The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, founded as the National Catholic Welfare Council to address the needs of Catholics during the First World War; the organization replaced Council with Conference by 1919 and became the organized bishops of the United States. Renamed again in 1966 to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, with its standing secretariat, the United States Catholic Conference, the two separate entities were again reorganized into the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), their current title, in 2001. Here, we refer to these records collectively as the NCWC/USCCB records.
The NCWC/USCCB had/has several different units, some of which became their own loosely affiliated organizational entities. The collections of materials are housed in separate groups of records, each with its own finding aid. Additionally, some of the materials from these collections are digitized and available online. Below summarizes the relevant records for research related to the Bishops’ Conference and the Second World War.
1. (Online) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office of the General Secretary - NCWC Bulletin and Catholic Action, 1919-1953.
From 1919-1953, the USCCB/NCWC published The NCWC Bulletin, changing its name to The NCWC Review and then to Catholic Action in the 1930s. The publication served as the official publication of the conference for the duration of the years it was issued.
The full run of the digitized publication can be found here:
2. (Online Finding Aid Only) NCWC/USCCB/Office of the General Secretary
The General Secretary, as chief executive officer of the Administrative Board of the Bishops’ Conference, not only directed the work of the Executive Department, otherwise known as the Office of the General Secretary (OGS), but also supervised the operations of the other departments and coordinated the multiple activities of the various NCWC units. There are 13 major subject headings within the OGS records: Administration, Church, Communism, Cults and Sects, Education, Information Media, International Affairs, Military Affairs, NCWC, Organizations, Social Action, Travel, and U.S. Government. Other records include miscellaneous photographs, 1921-1980, scrapbooks and oversized material, 1919-1972; and publications, 1919-2001. Finally, there are records of associated bureaus and affiliates: Inter-America Bureau, 1942-1954; Latin American Bureau, 1928-1970; Peace Corps Desk, 1961-1962; Office of UN Affairs, 1946-1972; Episcopal Committee on Motion Pictures/John T. McNicholas, 1933-1950; Episcopal Committee on Decent Literature/National Office for Decent Literature, 1939-1969, and the Advisory Council to the Administrative Board of US Bishops, 1970-1975.
Search the online finding aid of the NCWC/USCCB/Office of the General Secretary for war-related records by topic here: https://libraries.catholic.edu/special-collections/archives/collections/finding-aids/finding-aids.html?file=ncwcogs
3. (Online) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Lantern Slide Collection
Among the NCWC/USCCB records deposited from the organization to the Archives are the glass lantern slides that were donated in 1996. Glass lantern slides were a popular format used for both educational and entertainment purposes throughout the beginning of the twentieth century. More than 100 lantern slides are digitized here, focusing largely on USCCB activities involving service in the Second World War.
The digitized lantern slide collection can be found here:
4. (Online) National Council of Catholic Men, Catholic Hour Broadcast Texts and Correspondence
The National Council of Catholic Men (NCCM) was established in 1920 as part of the Lay Organizations Department of the National Catholic Welfare Council (NCWC). Its various functions included the federation of Catholic men's groups, which served as a central clearinghouse for information on lay activities, promoted lay cooperation, helped existing Catholic lay organizations on the local level, and inculcated appreciation of Catholic principles in society. It operated through a committee system on national, diocesan, and parish levels and published a monthly news organ and other publications as well. It operated a film distribution office and a New York radio and television office, from which it produced The Catholic Hour, 1930-1968.
Thirty-eight published transcripts of the Catholic Hour broadcasts delivered by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen from 1930 to 1956 are reproduced here, as well as correspondence and materials related to the general administration of the Catholic Hour, ca. 1929-1943. The transcripts covering the war years can be researched for war-related themes.
