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"The Catholic Church has changed and contributed to the city for two centuries, influencing the life, the culture, and the institutions of the Commonwealth," said Thomas O’Connor. Its legacy is rich; the future holds hope.


The popular book of essays, Two Centuries of Faith: The Influence of Catholicism on Boston: 1808-2008, edited by University Historian, Thomas H. O’Connor, was presented as a gift to celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of the Archdiocese of Boston. 

The Boston College Libraries exhibit at O’Neill Library* was inspired by the book. This site serves as an online extension of the exhibit, featuring additional images, video, and excerpts from the book.  Use this exhibit to explore the role of Catholicism in Boston over the past 200 years through four dramatic lenses: Leadership, Women in the Church, Diversity, and Parish Life.


LeadershipFrom the Church’s early days of powerlessness and anti-Catholic sentiment to the shaping of a "triumphalist" Catholic sub-culture and a "Golden Age" for Catholics under Cardinal Cushing, Boston’s Catholic Church and its leadership grew into an unquestioned force that influenced public policy with Catholic moral values. Follow the transitions of leadership within the archdiocese and view how the experiences of predecessors suggest new ways of approaching the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Women in the Church

Women in the ChurchThe indelible impact of women both lay and religious was felt throughout the archdiocese as they took risks in defense of, and advocacy for, their Catholic faith. Their commitment to justice, the poor, education, and the Church can be seen in images of their white-winged habits, their reaching hands, and their overflowing hearts.



DiversityThe church in Boston always had a distinctive Irish flavor, but ethnic and racial minorities have always played an important role in the history of the archdiocese. As the archdiocese moves into the twenty-first century, leaders and the Church’s diverse followers will be called "to study the social, demographic, and political changes that have taken place and assess their effects upon the traditional attitudes of the Church. Today, "in the archdiocese of Boston, Mass is celebrated in over fifteen languages in dozens of churches…a testament to its growing diversity and a reflection of the archdiocese’s past."

Parish Life

Parish LifeFrom generation to generation, Catholics have considered their parish to be a natural extension of their home and family.  The parish was the place where Catholics went dutifully to line up for Confession on Saturday afternoon in preparation for reception of Holy Communion at Sunday Mass.  The parish was the place where Catholics went to celebrate the defining moments of their lives: baptisms, weddings, and funerals.  The parishes of Boston have been peopled sometimes by saints, sometimes by sinners, and most times by men and women who tried their best to fulfill their daily commitments.

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