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Catholic Church Extension Society

First active agitation for a church extension or home mission society for the Catholic Church in North America

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Society , THE CATHOLIC CHURCH EXTENSION.—IN THE UNITED STATES.—The first active agitation for a church extension or home mission society for the Catholic Church in North America was begun in 1904 by an article of the present writer, published in the “American Ecclesiastical Review” (Philadelphia). This article was followed by a discussion in the same review, participated in by several priests, and then by a second article of the writer’s. On October 18, 1905, the discussion which these articles aroused took form, and, under the leadership of the Most Reverend James Edward Quigley, Archbishop of Chicago, a new society, called The Catholic Church Extension Society of the United States of America, was organized at a meeting held in the archbishop’s residence at Chicago. The following were present at that meeting and became the first board of governors of the society: The Archbishops of Chicago and Santa Fe, the Bishop of Wichita, the present Bishop of Rockford, Reverends Francis C. Kelley, G. P. Jennings, E. P. Graham, E. A. Kelly, J. T. Roche, B. X. O’Reilly, F. J. Van Antwerp, F. A. O’Brien; Messrs. M. A. Fanning, Anthony A. Hirst, William P. Breen, C. A. Plamondon, J. A. Roe, and S. A. Baldus. All these are still (1911) connected with the church extension movement, except Archbishop Bourgade of Santa Fé, who has since died, Reverends E. P. Graham and F. A. O’Brien, and Mr. C. A. Plamondon, who for one reason or another have found it impossible to continue in the work. The Archbishop of Chicago was made chairman of the board, the present writer was elected president, and Mr. William P. Breen, LL.D., of Fort Wayne, Indiana, treasurer. Temporary headquarters were established at Lapeer, Michigan. The second meeting was held in December of the same year, when the constitution was adopted and the work formally launched. A charter was granted on December 25, 1905, by the State of Michigan to the new society, whose objects were set forth as follows: “To develop the missionary spirit in the clergy and people of the Catholic Church in the United States. To assist in the erection of parish buildings for poor and needy places. To support priests for neglected or poverty-stricken districts. To send the comfort of religion to pioneer localities. In a word, to preserve the faith of Jesus Christ to thousands of scattered Catholics in every portion of our own land, especially in the country districts and among immigrants.” In January, 1907, the headquarters of the society were moved to Chicago, and the president was transferred to that archdiocese. In April, 1906, the society began the publication of a quarterly bulletin called “Extension“. In May, 1907, this quarterly was enlarged and changed into a monthly; its circulation has steadily increased, and at the present time (1911) it has over one hundred thousand paid subscribers. On June 7, 1907, the society received its first papal approval by an Apostolic Letter of Pius X addressed to the Archbishop of Chicago. In this letter His Holiness gave unqualified praise to the young organization and bestowed on its supporters and members many spiritual favors. On June 9, 1910, the pope issued a special Brief by which the society was raised to the dignity of a canonical institution, directly under his own guidance and protection. By the terms of this Brief, the Archbishop of Chicago is always to be chancellor of the Society. The president must be appointed by the Holy Father himself. His term of office is not more than five years. The board of governors has the right to propose three names to the Holy See for this office, and to elect, according to their laws, all other officers of the society. The Brief also provided for a cardinal protector, living in Rome. His Holiness named Cardinal Sebastian Martinelli for this office, and later on appointed the present writer the first president under the new regulations. The Brief limits the society’s activities to the United States and its possessions. A similar Brief was issued to the Church Extension Society in Canada.

