American Catholic Historical Association 2
The second presentation will focus on the intersection of race, gender, and authority evident in the split within the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1857-58. The order was founded in Detroit 1845 by Mother Theresa Duchemin, a woman of mixed-race background, who had formerly been a member of the Oblates Sisters of Providence, a congregation of religious African American women. Key to understanding this division was the rise of the local diocesan bishops, who were working to consolidate their control over the women’s religious communities within their own domains. This presentation untangles the interwoven themes of race, gender, and consolidation to understand the larger meaning of the IHMs’ rupture.
The final presenter will address the story of Liza Nebbit to explore the complex relationship between slavery, race, and Catholicism in 19th-century America. A woman born into slavery in antebellum Missouri and Louisiana, Nebbit was enslaved first by a French Catholic bishop and then French nuns, the Religious of the Sacred Heart. After the Civil War, Nebbit joined the lower ranks of the Religious of the Sacred Heart in St Michael’s, Louisiana. Nebbit’s case sheds light on how the growth of the antebellum Catholic Church was rooted in racial slavery and that it remained a racist institution after Emancipation. Nevertheless, Nebbit’s religious experience demonstrates that Afro-Catholicism was not just about loss and mere surrender.