The digitized NCCM/Catholic Hour pamphlet collection can be found here:
5. (Online Finding Aid only) The NCWC/USCCB Social Action Department Records Finding Aid
One of the original departments of the National Catholic Welfare Council/Conference (NCWC), the Department of Social Action was established to promote the social thought of the Roman Catholic Church and to interpret, under the guidance of the bishops, applications of that thought to the complex social questions of the world. It operated primarily as a service department for Catholic lay organizations, the Catholic press, schools, religious, and laity. It also served as a clearinghouse for the dissemination of the most progressive thought in the field of social action. There was a special focus on industrial, international, and interracial relations as well as rural life, social work, and the study of communism. The principal tools in this effort were the papal encyclicals and statements of the American bishops on social and economic matters. Soon after its creation in 1919, the Social Action Department began to sponsor addresses and lectures, publish books and pamphlets, and conduct conferences and institutes. The records can be searched for war-related themes.
The finding aid for the USCCB/Social Action Department can be found here:
6. (Online Finding Aid only) National Catholic Community Service Records.
The National Catholic Community Service (NCCS) served the spiritual, social, educational, and recreational needs of the military and defense workers and their families from 1940 to 1980. NCCS rendered service with both professional personnel and volunteers at home and overseas. It was a member agency of the United Service Organization (USO) and the Veteran's Administration's (VA) Voluntary Service National Advisory Committee and operated a VA Hospital Program. NCCS was under the direction of a board of trustees composed of members of the Administrative Board of the American's Bishops' Conference, the military vicar and his delegate, working closely with the various departments and committees of the Bishops' Conference. Records include copies of USO board, conference, and council minutes; NCCS board of trustees minutes and reports; general administration subject files; club reports and correspondence; VA Hospital Service subject files and printed material; Joint Action in Community Service files; memorabilia; publications and printed material; and photographs.
The NCCS Finding Aid can be found here:
7. (Online Finding Aid only) NCWC/USCCB Legal Department
Originally known as the Department of Laws and Legislation, it was established in December of 1919 as one of the five founding departments of the NCWC/USCCB. The department name has been changed twice, in April 1926 it became the Legal Department, and in November 1966 it became the Office of the General Counsel, the name that it still bears. War-related records include records by country (Spain, Italy, Germany) and records related to the Selective Service system in the United States. Other records include general administration files, subject files regarding congressional matters, education, foreign/international relations, organizations, social security, states, taxation, and tenure of church property, and miscellaneous publications and proceedings. There are also some personal correspondence files for directors William F. Montavon, Eugene Butler, and William Consedine.
The Legal Department Finding Aid can be found here:
8. (Online Finding Aid only) Bruce Mohler Papers
Bruce Monroe Mohler is most notably known as the director of the National Catholic Welfare Conference's Department of Immigration, a position he held from the department's inception in 1920, as the Bureau of Immigration, until his appointment as Director Emeritus shortly before his death in 1967. His service for Catholic Immigrants, both domestically and abroad with the War Relief Services, earned him a place as an important figure in the history of American Catholicism. His papers, preserved to shed light on his role within the NCWC, incidentally reveal a larger piece of American history, as they reflect his life in rural Ohio in the early 20th century, his time stationed in France with the American Expeditionary Forces during the First World War, followed by his service in Poland as Deputy Commissioner of the American Red Cross. Lastly, these papers reflect his personal life, marriage to Dorothy Abts, and his relationship to the Catholic University of America. Mohler headed the Department of Immigration during the Second World War, and one can search the finding aid for war-related materials.
The Bruce Mohler Papers finding aid can be accessed here:
9. (Online Finding Aid only) Hubert Louis Motry Papers
Hubert Louis Motry served as a chaplain with the Army Corp of Engineers at Ft. Belvior in Virginia during the Second World War. The Monsignor Hubert Louis Motry papers are a chronological record of his career as a professor and Dean of the School of Canon Law at The Catholic University of America. This series also includes personal correspondence and work done as a canon lawyer. Motry's many cases are included with this collection, as well as pieces of marital doctrine he wrote. The cases that comprise his career as a canon lawyer are clerical and marital, including his discussions on this matter on 'The Catholic Hour' radio program, with transcripts and correspondence from these broadcasts. Also, the Motry papers cover his years as a chaplain for Fort Humphreys and Fort Belvoir. Lastly, these papers include many photographs from his career and personal life.
