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Judith Church Tydings Papers

Identifier: TYD

Scope and Content

This collection consists of correspondence, clippings, conference programs, transcriptions of meetings, books, articles, annotations, and audio and video recordings concerning the Catholic charismatic renewal movement in three parts.

(1) It covers the emergence of the Catholic charismatic movement in America in the late 1960s and 1970s, along with literature that would commonly have been read by American Lay Catholic charismatics during the 1970s.

(2) It pertains to Tydings' own involvement in the movement through, for example, the Washington, D.C. Days of Renewal put on by the Washington, D.C. Area Regional Service Committee, of which Tydings was Chair for almost 10 years, and the Mother of God Community in Maryland.

(3) It includes information on the breakup of some Catholic and ecumenical charismatic communities in the 1990s. Additionally, the collection is comprised of information on additional charismatic communities in the United States, such as the Sword of the Spirit (the Community of Communities), material found useful by some former members of Catholic charismatic communities, and letters and articles concerning women and the charismatic renewal movement. Typed explanatory notes written by Tydings at the time of donation in 2010 to the archives accompany many folders.

Key to abbreviations:
  1. JCT = Judith Church Tydings
  2. MOG = Mother of God
  3. NSC = National Service Committee


  • 1891-2010 (bulk 1962-2010).


Language of Materials



Dr. Judith Church Tydings was an early leader in the American Catholic charismatic renewal movement and is considered one of the founders of the Mother of God Community in the Washington, D.C. area. She earned a bachelor's degree from Chestnut Hill College and an M.A. in History from St. John's University, New York. A working mother with four children, Dr. Tydings first worked from home as a secretary to the Sister Formation Conference in D.C. in the late 1960s, and then taught religious studies in Maryland at Immaculata College High School, Georgetown Preparatory School for Boys, and Ursuline Academy High School for Girls, where she was also department chair. For two summers she taught classes in spirituality to young religious, novices of the Sisters of Mercy of the Union, in Rhode Island. She published articles on spirituality and social justice in Franciscan Herald magazine in 1968 and 1969.

On June 7, 1968, with the approval of her pastor, Fr. Raymond Cahill, Dr. Tydings initiated a charismatic prayer meeting in the basement of the rectory of Our Lady of Mercy Church, Potomac, Maryland, inviting the pastor and two other priests, several housewives and a Sister of Mercy (Connelly; Jones). Fr. Cahill did not attend the first meeting, but along with Dr. Tydings, he led subsequent meetings that moved to the parish hall to accommodate more people. Subsequently, Cardinal Patrick O'Boyle forbade his participation. The Mother of God Community traces its origins to the Our Lady of Mercy prayer meetings. From 1974 to 1980 Judith Tydings chaired the Washington, D.C. Area Regional Service Committee that served charismatic prayer groups in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia by providing Days of Renewal held at Catholic University of America. Also during those years Dr. Tydings was a member of the National Advisory Committee on Catholic Charismatic Renewal and she served on the steering committee for the 1974 International Conference on Charismatic Renewal. Dr. Tydings led a workshop at Notre Dame at the 1970 annual Catholic Charismatic Conference, and continued to do workshops or give teaching, often also serving in the word gifts unit, for many subsequent years, including the Kansas City 1977 Conference (Manuel). As a female in leadership, Dr. Tydings was unusual in a movement that, like the Catholic Church itself, emphasized male leadership, and subordination of wives to husbands; unusual also in that her husband was an unobservant Protestant, and was regarded by others in the movement as "unsaved," and Dr. Tydings as an "unequally yoked wife."

