‘Two Centuries of Faith’ exhibit opens at BC

The 200-year journey of the Catholic Church in Boston -- from infancy to golden age to today -- is the focus of a new exhibition on display at Boston College’s O’Neill Library. “Two Centuries of Faith: The Influence of Catholicism on Boston: 1808-2008” showcases dozens of photographs, publications and artifacts chronicling the times and lives of the archdiocese, its bishops, priests, nuns and parishioners.

The exhibit was inspired by a book of the same name edited by Boston College Historian Thomas H. O’Connor, which was commissioned as a gift from BC to the Archdiocese of Boston in celebration of its bicentennial.

Like the book, the exhibit takes a thematic look at the history of the Catholic Church in Boston, focusing on areas such as its leaders, women in the Church, diversity and parish life.

Among the pieces on display are a white zucchetto belonging to Pope Pius XII, a Mass card for President John F. Kennedy, a bishop’s purple biretta and a sick call set, complete with candles, holy water, a crucifix and directions in English and French.

Exhibition items were drawn from the Boston College Liturgy and Life Collection and the archives of the Archdiocese of Boston.

“We hope that those who see ‘Two Centuries of Faith’ will walk away with the desire to head home and talk to family and friends about just how much has changed in Catholic Boston, and continues, at an accelerated pace, to change today,” said John McGinty, acting director of the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College, publishers of O’Connor’s book.

“But at the same time, I hope they get an underlying sense of what has remained constant: Men and women and children from every corner of the globe, coming here, living here, looking for a way to make it through life, and finding comfort, strength, and joy when they most needed it. They found those good gifts in what they believed, and in the people who believed all that together with them. That’s still true now. And it always will be.”

Some of the pamphlets on display reflect a time when the faithful sought advice from the Church on all subjects. There is “Should Wives Work?” and “How to be a Good Husband,” which retailed for 10 cents and a nickel, respectively.

The exhibit also features a timeline and map that represent significant milestones and statistics for the archdiocese.

The exhibit was developed by various Boston College divisions: C21, O’Neill Library, the Office of the University Historian and Burns Library. Major assistance came from the Archdiocese of Boston and The Pilot, America’s oldest Catholic newspaper.

The exhibit also has an expanded, online presence at www.bc.edu/c21exhibit