Hidden Catholic Collections

Much rare and unique content lies in the archives of Catholic institutions across North America. There reside valuable photographs, letters, diaries, institutional reports, newsletters, oral histories, and many more types of primary source materials documenting the Catholic experience. They reveal the history of Catholic activism, community-building, devotions, education, governance, health care, lived experience, and ministry over the centuries. Yet these materials have relevance for more than just historians of Catholicism. As leading scholars have shown again and again, the history of Catholicism is the history of the American, Canadian, and Indigenous nations that inhabit the continent.  

Accessing materials in Catholic archives can be difficult. Unequal resources hamper the extent to which archivists and librarians can make these materials available for researchers. Tight budgets and large amounts of material can limit collection processing, conservation, digitization efforts, and reading room hours. The COVID Pandemic has added another impediment, making it even more difficult for scholars, students, and those with an interest in Catholic History to travel to these archives. Even in the face of these challenges, archivists and librarians work hard to make these collections available to researchers. 

The ACHA’s Hidden Catholic Collections Project asked archivists and librarians to nominate collections in their holdings that they think have high historic value but might not receive as much scholarly attention as they should. By harnessing the power and reach of ACHA’s social media platforms and website, we have been shining the spotlight on a new collection each week this year. If you missed a week’s posting on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, this page will serve as an aggregator of that content. If you think a collection might be helpful to your research or you just see something you like, please reach out to the archivist or librarian to let them know! 

If you have a collection that you would like to highlight or a question about the initiative, please email ACHA Executive Council Member Kyle Roberts (kyleroberts6@gmail.com).

Pre-Vatican II Music Collection, Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows Archives, Chicago Servite Provincial Archives, Chicago

This week we’ll take a look at a 417 piece pre-Vatican II music collection, dating from 1864 to 1964.

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The Papers of Sr. Gretchen Bogan, CSJ: Archives of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Boston

Discover the papers of Sr. Gretchen Bogan, CSJ (1915-1999), a talented playwright, poet, artist and teacher, in the collection of the Boston CSJ Archives.

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Consolidated Archives of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada

The collection catalogues the order’s history from its founding in Le Puy, France in 1650 to its present-day home in London, Ontario.

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Pictured from left: Sister Nadine Boyle, RSM, Bob Golon, Parish Archivist, Fr. John Paul Alvarado, Pastor, and Sister Kathleen Rooney, SSJ at the opening ceremony of the Sacred Heart Archives. June, 2015.

Church of the Sacred Heart, South Plainfield, NJ: The Development and Evolution of Parish Catholic Education

The Archives of the Church of the Sacred Heart, South Plainfield, New Jersey is a professionally curated and processed collection documenting over 110 years of parish history and service to the community.

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Archives of the Province of Our Lady of Consolation, Conventual Franciscan Friars in Mt. St. Francis, Indiana

Conventual Franciscan Friars first arrived in the US in 1852 to serve German-speaking immigrants around Galveston, Texas. The Province of Our Lady of Consolation was founded in 1926 by Friars en route to Buffalo who were told to report to Carey, OH instead.

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Archives of the Victory Noll Sisters, Huntington, Indiana

This week we explore the archives of Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters, commonly known as Victory Noll Sisters, an order of Catechists based in Indiana who provided religious education, social services and health care in the Southwest from the 1920s.

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Papers of Missionary Harold Rigney, SVD, Society of the Divine Word – Chicago Province Archives

This week we highlights the papers of Society for the Divine Word missionary Harold Rigney, SVD (1900-1980) teacher of paleontology in Ghana, author of book recounting his imprisonment and torture in communist China, and beloved administrator. His experiences became the subject of the book Four Years in a Red Hell (1956).

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Papers of Fr. James M. Keane, O.S.M. Servite Provincial Archives, Chicago

Our #HiddenCatholicCollection this week features the papers of Servite Father James M. Keane, O.S.M. (1901-1975), founder of the Novena in Honor of Our Sorrowful Mothers, sponsor of a full-length film of Solemn High Mass, and host of the weekly telecast “Behold thy Mother.”

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Augustinians of the Assumption (Assumptionists), Archive of the North American Province, Moscow Mission Collection

Housed in the Archives of the North American Province of the Assumptionists in the Provincial House in Boston, MA, the Moscow Mission Collection contains correspondence, newspaper clippings, photos, video reels, baptism & marriage certificates, etc. spanning this time period. Due to the destruction of religious documents within the USSR, researchers of the religious presence in the USSR rely on collections outside of Russia, and the Assumptionists’ has been considered one of the largest extant collections of its kind.

