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Christian Family Movement Records

Identifier: CFM

Scope and Content

Correspondence (1946-1969); files on CFM chaplains; correspondence, agenda, and minutes of the national coordinating committee (1949-1969); correspondence, minutes, and research material associated with the publication of the CFM monthly magazine Act, and copies of the magazine itself (1946-1971); newsletters of local CFM federations; programs, reports, financial records, evaluation forms and speeches, including speeches of Monsignor Reynold Hillenbrand, from CFM national conventions; a series of files concerning crises of the CFM in the 1960s, including civil rights, finances, and problems with the National Catholic Welfare Conference; surveys, dissertations, and articles on the CFM; files on interaction with related groups; books, scrapbooks, and tape recordings.

Correspondents include Pat and Patty Crowley, Ray and Dorothy Maldoon, and other lay leaders of CFM; priests including John J. Cavanaugh, CSC, Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, and John L. Thomas, SJ; and prelates including John Cardinal O'Hara and Martin D. McNamara.

1. General Correspondence - 54 linear feet.

The first series in the Christian Family movement papers consists of incoming and outgoing general correspondence. Though most of the material pertains to routine affairs, primarily orders for booklets and subscriptions to ACT, some of the letters contain more substantial information. For example, one box contains questionnaires returned from CFM members regarding their views of the movement. Another contains correspondence concerning attempts by the Bishop of Clarksburg, West Virginia, to initiate the movement in his diocese. A letter from Rev. Vincent Waters, Bishop of Raleigh, mentions his meeting with Professor Nutting in South Bend, and his interest in the "new College" idea. There are also letters from Reverend John J. Cavanaugh, President of Notre Dame, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, dating from before and during his Presidency at Notre Dame, Rev. John L. Thomas, the Jesuit sociologist, Bishop McNamara of Joliet, and Bishop O'Hara of Philadelphia . Copies of replies are usually stapled to incoming correspondence.

The letters are arranged in the order in which they were received from Mr. and Mrs. Crowley. The first nine boxes, covering 1946-1955, are labelled chronologically; subsequent boxes are labelled both chronologically and by area. International correspondence is separated from domestic letters after 1955. Though a preliminary check has been completed, some letters inevitably remain misfiled, particularly in the earlier correspondence.

2. Federation Lists - 1 foot

The CFM organizational structure at the diocesan level is called the "Federation". These boxes contain a large number of lists of addresses, frequently grouped by federation but in no recognizable order.

3. Special Correspondence - 2 feet 8 inches


These boxes contain correspondence with military personnel and chaplains concerning CFM groups in the armed forces, including some letters from Canadian Army personnel. As in the other correspondence, the majority of items concern subscriptions and purchase orders.


Letters to and from, and regarding arrangements for foreign visitors to the United States, most of whom were students. The foundation for International Cooperation grew out of this aspect of CFM work. Some pamphlets are included. See also F.I.C. Papers.


Correspondence with groups consisting of married students.

4. Material on Chaplains - 10 inches

The ambiguous position of the group chaplain is often a source of discussion in the CFM. Due perhaps to traditional Catholic deference to clerical authority, some chaplains have discovered they were dominating action group meetings to the detriment of the lay character of the movement. In some cases the chaplain complained of this; in others the complaint came from the laity. In the more conservative parishes, pastors have sometimes been suspicious of lay leadership.

These three boxes contain diverse material relating to the role of the chaplain in CFM: a summary of a questionnaire of chaplains entitled "Collected CFM Chaplains Notebook," March 1968; the individual response to this survey; the records of a Chaplains' training course; correspondence, notes, speeches, minutes of the Chaplains' meetings, 1954-1964; copies of Chaplains'Bulletin; tabulation of a 1953 questionnaire; lists of chaplains; brief records of a proposed publication of combined chaplains' notes for CFM, YCS, YCW.