The finding aid for the Hubert Luis Motry papers can be found here:
10. (Online) St. Rose’s Orphanage “Schools at War” Report, 1943. (Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C).
St. Rose’s was an orphanage in Washington, D.C., established in 1868 for female orphans and run by the Sisters of Charity. After 1895 it was incorporated as school for female students over 14 years of age to learn trades considered suitable for women at the time, namely, “plain and fancy sewing, dressmaking, and the responsible duties of practical housekeeping.” Between the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries, the young women remained at the school until they were twenty-one. The archives holds a student-created journal from 1943, a full year into the Second World War. “Schools at War, A Report to the Nation” was a report on war-related student activities that took place in the school during the war. The report reflects the characteristic blending of Catholicism and Americanism we see among young Catholics on the home front during the war. The school closed in 1946 due to declining enrollment.
Click here to find a blogpost related to St. Rose’s during the war:
Click here to find St. Rose’s “Schools at War” report:
11. (Online) The Young Catholic Messenger
The Young Catholic Messenger was the inaugural publication of the Pflaum Publishing Company, founded in 1885 in Dayton, Ohio, by George Pflaum, Sr. Pflaum produced religious and civic-themed reading materials distributed to students in the Catholic parochial schools that later included the Junior Catholic Messenger, Our Little Messenger, and the Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact. In the early years the issues tended to be shorter and more literary in focus, while later on the number of pages per issue increased as more news and current events were included. The Young Catholic Messenger ceased publication in 1970.
Click here to visit this page and view copies from the years 1941-1945:
12. (Online Finding Aid, with related digitized textbooks) The Commission on American Citizenship
In 1938 Pope Pius XI sent a letter congratulating the American hierarchy on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the Catholic University of America. Concerned with the global spread of theories and doctrines that he believed undermined Christianity, the Pope decided to use the occasion of the Jubilee to give the University a special assignment. The University's position as the representative educational institution of the American hierarchy, he noted, endowed it especially with the "traditional mission of guarding the natural and supernatural heritage of man." Toward fulfillment of that mission, wrote the Pope, "it must, because of the exigencies of the present age, give special attention to the sciences of civics, sociology, and economics" in a "constructive program of social action" that fit local needs.
Following the Pope's directive, the United States Bishops instructed the University to prepare materials of instruction in citizenship and Christian social living for use in the Catholic schools of the United States. The Commission on American Citizenship was organized in 1939 to carry out the Bishops' mandate. The materials they created are the first general curriculum offered to Catholic schools for their use in developing ideals of Christian doctrine for daily living.
From the 1940s-1960s, the Commission published a range of textbooks and curriculum guides. The texts were used in thousands of parochial schools across the country from the 1940s through the 1970s.
Commission on American Citizenship finding aid:
Blogpost on the Commission textbooks:
Digitized textbooks created by the Commission:
13. (Online) Catholic University "Cardinal" Yearbooks (to 1943, resumes 1948).
The Catholic University of America added undergraduate education in 1904 and the first yearbook, known as The Cardinal Yearbook, was created in 1916. It has been published ever since, though it was on hiatus for a few years, 1918-1919 and 1944-1947, due to the world wars. It has also changed size and shape a few times though it has on average been about nine by eleven inches and two hundred fifty pages.
Blogpost on Cardinal yearbook’s early years:
Cardinal Yearbooks Finding Aid:
14. (Online) The Tower student newspaper of The Catholic University of America
The Towerhas served as the student newspaper at The Catholic University of America since the Fall of 1922. In an effort to preserve the newspaper, and to make it easily accessible to researchers, alumni, and the general public, the microfilm versions of the newspaper have been digitized and put online. Digitized here are The Tower, 1922 to 2013.
Find the Tower online here, including wartime issues:
15. History of the CUA History Department, ties to the Second World War activities
Website describing with documents how the Second World War influence The Catholic University of America’s History Department:
16. Digitized Catholic newspapers. Search multiple Catholic newspapers for the World War Two period.
The Catholic News Archive online can be found here:
Additionally, Catholic diocesan newspapers can be accessed in Mullen Library’s microfilm room.