The Founding of the Roman Catholic Church in Melanesia and Micronesia, 1850-1875
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Description: The Founding of the Roman Catholic Church in Melanesia and Micronesia, 1850 to 1875 is the result of Father Ralph Wiltgen's years of archival work in Rome and at the headquarters of religious orders who worked in Micronesia and Melanesia. It follows his first historical book on the subject, The Founding of the Roman Catholic Church in Oceania: 1825 to 1850, but narrows the focus. The first book dealt with the whole of Oceania and emphasized developments in Polynesia. This book concentrates on Melanesia and Micronesia from 1850 to 1875, the period immediately before the work of large numbers of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Marists, and Divine Word Missionaries assumed great momentum in the period between 1875 and 1914. Micronesia is a huge area of the world, made up of numerous culturally and politically distinct groups of atolls ranging over about 1,400 miles from the northwest to the southeast. Its peoples speak scores of mutually unintelligible though related languages on such island groups as the Marshalls, the Gilberts, Nauru, and Kiribati. Far more heavily populated is Melanesia, another huge area of the Pacific where as many as one thousand distinct languages are spoken in an arc of islands extending from just below the equator in a boomerang shape from today's Indonesian controlled Papua and independent Papua New Guinea on the island of New Guinea in the northwest all the way along the Solomon Island chain to 25 south latitude to the southeast. In this book, Wiltgen shows himself the undisputed master of the archives of the Propaganda Fide, the Vatican's chief mission agency and the religious orders that provided missionaries, all of which is supplemented by his attention to the lives of key people of the period. He shows the Propaganda now prodding missionary orders to take on the difficult work of evangelizing these areas and on other occasions struggling to keep up with and understand fast-moving events and the colorful characters--both ecclesiastical and among colonial administrators, rogue sea captains, and indigenous leaders. Wiltgen lets the contemporary records speak for themselves, though one can imagine his arched brow and mischievous grin as he selects exactly the right quote to describe now an act of missionary heroism and now an act of self-promotion. It is a masterful book, making available the early history of one of Catholicism's greatest missionary successes, helping the reader understand both the idealism of the vision and the way in which concrete events and people affected the outcome. Endorsements: ""Drawing upon years of archival research, Ralph Wiltgen provides a unique resource of previously unpublished and unknown detail on the origins of Catholicism in Micronesia and Melanesia from 1850 to 1875. This fine work fills a gap in the broader history of Christianity in Oceania and is essential reading for everyone interested in that history."" --Roger Schroeder, SVD Professor of Cross-Cultural Ministry Catholic Theological Union at Chicago ""This monumental volume occupies a special place alongside scholarly histories of Pacific missions. Wiltgen presents the story with a level of detail and thoroughness that no other Pacific historian has attempted to match. As year proceeds to year and sometimes month to month, the reader follows the course of mission life in a way that is not possible in the other, more cursory histories. We see how concrete people make an impact on the Catholic missions and how unexpected actors change the course of events. Nowhere else in Pacific mission history can one get this wealth of insight into the people behind the missions as well as into the minds of the missionaries themselves."" --Charles W. Forman Professor Emeritus of Missions Yale University (from the preface) About the Contributor(s): Ralph M. Wiltgen, SVD, was a Divine Word Missionary and Roman Catholic priest for over fifty-seven years. Born in 1921, he died in Dece"