The early history of America and its foundation of republicanism is widely taught and highlighted in early elementary and junior high education but little is mentioned about the underlying religious nature of these early immigrants. Communion of Immigrants, by James T. Fisher, brings forth the extreme importance of this religious dichotomy and attempts to unwrap some of the more important events brought forth by Catholic immigrants and their mark on our current American ideals. With the Protestants coming first and forming the early colonies and then the later waves of immigrants, mostly Catholic, to these Protestant colonies a tumultuous relationship ensued. This conflict of interest brought about questions of how one can continue to practice Catholicism but still be an active American immigrant. Basically, how can one continue to hold a close tie to a hierarchical church in another country while simultaneously pushing for equality and democracy in their new land, and new home country? This effort to balance a deep religious belief and the want for liberty and a pleasant coexistence with ones neighbors gave birth to huge influences on American democracy even forcing the straight arrowed Catholic Church to recognize the importance of growth as a community. The struggles by the discriminated immigrants and the Catholic Church shook the steady ground most had come accustomed to but it is this very struggle that brought out what it truly means to be faithful in religion. By taking a close look at several significant immigrant figures including the Catholic Sisters and their commitment to this very idea underscores the importance that one can be whole heartedly dedicated to the Church and it’s traditions but also to fully embrace being “faithful” requires us to stand up for the underprivileged and to lead “by a following of Christ’s self-sacrificing love in the service and salvation of others” (pg 33).
The early 1500’s brought the Spanish conquerors of a “new land.” Sent over to “seek riches and to claim vast expanses of land for the Crown as well as to win souls for the church” (pg 2) the Catholic reputation began to unfold and a chasm between this seeking for riches and how to continue to work for the Church grew. The differences sprouted the question regarding religious liberty and personal right to this liberty regardless of one’s ethnic heritage or traditional background. From that point forward it became clear that a new territory meant new rules and new rules meant if you wanted equality you had to fight for it. This very theme is what allowed the American republic to grow into a melting pot of accepted ideals and broadened the more narrow-minded, not excluding the Catholic Church, to think about what they wanted/needed and what really mattered to the individual and how that affected the society that individual belonged to.
The arrival of the Irish Catholic immigrants in the mid-19th Century brought forth the idea that Catholics come in many different forms and with many different traditions. The very idea that this new group had very different ways of worshiping pushed the changing society beyond its comfort zone bringing about fear. This fear stemmed from the uneasiness the unknown can cause and therefore was immediately rejected. But because of the Irish Immigrants huge population it was hard to ignore and pulled the issues to the forefront. John A. Ryan, a prominent figure born to farming Irish Immigrants, was a leading social justice advocate during this time. His experiences fostered empathy for the poor leading him to work toward social justice. His idea of a separation of religious and ethical issues from the republic thought was the root of the current economic problem. Throughout his life he was a huge advocate for reforming the working conditions the rights of all workers in the workforce. Because the workforce of that time was mainly Irish with the owners being