5. Committee Correspondence, Agenda, Minutes, and other records - 7 feet 7 inches

This series contains the records of the major national committees of the Christian Family Movement. The National Coordinating Council (sometimes called coordinating committee) was formed n 1949 "to determine major policy for the national movement, decide on the direction of the movement, and to facilitate full and free exchange of ideas between all diocesan CFM groups.." (Guide to CFM, unpublished manuscript, p. 76) The Council is composed of the leader couples from each CFM diocese. They meet annually in August. By 1969, the size of the committee had become unmanageable. At that time, the convention voted to reconstitute the committee as a sounding board for the sentiments of the rank and file.

The Executive Committee consists of leader couples from the nineteen "Areas (covering 5-15 diocese) in the United States and Canada. It was originally responsible for providing general direction for the national organization. In effect, the committee set up the guidelines needed for the operation of the national organization on a day-to-day basis within the limits of policy set down by the coordinating council. In 1969, this committee became the primary decision making body for the CFM. The Executive Committee meets twice each year, immediately preceding the August meetings of the Coordinating Council and during the winter at a site previously selected by the committee, usually in or near CFM'S national headquarters in Chicago.

Most of the program committee material is listed in series seven, though some is included in these boxes.

This series contains significant correspondence; however, because the letters are not arranged in any logical order, it is difficult to trace all the correspondence regarding a particular problem. this might be due to frequent personal discussions between members of the committees. Such discussions are sometimes referred to, but usually not described in any detail. Most of the letters were written for the purpose of laying the groundwork for meetings of the various committees. An example of the contents: letters discussing the fear of some members that the CFM was tending to become dominated by a few couples instead of remaining a "grass roots" organization. Also included in this series is an extension collection of the mimeographed letters of the committees.

Scattered throughout these containers are mimeographed copies of the agendas and minutes of these committees. The agendas are brief outlines covering the organizations of the meeting's. The meetings usually include: orientation of new members; workshops on particular problems; reports from the Executive committee, from the national office, and from the Treasurer, each report followed by discussion; and various speeches after which the group dissolved into small discussion sections. Time is also alloted for consultation of couples who have researched particular problems. Evaluation forms are usually given to couples attending the meetings. Several sets of forms returned are included in this series. Common complaints are: length of speeches, brevity of discussion time; to much activity in too short of time. The majority of the members returning forms are very enthusiastic about the meetings.

The mimeographed minutes are brief, usually five to six pages; reports are sometimes attached. Topics of discussion are listed, as are proposals raised, along with action taken. Though they are scattered in this series, the minutes seem to be complete since 1949.

This series contains important miscellaneous material, including several folders which provide many good examples of the CFM's mode of operation. There is a folder containing several annual reports on the state of the movement by Pat Crowley; there are several statements of the "Fundamentals" of CFM, along with a critique of them by Martin Quigley; a large folder on "Leadership" documenting the means by which CFM hoped to carry out its program. There is also a collection of CFM songs which might give a feeling of the spirit of the movement.

This series also contains printed booklets on the CFM Federation structure; a pamphlet on a 1966 expansion program; and a guide to the movement published in 1969, including several analytical sections from the N.D. Sociology Departments survey of CFM. There are several folders of correspondence and committee meeting minutes relative to proposed changes in the structure of CFM.

The CFM leadership has resisted attempts to persuade them to take an official stand on public issues. One folder contains statements insisting on this position and arguments against it by Lawrence Ragan, editor of ACT. There is also a short collection of letters supporting the movement from various Bishops, and letters regarding various "major projects" of 1959-1960, such as a legion of decency for Television, and legal suits regarding campaigns against Catholic officeholders.

One box contains a larger file of correspondence with Bishops; copies of a discussion-oriented newsletter from the mid-sixties circulated among CFM leaders; and a folder with correspondence regarding a proposed international Catholic quarterly, to be edited by Michael Greene, founder of the National Catholic Reporter. There are also two folders dealing with civil rights activities. Another contains an important folder labelled "Maxwell's Manual," dealing with a proposed CFM publication explaining new teachings on marriage growing out of Vatican II.

