebellum South. A former president of the ACHA responded to my paper. I got the impression that the former president thought I was full of crap. But, oh my goodness, was the former president kind in their commentary and thoughtful in their criticism! Three years later, thanks to the former president and so many other members of the ACHA, I published my first book, Fathers on the Frontier: French Missionaries and the Roman Catholic Priesthood in the United States, 1789-1870.
I recall this incident of constructive mortification as a way to express my gratitude to the ACHA for the opportunity to serve as its Vice President. It also reminds me of how vital we are to each other as supportive colleagues and creative thinkers who push us to be better historians. Probably like you, my academic accomplishments are a direct result of the company I’ve kept in the ACHA and other corners of academia. I’ve published articles in the Catholic Historical Review, American Catholic Studies, and U.S. Catholic Historian. I wrote the book Religion in America: The Basics, edited the volume Gods of the Mississippi, and produced the documentary film Water Like Stone. And I’ve served as Co-Chair of the Catholic Studies Unit of the American Academy of Religion and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Louisiana State University. In these and other endeavors, I can’t help but admire the collaboration necessary for us to do what we do for a living. It really is a gift.
Here is what I value in the ACHA:
- Scholarship – The ACHA is an incubator of knowledge about Catholic history. It’s a community of scholars who think deeply and critically about the Catholic past. And it’s a big tent! It’s a place where historians, theologians, archivists, ethnographers, and people from other disciplinary backgrounds cultivate their own work and serve others who are doing the same. The scope of our scholarship is wide, encompassing global, national, and local contours of Catholic experiences. Our scholarship is made better because of the diversity of perspectives represented in the ACHA.
- Friendship – The ACHA isn’t just about outstanding scholarship. It’s also about friendship. It’s about developing professional and personal relationships with people who are committed to understanding the history of Catholicism and communicating that understanding to scholars, students, and the public. We are all here to do what we are trained to do as historians, but we are also here to share in the joy of thinking and learning with each other.
- Tradition – The ACHA is over 100 years old. Reading past conference programs and issues of the Catholic Historical Review, it’s easy to see just how important the ACHA has been to setting the standard for scholarship on Catholic history. But I’m also impressed by how much has changed in the field, both in terms of the questions we have asked of the past and the diversity of those who have asked the questions. It is our responsibility to embrace the changes that come with time, and to do so with intentionality and inclusion.
My vision for the ACHA reflects what I value – good scholarship, strong friendship, and a living tradition. If elected as Vice President, I will work in concert with the Executive Council to ensure that we are serving those who already call the ACHA home, while also welcoming new people and perspectives into our community. This means that we must continue to grow our support for graduate students, contingent faculty, independent scholars, and early career professors. This means that we have to celebrate our accomplishments, seriously examine what we value as an association, and create the conditions for a field of study that encourages curiosity and criticism. And this means that we need to constructively reflect upon how we connect our scholarship to the classroom and to the public. We love what we do as historians. We need to share that love.
Thank you for considering my candidacy.