UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From saviour to witness : the transformation of the ethos of Roman Catholic missionaries, 1890-1990, with particular reference to Latin America Weeren, John S.


This thesis explores the transformation which has occurred in Roman Catholic missionaries' conceptions of their hosts and themselves between 1890 and 1990. Through the delineation and contextualization of the ethos which prevailed in missionary circles at the beginning and at the end of this period — the one definitively losing its ascendancy to the other in the 1960s — this thesis demonstrates that the distance separating missionaries and their hosts has narrowed dramatically. In 1890 most missionaries believed that the religiocultural systems in which they worked were wastelands in comparison with their own and that the sooner they could be harmonized with western norms the better it would be. In 1990 most missionaries believed that the religiocultural systems in which they worked contained great riches and that as much could be learned from their hosts as could be imparted to them, if not more. Equality, once based on uniformity, is now acknowledged in diversity. Underlying these changes has been the evolving character of the religious and secular worlds in which missionaries have lived, the cardinal feature of which has been the erosion of a Eurocentric model of human existence. In sum, this thesis, which integrates Latin America into a global pattern of missionary thought and action, illuminates the ethos of missionaries past and present and the foundation on which each has rested.

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