Various federations sent in reports of their activities to National headquarters, or to the editor of ACT. The activity of the individual cells can also be traced in the correspondence, in Federation newsletters, and in the ACT material. A cursory examination of these reports reveals extensive, perhaps paramount, interest during the early years in innocuous pursuit of "goodness" such as campaigns to help old people attend Mass, promoting "neighborliness," and opposing comic books. During the sixties, the movement reflected the growing interest in more pressing social problems, yet there are indications the leadership advanced too quickly for a sizable percentage of the rank and file.

6. ACT Material, and Other Publication and Programs. 17 feet

The national office of the Christian Family movement publishes ACT, a monthly magazine; annual manuals containing suggested inquiry programs for the action cell; the orientation manual, "For Happier Families," and numerous pamphlets, such as "Christian Marriage," and "The Family Apostolate and Africa." This series contains copies of many of the publications, as well as correspondence, committee minutes, and research material acquired in the course of composing these publications.

The editors of ACT frequently received heated letters criticizing articles in the magazine. This series contains many letters, most of them critical, regarding a liberal interpretation of the Catholic position on birth control expressed in an article by Grant and Vivian Maxwell. This same container also holds many letters attacking a letter to the editor which had expressed a very patronizing attitude toward the writings of a mother of twelve children. These letters to the editor are often interesting, including those from disgruntled conservative Catholics.

The research material is voluminous, consisting of clippings, articles, correspondence, and preliminary drafts of articles; a large number of printed inquiry programs and other publications; and material relevant to the publication of the study books "Family Life and Economics,"

7. Federation Newsletters - 3 feet

Most diocesan federations publish small newsletters with articles about local events and needs. This collection includes papers from 1949 to 1969, the largest number from 1965-1967.

8. Conventions and Area Reports - 7 feet

Series eight contains materials collected in relation to the National Conventions and also in connection with regional conventions. Filed with the latter are area reports covering several dioceses, and reports from individual dioceses.

The national convention material includes programs, coordinating council reports, reports to the convention from various area, names of advanced registering convention goers, some scattered convention financial records, typed transcripts of some convention speeches, and several sets of convention evaluation forms. Some of the area reports emphasize the organizational structure of their federations, others cover area activities. There are also scattered reports of area conventions. See also: folder "Daily Bulletin".

9. CFM Crises - 1 foot 2 inches

During the troubled sixties, most of the discord affecting the Church, and American society in general, was reflected in the Christian Family Movement. Five boxes contain material filed under the heading "CFM Crises."

In 1961, the annual inquiry booklet covered the topic "international Life." The national headquarters subsequently received numerous letters protesting the favorable references to the UN, and particularly protesting the listing of the Foreign Policy Association in the bibliography. It seems an American Legion post in Georgia persuaded the grand jury of their county to force the Foreign Policy Association's publications out of their school system due to the "subversive" nature of the organization. The Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation, an ultra-right wing Catholic group, picked this up and led an attack on the international life inquiry program and the CFM leadership. The campaign was most active in southern California, where it seems to have caused a good deal of trouble. The "Crises" series contains correspondence related to this, and numerous press clippings from the early sixties on the American right-wing. Also included is a short article by Edward Gargan of Loyola University, Chicago, on "Radical Conservatism among United States Catholics."

This series contains folders covering the civil rights movements, and the activities of right-wing extremists during the period 1960-1965. There are letters supporting and attacking CFM's support of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Pacem in Terris convocation sponsored by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. There are numerous extremely bitter letters concerning these matters,and a number of relevant newspaper and magazine clippings.

This series also contains material relating to financial problems and to problems with the N.C.W.C. It was feared that the proposed Family Life Bureau of the N.C.W.C. would co-opt the functions of CFM. Material relating to this problem includes correspondence and several short papers expressing opposition to a proposed federation of family centered groups in the United States; the draft of "A Preliminary Plan for a Suggested Federation of Family Centered Groups and Family Specialists of the USA"; lists of Family Life Directors of the Family Life Bureau; minutes of meetings of the Advisory Board of the NCWC Family Life Bureau, held in October, 1959, June, 1960, October, 1960, October 196l, and October, 1962; agendas for the 1961 and 1963 meetings of this board; minutes of the first annual Family Life Directors meeting, December 13, 1960; and minutes of several business meetings of the National Association of Catholic Family Life Bureaus.

