The University of Notre Dame’s Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism is pleased to announce two incoming postdoctoral fellows for the 2017–2018 academic year. Peter Cajka and Benjamin J. Wetzel will join the center for appointments beginning in July.
Cajka, who earned his Ph.D. in history from Boston College this spring, studies 20th-century U.S. intellectual and cultural history with an emphasis on Catholicism. His dissertation is titled “The Rights of Conscience: The Rise of Tradition in America’s Age of Fracture, 1940–1990.” He has published articles in Ohio History and American Catholic Studies, and is a regular contributor to the blog Religion in American History. Cajka received a Dorothy Mohler Research Grant from the American Catholic Research Center and University Archives at the Catholic University of America, and he was a dissertation fellow of the Louisville Institute for 2016–2017. He holds a bachelor of arts in history from the University of Dayton and a master’s degree in history from Marquette University.
Wetzel researches the intersection of American religion, politics, and intellectual life in the period from 1860 to 1920. He has published articles in The Journal of Church and State and The Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. He is currently at work on two book-length projects. The first, based on his revised dissertation, is tentatively titled American Crusade: Lyman Abbott and the Christian Nation at War, 1860–1920. It explores how America’s Christian communities debated the righteousness of the Civil War, Spanish-American War, and World War I. The second, under advance contract with Oxford University Press, is a religious biography titled Theodore Roosevelt: Preaching from the Bully Pulpit. Wetzel earned his bachelor of arts in history from Grove City College, his master’s degree in history from Baylor University, and his Ph.D. in history from the University of Notre Dame.
“The Cushwa Center is extremely fortunate to be welcoming these two very promising scholars this year,” said Kathleen Sprows Cummings, director of the center. “We’re excited to support them as their own research projects unfold, and I know their new ideas and creative energy will enhance Cushwa’s projects and events.”
In addition to pursuing their own research and writing, the Cushwa Center’s postdoctoral fellows support collaborative programs such as the Conference on the History of Women Religious (CHWR), contribute to the production of the American Catholic Studies Newsletter, and coordinate seminars and conferences on campus and abroad.
The Cushwa Center is widely recognized as the leading center for the historical study of Roman Catholicism in the United States. Through its grant programs, lectures, seminars, and international conferences, the center brings together scholars from across the humanities to interpret the American Catholic experience. It also provides resources and critical commentary for media coverage of U.S. Catholicism and collaborates with church leaders and pastoral workers to enhance the vitality of Catholic life in the United States.