A member of the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dr. Tydings gave a paper on "Mary and the Charismatic Renewal" at an International Marian Congress in Rome at the invitation of Belgian Cardinal Leon Suenens. Recognizing an ecumenical thrust as one of the graces of the charismatic renewal movement, Dr. Tydings in 1977 wrote a popular and important book explaining Catholic doctrine and practice surrounding canonized Saints that was aimed at Protestants and any interested others, Gathering A People: Catholic Saints in Charismatic Perspective. Dr. Douglas Steere, Quaker Observer at the Second Vatican Council, and Tydings' friend, recommended the book on its back cover. Gathering A People was directed to Catholic charismatics as well, plumbing theology based on Saints' lives in relation to charisms and extraordinary phenomena. Dorothy Day called the book "a delight, a treasure" (private note, Marquette University Day archives), and moral theologian Germain Grisez has referred to it as: "A remarkable work of lay theology by a leader of the charismatic renewal."

Dr. Tydings has been an invited speaker at many charismatic and also academic conferences including one for Methodists in Montana where she showed her great great-grandfather's 1833 preaching license to attendees. He was a Methodist circuit rider on the Philadelphia circuit. She was a responder to one of four papers given by priest theologians at the first theology conference on charismatic renewal, in 1976, known as the Chicago Conference. She was the only woman speaker and one of only two lay people as designated responders. Other venues have included the 41st International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia, the Institute for Spirituality at St. John's University, Collegeville, and more recently, a Communal Studies Association Annual Conference, as well as the 2001 Wisdom Conference in Minneapolis that recognized and gathered early leaders in the American Protestant and Catholic charismatic movement. Besides Judith Tydings, speakers included Francis MacNutt, Steve Clark, and Rita Bennett, widow of noted Episcopalian Rev. Dennis Bennett.

By 1995 many charismatic communities in the U.S. and abroad had begun to manifest serious problems and Mother of God Community was no exception. Never a full member of the Community, Dr. Tydings withdrew from her associate membership. She spent the next several years interviewing former members of various Catholic charismatic communities in the U.S., Ireland, and England and then current members of Chemin Neuf community in France. She also collected newspaper articles and other relevant materials in her effort to better understand why so many charismatic communities had run aground. This work resulted in a 98-page piece "Shipwrecked in the Spirit," exploring problems surfacing in Catholic NRMs (New Religious Movements), and charismatic communities. Appearing in Cultic Studies Journal in 1999, the article discussed how the word "cult" was being used in one way by the Catholic Church, in various other ways by academics: sociologists of religion or psychologists, and also by former members of groups they claimed "abusive." The essay discussed some of the history of Catholic religious orders and what could be learned to apply to the newer lay communities. It made suggestions for oversight of Catholic lay communities by the Church.

Judith Tydings then returned to graduate school in a doctoral program at the University of Maryland in American Studies in her sixties. Training with an anthropologist, and building on her previous M.A. in history, she first did a year-long ethnographic study of a Catholic charismatic community that had dissolved. Then over eight years, and looking ahead to her own old age, she did a doctoral project in the area of women and aging: Old Yankee Women: Life Histories and Cultural Significance. Research included living for periods of time with the late Adé Bethune, known as the "Catholic Worker Artist" as, in her mid-eighties, Bethune went about founding Harbor House in Newport, Rhode Island; mixed income communal housing for the elderly. Married for 52 years, Dr. Tydings was hooded in May 2010 at age 74 with 15 grandchildren.

Sources: American Catholic Who's Who, Vol. 22, p. 571; Germain Grisez, The Way of the Lord Jesus, Christian Moral Principles, Vol. 1, 1983/1997, note 7, p. 764; James Connelly, C.S.C., "The Charismatic Movement," As The Spirit Leads, 1971, 222; Arthur Jones, "Communities Fall Under Heavy Hands," National Catholic Reporter, Vol. 33, No. 24, Ap. 18, 1997, 8-11; Justin Gillis, "The Believers Next Door," The Washington Post, April 13, 1997,12-31; "Paradise Lost," The Washington Post, April 20, 1997, 14-31; David Manuel, Like A Mighty River, A Personal Account of the Charismatic Conference of 1977.


3 linear feet

Judith Church Tydings Papers
University of Notre Dame Archives
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Archives Repository

607 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame Indiana 46556 United States
(574) 631-6448