“Am I still a Catholic?” and Other Pamphlets of the Vatican II Era

Kristen, Associate Archivist, was browsing the stacks and came across ten archival boxes of pamphlets and booklets produced by Claretian Publications. While alphabetized, a listing had not yet been created. Her inventory now numbers over 300 titles and is filled with works that embody the Claretians’ embrace of Vatican II ideals.

As Deborah, historian, began to research the US Claretians post Vatican II, pamphlet publications suddenly appeared in the era’s reports. Passing by Kristen’s desk in the archive, she noticed the in-progress inventory of the colorful pamphlets from the same era. Archivist and historian began to discuss these publications: accessible in cost and content, and emblematic of a changing Catholic America.

The inventory shows that the pamphlets and booklets were published between 1965 and the late 1980s. Although most were written in English, about 17% of the pamphlets were either translated into or written originally in Spanish. The titles range from topics directly related to the changes brought about by Vatican II such as Am I Still a Catholic?: A Look at Catholic Beliefs Today to practical parenting advice such as How to Prepare Your Child for First Communion (and its translation Cómo preparar a los niños para la Primera Comunión). Other pamphlets reflect the anxieties of the rapidly changing cultural landscape of the mid to late 20th century, such as Violent Ghetto: Lessons from the Kerner Report. Many of these titles were originally published as articles in the Claretian magazines US Catholic, Jubilee, and Today and, likely based on the popularity of the articles, later reprinted in formats easier to disseminate.

Each year Claretian Publications produced as many as twenty pamphlets to be distributed to laypeople across the country. With brightly colored covers, simple titles in modern eye-catching fonts, and modestly priced, the pamphlets beckoned readers. Many titles went into reprints, indicating their appeal and sales. In terms of content, these 1965-80s tracts demonstrate a clear move away from the devotional literature popular before Vatican II, such as the dissemination of devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary or promotion of the Rosary. Claretian Publications put out a surprising number of secular titles, reflecting the Catholic church’s move toward aggiornamento or “bringing up to date.” Despite the changing form and content, the pamphlet collection from the era reflects the Claretian Missionaries’ ongoing communications apostolate, dating back to Saint Anthony Mary Claret’s own publications and dissemination a century earlier.

Deborah. E. Kanter's research focuses on the Claretian Missionaries in the US and the creation of a national Latino ministry. Kristen Melkonyan is Associate Archivist at the Claretian Missionaries Archives USA-Canada.  This co-authored essay shows the benefits of in-person research. 
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