How I brought vivid images from the riches of Catholic culture to Arcadia Publishing

Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters of Michigan book cover
Clicking on this image of the IHM book cover takes you to the Arcadia Publishing website, where you can see how they display and sell Patricia Montemurri’s books. If you want to maximize your support of the IHM sisters, there’s a direct-purchase link at the end of this week’s ReadTheSpirit Cover Story that takes you directly to the sisters’ own online fundraising effort.

IHM Sister Kathleen Mary O’Brien Teaches 49 1st and 2nd Graders at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Emmett, Michigan circa 1958

Patricia Montemurri, Contributing Writer—As an author, you can tell a lot of stories without a lot of words in a book that features some 200 photos in 128 pages.

That’s what I’ve done with my first three books focusing on elements of Detroit’s Catholic history, all published through Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America book series.

Arcadia Publishing and The History Press are based in Charleston S.C., and their publications vividly chronicle the stories of small-town America and slice-of-life institutions in its big cities.

Since Arcadia was founded in , its catalogue includes 8,000 books in the Images of America series. The series captures community history in all 50 states across every topic imaginable. There are dozens of photo-rich books memorializing America’s faith communities. Regional examples include North Carolina Quakers, Chicago’s Forgotten Synagogues, Latter-Day Saints of Tucson and Lutherans of Western New York.

Arcadia and The History Press also publish books under other topics and series, such as Images of Rail and Images of Aviation.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters of Michigan is my third book for Arcadia Publishing.

Detroit Gesu Catholic Church and School book cover
Click on this cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

My first, Detroit Gesu Catholic Church and School, chronicled one of the Motor City’s largest and most influential Catholic parishes. Published in , it has raised more than $11,000 for the parish school, one of only four Catholic elementary schools still open in Detroit compared to more than 100 in the mid-1960s.

In , I also authored Blessed Solanus Casey, about the Detroit Capuchin friar known as a wonder worker, who is one miracle away from being declared a saint by the Catholic Church.

In , I’ll have another book published by Arcadia which, once again, focuses on Detroit Catholic history. Mercy High School of Michigan will mark the 75th anniversary of the all-girls Catholic high school, the largest in Michigan.

Blessed Solanus Casey book cover
Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

These books often are labors of love for history buffs.

In my career as a Detroit Free Press journalist, I often covered the Catholic Church, ranging from Catholic school closings to the funeral of Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in In my husband’s family, his father and grandfather comprised Diehl & Diehl Architects, who designed many Detroit-area churches, including Gesu. My mother-in-law’s family were stewards of Detroit Stained Glass Works, which from to , designed and manufactured stained glass windows for churches around the country.

It’s a treat for me to sift through historic photos of Detroit-area institutions. At its peak population in the 1950s, when Detroit was the 4th largest city in the US with a 1.8 million population, its residents were about 65% Catholic. The city supported nearly 130 Catholic parishes, and nearly every one of them had an elementary school attached. Now the number of parishes in the city is less than 50.

With these books, I hope to do a little bit to preserve that legacy.

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