In Missouri’s Wilds
St. Mary’s of the Barrens and the American Catholic Church, 1818 to 2016
Richard J. Janet
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In 1818, a small group of Catholic clerics established a religious community in southeastern Missouri and opened a school, grounded in its European Vincentian roots but influenced by the isolation of its rural location. St. Mary’s of the Barrens became the first American institution of higher learning west of the Mississippi River and only the fourth Catholic seminary in the United States. Over the years, St. Mary's emerged as a significant institution whose early leaders played an important role in the development of the Catholic Church on the American frontier. The school’s subsequent history reflected the changing status of the growing American Catholic community. In this history of “the Barrens,” Rick Janet demonstrates how its story reflects the broader sweep of the American Catholic experience.