The Catholic University of America

Oct. 15, 2013

University to Host Catholic Activism in the Americas Conference

The Catholic University of America will host the conference Catholic Activism in the Americas, 1891–1962: New Comparative and Transnational Approaches on Thursday, Oct. 17, and Friday, Oct. 18.

The conference aims to examine social, civic, and political activism among Catholics in Latin America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The 1891 papal encyclical Rerum Novarum prompted profound changes to Catholic activism in Latin America, according to Julia Young, assistant professor of Latin American history at Catholic University and conference co-organizer. In its wake, growing numbers of lay Catholic activists took part in social, civic, and political activism in the public sphere.

Labor associations, Catholic women, and young activists in the United States and Latin America rallied to action in defense of their religious values, which many felt were under attack from secular governments, interest groups, and other religious denominations. These Catholics not only mobilized for defensive ends, but also endeavored to provide positive programs for social empowerment and enfranchisement of marginalized individuals.

“This conference comes at a particularly timely moment. Following the election of Pope Francis, there has been a resurgence of interest in the history of the Church in Latin America,” says Young. “In addition, the conference offers an opportunity for scholars of Latin America to discuss the history of Catholic activist groups, which is attracting increasing interest in the region.”

Conference panelists have focused their research on the connections between Latin American Catholics, U.S. Catholics, and the Vatican. Five panels will discuss the historical evidence for Catholicism’s integral role in promoting a robust public sphere throughout the Americas, even before the general liberalization of the Catholic Church during the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965).

John T. McGreevy, dean of the College of Arts & Letters at the University of Notre Dame, will deliver the conference’s keynote address at 5 p.m. on Oct. 17 in Herzfeld Auditorium (Hannan Hall, Room 108). He will be introduced by CUA President John Garvey and will speak on “The Prospects and Perils of a More Global Catholic History.”

All other discussions will be held in the Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, Room 321. Topics include:

• Religious Devotions
• Catholic Development Projects
• Transnational Activist Networks
• The View From Rome
• Precursors to Vatican II

A complete conference schedule and list of speakers can be found at

Attendance is free of charge, but attendees are asked to register at

The conference is sponsored by CUA’s School of Arts and Sciences.

For more information or for disability accommodations, contact Young at or 202-319-5484.



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