On this day: CSA

by Gerelyn Hollingsworth

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On this day, 150 years ago, delegates from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas met in Montgomery, Alabama, to establish the Confederate States of America.

The sesquicentennial of the Civil War is a fitting time for Catholics to take a look back at the issue that tore our country apart. Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans is making the sacramental records of slaves and free persons of color available online. Will other dioceses and religious congregations follow his example?

As we know from "Who Do You Think You Are" and Henry Louis Gates's "African American Lives", it can be life-changing for descendants of slaves to discover information about ancestors they thought would be impossible to trace.

The sacramental records of New Orleans will be interesting. The Ursuline nuns, who came to Louisiana in 1727, "were among the largest slaveowners in the colony". They "were atypical slaveholders in some respects. They insisted on sacramental marriage and kept couples and families together".

--from Voices from an Early American Convent: Marie Madeleine Hachard and the New Orleans Ursulines 1727-1760, edited by Emily Clark, Louisiana State University Press, 2009.

See also, Emily Clark's Masterless Mistresses: The New Orleans Ursulines and the Development of a New World Society, 1727-1834, The University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

In 2000, three orders of Kentucky nuns, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, the Sisters of Loretto, and the Dominicans of St. Catharine, "gathered at a church in Bardstown, KY to formally apologize for the use of slave labor by their predecessors in the early 1800s".

--Jet, Dec. 25, 2000.

Click here for more books about priests and nuns who owned slaves, individual bishops who owned slaves, and religious orders for persons of color.

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