There are also copies of programs from various family centered organizations; letters from Bishops acknowledging receipt of CFM materials; letters from Msgr. Hillenbrand; letters to NCCM and NCCW; a brief report by the Dalys (undated) on the problems with the current Inquiry Book; a short paper by John and Dorothy Drish on CFM and recent problems within the Church; and a proposal by Don and Marilyn Burton for greater CFM efforts regarding Civil Rights.

Finally, this series contains coverage of the 1967 Convention budget; the acquisition of tax-exempt status for CFM; evaluations and proposals, 1966; brief past financial reports and policies; fund drives (four items); programming techniques; material from Rev. Nerin, including a proposal for the abolition of CFM in Oklahoma; letters and articles from Rev. Andrew Greeley; letters from Msgr. George Kelly; letters concerning a proposed lay mission in Mauritius; letters and reports from lay missionary couples in Tanzania (Faradays) and Peru (Kerrins); and a brief expansion file (3 items).

10. Surveys, Dissertations, Articles. - 2 feet

By means of extensive travel and correspondence, Mr. and Mrs. Crowley have attempted to keep in contact with CFM Groups around the world, and with developments that affected the status of the family in all nations. This series contains surveys, dissertations, articles,and correspondence related to worldwide family problems. There is a large collection of general articles, and articles by and about the Crowleys. The contents are quite diverse. Among the more noteworthy are: Rev. James Fahey, C.S.C., An Exploratory Survey of CFM, Notre Dame Thesis 1964, l4l pg; Carl F. Mengeling, Family Movements in the United States, Especially the Christian Family Movement: A Theological and Pastoral Evaluation, Rome: Academia Alfoniana, 1964, 66 pg., bibliography; Marriage and Pre-marriage Counseling Workshop a A Syllabus, Luzerne County Mental Health Association, 1967 (the Crowleys participated); "Mr.and Mrs. CFM," an article by a Notre Dame student who had lived with the Crowleys; and "Women and Family Life," rough draft of an article by Mrs. Crowley.

This series also contains a report on the Notre Dame Sociology Department Survey of CFM; tabulations from a survey by the Caldwells which netted only 67 responses; a survey of actions undertaken as a result of the 1964-65 Race and Politics Program; a 1965 survey on ACT magazine; and an incomplete file on Rev. Powers' 1955 questionnaire. Folder 397 contains a 1966 survey on the Federations' status and structure. Folder 308 holds a compilation of the 1966 ACT survey; a survey on the impact of Vatican II, taken for the information of participants in the Lay Congress; a survey on the 1967 program, "The Family in a Time of Change;" and a file of letters regarding CFM support of the Georgetown University Center for Population Research. Folder 309 contains reports from the Notre Dame Survey: Report #1 Background and Development of the Movement; Report #2 CFM as an Organization; The Management of Tension in the Movement; #3 The CFM Couple; and Report #4 Authority, Policy making and Goal Achievement. There is a questionnaire on the effects of CFM given to teen-age children of CFM members; and a research paper written by Rev. John Giannini at the University of Chicago Divinity School under Dr. Martin Marty; "An historical and Psychological Study of the Christian Family Movement (1969).

11. Related Groups and Activities - 20 inches

This series contains material relating to the Crowley's participation in the Third World Congress of the Laity. There are many printed documents in these containers, many of them in French or Latin. Some publications are also included, such as Lay Apostolate. These containers also hold documents relating to the Mixed Commission on the Lay Apostolate.

There are membership lists, and some older pamphlets from related groups in folder 312: YCW, Young Christian Farmers, Cana, Foundation for International Cooperation, and the CFM Lawyer's Group.