Since the organization of the church extension movement, the American society has expended over half a million dollars in missionary work. It has made about seven hundred gifts and loans to poor missions, and has had about five hundred and fifty chapels built in places where no Catholic Church or chapel existed previously and the scattered people could attend Mass only with great difficulty. Both societies have been educating many students for the missions, and both have circulated much good Catholic literature. The American society operates a “chapel car” (donated by one of its members, Ambrose Petry, K. C. S. G.), which carries a missionary into the remote districts along railroad lines, preaching missions and encouraging scattered Catholics to form centers with their own little chapels as beginnings of future parishes. The Holy Father has particularly blessed this chapel car work, and has given a gold medal to the donor of the car and to the society in recognition of its usefulness. Another chapel car, much larger and better equipped, is now about to be built. The society has interested itself very greatly in the missionary work of Porto Rico and the Philippine Islands, and has achieved substantial results. The Canadian society has been very active in saving the Ruthenian Catholics of the Canadian North-West to the Faith, against which an active war has been waged, especially by the Presbyterians. It was principally through the publicity given to this activity by the Canadian Society that the situation was brought to the attention of the bishops in Canada, who at the first Plenary Council decided to raise $100,000 for this work. The American society’s first quinquennial report shows splendid progress, and the present situation of both societies gives promise of great things to come. A remarkable thing about the church extension movement is the ready response of the wealthier class of Catholics in the United States to its appeals. Some very large donations have been given. The Ancient Order of Hibernians is raising a fund of $50,000 for chapel building, and the Women’s Catholic Order of Foresters $25,000. The directors intend to erect a college for the American mission.

The church extension movement, as it exists in the United States and Canada, has no close parallels in other countries, but is not unlike the Boniface Association in Germany or the Oeuvre of St. Francis de Sales in France. Membership is divided into founders ($5000), life members ($1000), fifteen-year members ($100), and Annual Members ($10). There is a Women’s Auxiliary in both societies which now begins to flourish. The American society has also a branch for children called the “Child Apostles” From the pennies of the children, chapels are to be built and each one called the “Holy Innocents“; the children have just completed (1911) the amount needed for their first chapel. The present officers of the American society are: His Eminence, Sebastian Cardinal Martinelli, Cardinal Protector; Most Rev. James E. Quigley, D.D., Chancellor; Most Rev. S. G. Messmer, D.D., Vice-Chancellor; Very Rev. Francis C. Kelley, D.D., LL.D., President; Rev. E. B. Ledvina, Vice-President and General Secretary; Rev. E. L. Roe, Director of the Women’s Auxiliary and Vice-President; Rev. W. D. O’Brien, Director of the Child Apostles and Vice-President; Mr. Leo Doyle, General Counsel and Vice-President; Mr. John A. Lynch, Treasurer. The members of the executive committee are: Most Rev. James E. Quigley, D.D.; Very Rev. Francis C. Kelley, D.D., LL.D., Rev. Edward A. Kelly, LL.D.; Messrs. Ambrose Petry, K. C. S. G., Richmond Dean, Warren A. Cartier, and Edward F. Carry. On the board of governors are the Archbishops of Chicago, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Boston, New Orleans, Santa Fé, Oregon City, with the bishops of Covington, Detroit, Wichita, Duluth, Brooklyn, Trenton, Mobile, Rockford, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Helena, and distinguished priests and laymen.

IN CANADA.—The church extension movement was organized in Canada as an independent society (bearing the name of “The Catholic Church Extension Society of Canada“) by the Most Reverend Donatus Sbarretti, Delegate Apostolic of that country, Most Rev. Fergus Patrick McEvay, D.D., Archbishop of Toronto, Rev. Dr. A. E. Burke of the Diocese of Charlottetown, Very Rev. Monsignor A. A. Sinnott, secretary of the Apostolic Delegation, the Rev. Dr. T. Kidd, chancellor of Toronto, the Right Honorable Sir Charles Fitzpatrick, K. C. M. G., Chief Justice of Canada, and the present writer. The Canadian society at once purchased the “Catholic Register”, a weekly paper, enlarged it, and turned it into the official organ of the work. The circulation of this paper has increased marvellously. The new society in Canada received a Brief, similar to that granted the American society, establishing it canonically. The same cardinal protector was appointed for both organizations. The Archbishop of Toronto was made chancellor of the Canadian society, and Very Rev. Dr. A. E. Burke was appointed president for the full term of five years. The officers of the Canadian society are: His Eminence Cardinal Martinelli, Protector; The Archbishop of Toronto (see vacant), Chancellor; Very Rev. A. E. Burke, D.D., LL.D., President; Rev. J. T. Kidd, D.D., Secretary; Rev. Hugh J. Canning, Diocesan Director; The Archbishop of Toronto; Right Hon. Sir Charles Fitzpatrick, K. C. M. G., and the Presidents Executive Committee.


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