Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History

How Catholics shaped — and continue to shape — U.S. history

HUNTINGTON, Indiana, June 5, 2013 – With over 2,000 entries from A to Z, the Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History, by Matthew Bunson and Margaret Bunson (Our Sunday Visitor, 2013) is the first handy, accessible, and unbiased reference on American Catholicism.

From the earliest missionary travels of the Spanish and French to the New World, Catholics had a prominent impact on U.S. culture, entertainment, politics, and business. Catholics also played a major role in the development of schools, hospitals, and infrastructure.


Here are just a few examples of how Catholics helped shape America:

  • Archbishop John Carroll (d. 1815), the first American bishop, was a critical force in building the Church in America – from 30,000 in 1784 to over 200,000 at the time of his death in 1815;
  • Archbishop Carroll founded the first U.S. Catholic college -- Georgetown – as well as Baltimore, and Mount St. Mary’s College. His influence was also important in church-state relations, care for the poor, and building dioceses;
  • During the Civil War, Mother Angela Gillespie established eight military hospitals, founded a teacher-training institute, and established 45 foundations all across the U.S.;
  • Bishop James Healy was the first African-American bishop in the U.S., and he founded 60 parishes, 68 mission stations, and 18 schools and convents;
  • In 1965 there were 11,000 Catholic elementary schools teaching 4.5 million students, and 2,400 Catholic high schools teaching more than 1 million;
  • Little-known James Hoban was the architect and designer of the White House, completed in 1803 – he was the most prominent lay Catholic in Washington at the time;
  • William Grace was the first Catholic Mayor of New York City, a noted philanthropist and among founders of the New York and Pacific Steam Ship Company, among many other enterprises.

The 1,000+ pages also include articles on the Catholic Church in all 50 states, the history of every diocese, a survey of Catholic communities in America, a detailed chronology, and much more.

Written for the Catholic lay person, Encyclopedia of U.S. History is also ideal for Catholic or public schools, libraries, and media seeking solid historical context for Catholic news events.

The Encyclopedia of U.S. Catholic History represents literally years of research and labor,” stated author Matthew Bunson. “It was, however, a privilege to bring together, because the story of the Church in America is one of heroism, fortitude in the face of adversity and anti-Catholic hatred, love for this country and above all a commitment to bringing Christ to every corner of a new continent. We owe a debt to the countless Catholic men and women who went before us, and we have an obligation to learn about them and celebrate their lives and achievements. The Catholic Church in the United States was built by giants.”

In the Foreword Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, states, “I welcome this opportunity to urge my fellow American Catholics to take a deeper interest in their own history. It is a magnificent and inspiring story.”

Matthew Bunson is also a professor of Church history and a consultant to news organizations all over the world, including USA Today and ABC News, and has appeared on countless radio and television programs, including CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, EWTN, Relevant Radio, the BBC, NPR and France 24.

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For an interview with Dr. Matthew Bunson, please contact Christine Valentine-Owsik at (215) 230-8095 or cowsik@osv.com.

Abour Our Sunday Visitor

The world’s largest English-language Catholic publisher, Our Sunday Visitor serves millions of Catholics globally through its publishing, offertory, and communication services. Established in 1912, Our Sunday Visitor publishes a wide range of books including Bibles, biographies of the saints, books by Pope Benedict XVI, children’s books, devotionals, bible studies, inspirational works, and curriculum. Our Sunday Visitor is a not-for-profit organization, returning a portion of net earnings back to the Catholic community through the Our Sunday Visitor Institute. For more information, visit www.osv.com.

About the Author

For the last 20 years, Dr. Matthew E. Bunson has been active in Catholic Social Communications, including writing, editing, and lecturing on a variety of topics related to Church history, the papacy, and Catholic culture.

Dr. Bunson recently authored the first published biography of Pope Francis in English, Pope Francis (Our Sunday Visitor, April 2013).

Senior Correspondent for Our Sunday Visitor and a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, he is the author or co-author of over 45 books including: The Pope Encyclopedia, The Encyclopedia of Catholic History, The Encyclopedia of Saints, John Paul II’s Book of Saints, Papal Wisdom and The Angelic Doctor: The Life and World of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Since 1997, he has served as general editor of Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Almanac. In addition, he has served as editor of The Catholic Answer Magazine since 2010, and is a professor of History and Church History for the Catholic Distance University in Virginia.

During both the 2005 papal interregnum and conclave, as well as the 2013 papal transition, Bunson served as a special consultant to USA Today and has appeared as a guest on many television and radio programs. In addition to his Doctor of Ministry degree from the Graduate Theological Foundation, Bunson holds a bachelor’s degree in history, and two master’s degrees in theology. He is currently engaged in doctoral studies for a Ph.D. in Church history.