There are also files on refugee, the National Council on Family Relations, and the National Committee for Children and Youth. The Latter contains reports of conferences held by this group, and notes on workshops sponsored by them. The National Council on Family Relations was also a non-denominational organization which CFM joined due to a reported lack of Catholic members. The material in this file is scanty. The material in the refugee file is also thin. There is some correspondence, and some government and U.N. publications regarding Cuban and European refugees.

This series also contains material relating to a White House Conference on the Aged and a proposed White House Conference on the Family. In 1966 the Crowleys attempted to persuade the White House to sponsor a symposium on Family Life. This file indicates their failure may have been due to official reluctance to deal with these matters after the furor stirred up by the Moynihan Report. It contains letters from Daniel Moynihan, Sargeant Sargeant Shriver, Eugene McCarthy,Martin Quigley, Harry McPhearson (White House advisor), various H.E.W. officials, and representatives of groups of groups concerned with family life. The file on the Conference on the Aged contains the usual programs and publications.

The final folder in this series, contains publications of, and correspondence with the directors of Organizations Internationales Catholiques.

12. Books Related to Catholic Action. - 5 inches

13. Scrapbooks

These scrap books containing clippings and photographs cover the Crowley's activities and interests from 1946 - 1968. It includes a collection on the McCarthy for President campaign, including many letters from the Senator.

14. Tape Recordings

The collection includes an immense number of tape recordings, many as yet uncataloged. Among the speakers are: Rev. Gustave Weigel, S.J., Dr. George Shuster, Professor Marshall Smelser, Rev. Bernard Haring, Dr. Martin Marty, Sister Jacqueline Grennon, Louis Lomax, Senator Eugene McCarthy, Frank Kacmarcik, a religious artist whose talk was severely criticized by some CFM members, Dr. Tom Dooley, Bishop Wright, Dr. John Noonan, M.D., Cardinal Meyer, Lt. Governor Paul Simon of Illinois, Dr. William D'Antonio, Rep. Abner Mivka of Illinois, Carl Stokes, Dr. Harvey Cox, Senator Mark Hatfield, Rev. John McKenzie, Rep. John Brademas, Dr. Karl Stern, Cardinal Stritch, Rev. John L. Thomas, S.J., Daniel Callahan, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., and Rev. Daniel Berrigan.


  • Creation: 1946-2016


Language of Materials



A national, and later international, movement of the specialized lay apostolate of the Catholic Church inspired by the social principles of papal encyclicals and related to the European Jocist movement founded by Canon Joseph Cardijn.

Membership consisted of married couples who would meet in local Catholic Action inquiry groups to read scripture, observe their community, judge how it fell short of the Christian ideal, and act to improve it.

During the first years of World War II, a group of Chicagoans concerned with the state of the world and the Church became convinced lay apostolic action was necessary for the renewal of society and Catholicism. The key members of this group were Mr. Paul Hazard, who was interested in the Cardijn social inquiry method; Mr. Frank Crowe, who convinced Hazard the time was opportune to organize a movement promoting Catholic lay action; Mr. Patrick Crowley, who, with his wife Patty, was to provide the leadership necessary for the growth of the movement; and Father C. J. Marhoefer, who provided the initial local church support, and who also used the Cardijn method in initiating action modeled after the European Young Christian Workers movement, in addition to his work with Hazard and the others. Others in the group were Dr. William Burke, Mr. Edmund F. Egan, and Mr. Frank A. Mancina. Inspired by the social encyclicals and the example of this and other groups, Catholic Action units began to multiply in Chicago and other cities, providing a ground swell which culminated in a national meeting at Childerly, Illinois in 1949. There were fifty-nine delegates from eleven cities at this meeting and it resulted in the establishment of a national organizational structure, the Christian Family Movement Coordinating committee. The coordinating committee was empowered to appoint an executive committee, and the magazine ACT was adopted as the official publication. The Chicago group had established ACT earlier as a newspaper and through it established contact with other groups across the nation. The Crowleys became permanent executive secretaries, and thus Chicago became the national headquarters for the movement. The movement spread rapidly until a decline began in the middle sixties.