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The Archives of the Society of the Sacred Heart, United States-Canada Province

The Archives of the Society of the Sacred Heart, United States-Canada Province include documents and visuals about the mission, ministry, governance and life of the Religious of the Sacred Heart in North America.

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Joseph P. Mobberly, SJ Papers, Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Georgetown University

Our Hidden Catholic Collection this week is the Joseph P. Mobberly, SJ Papers in Georgetown University’s Booth Family Center for Special Collections. The papers provide insight into Jesuit slaveholding during the early national period (1815-1827). The collection consists of the memoirs, observations, and expositions of a Jesuit who worked principally as manager of St. Inigoes, a Jesuit house and plantation in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.

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Rev. William H Shannon Papers, Sisters of St. Joseph Archive, Rochester, NY

Our Hidden Catholic Collection this week returns to the Sisters of St. Joseph Archive in Rochester, NY to highlight the papers of Rev William H Shannon (1917-2012), founding president of the International Thomas Merton Society and professor at Nazareth College, Rochester.

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Guide to Catholic Records About Native Americans in the United States, Special Collections and University Archive, Marquette University

Our Hidden Catholic Collection this week documents the long and complicated relationship of Native Americans and the Catholic Church. An excellent starting point: the Special Collections and University Archive at Marquette University.

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Thomas Merton’s Marginalia Bookshelf, Merton Center, Bellarmine University

This week’s Hidden Catholic Collection is the library of Thomas Merton (1915-1968). The Merton Center at Bellarmine University has been scanning and making available online the marginalia within Merton’s books.

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Sisters of the Precious Blood Archives, Dayton, OH

The Sisters of the Precious Blood, founded in 1834 by Mother Maria Anna Brunner, are an active apostolic congregation ministering to the needs of the times.

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Sisters of the Holy Family Collection, Santa Clara University Archives & Special Collections

Our Hidden Catholic Collection this week reveals the extensive Sisters of the Holy Family Collection at Santa Clara University Archives & Special Collections. The Order was founded by Sr. Elizabeth Dolores Armer (1850-1905) to provide home and child care services, catechism instruction, and social services for underprivileged communities.

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Santa Maria Institute, Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati Archive

Our Hidden Catholic Collection this week is the papers of the Santa Maria Institute, a ground-breaking Catholic social service center founded by the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati to help immigrants to the Queen City.

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Sr. Mary Ignatia Gavin, CSA Papers, Sisters of Charity of St Augustine Archive

Our Hidden Catholic Collection this week shares the papers of Sr Mary Ignatia Gavin (1889-1966), Sister of Charity of St. Augustine (CSA), an early advocate of Alcoholics Anonymous.

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Selma, Alabama Collection, Sisters of St. Joseph Archive, Rochester, NY

This week’s Hidden Catholic Collection is the Selma, Alabama Collection in the Sisters of St. Joseph Archive in Rochester, NY. It documents the Sisters’ service in Selma from 1940 to the present including work at Good Samaritan Hospital during 1965 voting rights marches.

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Marianne Reilly Papers, Archdiocese of Cincinnati Archives

Our Hidden Catholic Collection this week highlights the personal papers of Marianne Reilly (1804-1895), a lay Catholic woman living in rapidly growing early 19th century Cincinnati, now held at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Archives.

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St. Bernard Hospital, Community, and School of Nursing Records, University Archives and Special Collections, Loyola University Chicago

This week’s HiddenCatholic Collection reminds us of the central role nuns played in early healthcare by founding of hospitals and nursing schools.

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Sally Cunneen Papers, Marian Library, University of Dayton Libraries

This week’s Hidden Catholic Collection is the papers of influential Catholic feminist author and educator Sally (McDevitt) Cunneen held at the Marian Library at the University of Dayton archives.

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Moses Linton Album, Jesuit Archives & Research Center

This week’s Hidden Catholic Collection is the digitized Moses Linton album at the Jesuit Archives & Research Center, providing a trove of information about nineteenth century Indigenous and European experience of Catholicism.

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Knights of Lithuania Records: U.S. Catholic Special Collections, University of Dayton Libraries

First up in our series is the Knights of Lithuania records, held by U.S. Catholic Special Collections at the University of Dayton.

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