The 1969 convention reorganized the structure of CFM. The Executive Committee, composed of couples representing the 17 CFM regions, became the primary decision-making body of the movement. Ray and Dorothy Maldoon of Munster, Indiana, were elected national president couple, a newly created post. Mr. and Mrs. Crowley were named President Couple of the International Confederation of Christian Family Movements. The coordinating committee became primarily a sounding board for grass roots sentiment.

The Christian family Movement adopted the mode of operation of the Jocists, a Christian Workers movement begun by Canon Cardijn in Belgium shortly after World War I. Paul Hazard had been introduced to the Cardijn philosophy while in the Seminary, from which his health later forced him to withdraw. Cardijn called for the study of scripture, observation of the community environment, and comparison of the latter with Christian teaching. This was then to be followed by some action designed to move the community toward the Christian ideal.

This "observe - judge - act" technique is shared by the groups who became allied through their similar goals and means and through the location of their national headquarters in Chicago: the Young Christian Workers. Fr. Marhoefer provided an initial link between CFM group and a group of young single workers using the Cardijn method.

Msgr. Don J. Kanaly formed the first American YCW group in Ponca City, Oklahoma in 1938. Other groups appeared in San Francisco, Detroit, San Antonio, and, as we have seen, in Chicago. After the war, returning soldiers provided many new male recruits for the movement.

After the International YCW Congress in Montreal in 1947, a study week convention was held at which delegates of the American YCW groups agreed to establish a national headquarters in Chicago. Tony Zivalich was elected men's president, Edwina (Hearn) Froelich, women's president. Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand was named national chaplain. The men and women's movements merged in 1954. The name of the organization was changed to Young Christians Movement in the mid-sixties.

In 1940, a group called Catholic Action Students began operation at Notre Dame under the direction of Fr. Louis Putz, C.S.C., who had observed student groups using the Cardijn method in Europe. Fr. Putz also initiated CFM among married veterans attending Notre Dame, thus providing additional link between the two movements. National headquarters were set up in Chicago in 1947. Branches were established for grade school, high school, and college. The SKLL Corporation donated a building at 1655 W. Jackson for use as national headquarters for CFM, YCS, and YCW.

During the fifties the CFM became increasingly involved in providing hospitality and other services for foreign students and visitors. CFM was also interested in establishing a lay missionary program. To promote these ends, a committee was formed to organize a separate organization incorporated in 1961 as the "Foundation for International Cooperation." Between 1960 and 1965 the F.I.C's activities included: continuation of the CFM's hospitality program; a Chicago-based job placement service for foreign students seeking summer employment; development of projects coming family vacation with services in underdeveloped area in the U.S. and abroad; promotion of student exchange programs; and twice the F.I.C hosted a large group of French couples who toured the U.S. and organized a "return" trip to France by American couples.

The preceding sketch was taken from: The Christian Family Movement: A Profile, Report number I from the Notre Dame Study of CFM: "Background and Development of the Movement," submitted by John Maiolo, William V. D'Antonio, and William T. Liu, Notre Dame Department of Sociology, 1968 (CCFM box 65); and Guide to CFM, unpublished manuscript (CCFM box 61). Descriptions of the movement are also available in: Carl F. Mengeling, Family Movements in the United States, Especially the Christian Family Movement: A Theological and Pastoral Evaluation, Rome: Academia Alfoniana, 1964 (CCFM box 63); Rev. James Fahey, CSC, "An Exploratory Survey of the Christian Family", Notre Dame Sociology Department, 1964 (CCFM box 63); and Rev. John L. Giannini, "An Historical and Psychological Study of the Christian Family Movement," University of Chicago Divinity School research paper, 1969 (CCFM box 101).


222 linear feet

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Crowley first donated papers of the Christian Family Movement and its allied organizations to the archives of the University of Notre Dame in 1969. Since then, Patty Crowley and other CFM members have added to the collection.

Christian Family Movement Records
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