Posts with the tag: Social Action Department

The Archivist’s Nook: The Priestly Labors of John M. Hayes

Guest author is Steve Rosswurm, Professor of History, Emeritus, at Lake Forest College, and author of The FBI and the Catholic Church (2009), The CIO’s Left-Led Unions (1992), and Arms, Country and Class (1987). 

Fr. John M. Hayes, n.d. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, recently named the first Afro-American cardinal of the Church, more than once has pointed to Monsignor John M. Hayes (1906-2002) as the cleric who inspired him to become a priest.  Prior to that, Hayes also had “attracted” another young man to the Catholic priesthood: the sociologist and novelist Father Andrew Greeley, who dedicated Golden Years, part of the O’Malley family saga, to the monsignor.

Hayes did much in Chicago besides influencing Gregory and Greeley.  He served for years at St. Carthage, where he first encountered the Gregory family, and for even longer at Epiphany from he retired in 1976.  He was involved in the civil rights movement – heading up a group of priests who went to Selma in 1965 – and other social justice issues.  He was named a monsignor in 1963.

The four years that Hayes spent at the Social Action Department (SAD) of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, though, are often forgotten. This installment of the archivist’s nook focuses on his tenure there.

For two reasons, Hayes was the only person the SAD considered for their new position.  First, as a Chicago labor priest mentored by Monsignor Reynold Hillenbrand, he had actively supported union organizing drives and strikes.  Hayes, moreover, had taught at Catholic labor schools and participated in the Catholic Worker movement.  His talk in 1938 at Summer School for Social action for Priests not only nicely summarized the possibilities for social-action work for priests, but also solidified his reputation throughout the country.

Fr. Raymond McGowan, Director of the NCWC Social Action Department, with Linna Bresette, and two unidentified men, n.d. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Second, Hayes was well suited for SAD’s future plans.   It had spear-headed the Church’s turn to the Catholic working class that had begun in 1935.  This move, a way to “restore all things in Christ” by implementing Catholic social teaching as laid out in Rerum Novarum (1891) and Quadragesimo Anno (1931), focused on educating and supporting clerics in the drive for unionization in industries where Catholics comprised a large proportion of workers.  As a way of doing this, the SAD had organized and overseen priests’ labor schools throughout the country.  It also had acted as a clearing house and organizing center for labor priests’ local activities, especially in the industrial heartland.  The SAD staff, including Monsignor John A. Ryan and Father Raymond McGowan, were spread thin by the time Hayes arrived in 1940.

Hayes accomplished at least three significant things during his tenure at the SAD from 1940 through early 1944.  One of his first acts proved to be the longest lasting and most significant.  On December 1, 1940, the first issue of Social Action Notes for Priests appeared.  For clerics only, this newsletter connected labor priests throughout the country, keeping them informed, notifying them of resources, boosting their spirits, and, influencing their thinking.  By June, 1944, about 700 were on the subscription list; that number more than doubled in the next two years and continued to grow well into the 1950s.

Second, Hayes engaged in an extraordinary correspondence with labor priests throughout the country.  In an effort to search out the names of priests interested in social action, he wrote inquiry letters to many areas of the country.  He also sent out detailed questionnaires concerning clerical labor activity and provided summary reports in Social Action Notes.

A later issue of Social Acton Notes for Priests. Special Collections, Catholic University.

Much of Hayes’ correspondence, though, originated in response to letters from throughout the country.  Labor priests, both veterans and novices, wrote to him because he had information and answers.  Hayes provided advice, shared resources and contacts, spread the news about successes and defeats, and offered encouragement. When necessary, moreover, he intervened in the internecine warfare that periodically broke out in Catholic labor circles.

Amidst all this work, finally, Hayes produced a remarkable paper: “Priests and Reconstruction – a Few Thoughts.”  Derived from Hayes’ immersion in CIO organizing campaigns in Chicago, his study of current economic conditions, and his work with Hillenbrand, “Priests and Reconstruction” decisively re-conceptualized Catholic thinking about society and salvation.

Catherine Schaefer; Fr Raymond McGowan, Fr George Higgins. n.d. Special Collections, Catholic University

Hayes began with “radical evils” in America’s “economic side of life” because they were both “fundamental and causative.”  The “physical results” of these evils – some institutional and others individual – were an “inequitable distribution of property” and “inadequate incomes.”  The “resulting spiritual loss” was sizeable: “economic immorality” involved “at least in some cases, serious sin;” “the working out of the system” leaves “people so materially depressed as to handicap virtuous living” or “impels the well-to-do and others to obsession with business or dishonesty and injustice.”  “[S]piritual losses” were “accentuated” among the “poor” and ‘reformers,’ Hayes argued, when the Church was “indifferent to, or ineffective in, attacking the causes, not to speak of alleviating existing hardships.”

How ought the Church and its clergy respond?  “[I]ndividual righteousness,” of course, deserved attention, but, drawing upon Papal teaching, Hayes argued that “We should influence social-economic life, directly and indirectly.”  It was true that “Church exists” to “unite men with God in Heaven,” but this was a “long earth-bound process.”  The work of “building a good natural order” could “not be distinguished in practice” from that of “enhancing supernatural life.”

Hayes’ assertion that the road to salvation was a “long earth-bound process” meant not a retreat from the world into spiritual enclaves, but rather a courageous encounter with it was an extraordinarily important insight and breakthrough.  “Priests and Reconstruction” more generally indicated the theological and sociological bases upon which the Church would operate for the next decade or so.

Hayes, however, was not at the SAD during that period.  Sometime in late 1943 or early 1944, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, so, at his doctor’s recommendation, he went to San Antonio, which the pro-CIO Bishop Robert E. Lucey headed.  There, after recovering, he taught at Incarnate Word University, served as Lucey’s social action director, and regularly wrote columns for the diocesan paper.  In 1953, he returned to Chicago.

Coda.  Another Chicago priest, Father George Higgins, replaced Hayes at the SAD and remained there until 1980.  For many of those years, he chaired the department.

 

The Archivist’s Nook: Patrick Henry Callahan – Crusading Catholic Businessman

Patrick Henry Callahan was a model businessman, political activist, stubborn Prohibitionist, and tireless Catholic apologist of the Progressive and New Deal era. He hobnobbed with the rich and powerful, including celebrated evangelist Billy Sunday (1862-1935), acerbic journalist H. L. Mencken, and populist orator and progressive politician William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925). Nevertheless, Callahan was also a friend of the working class and co-author, along with Msgr. John A. Ryan of Catholic University, of an innovative and successfully implemented profit sharing plan between management and labor in the varnish industry, specifically The Louisville Varnish Company.

Patrick Henry Callahan (1866-1940), ‘The Colonel.’ A standard portrait often used in print, ca. 1930s. Courtesy of the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Born in October 1866 in Cleveland, Ohio, Callahan was educated in parochial schools and the Spencerian Business College. After a short-lived career as a professional baseball player for the Chicago White Stockings, where he was friends with fellow player Billy Sunday, Callahan became a salesman at the Glidden Varnish Company in Cleveland. In 1891, he married Julia Laure Cahill and they moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where he managed the Louisville Varnish Company, becoming president in 1908. Four years later, Callahan and Ryan produced their 50-50 profit sharing plan between capital and labor for Callahan’s plant, including a living wage for the latter. The plan’s success became widely known and Callahan implemented other pro labor measures such as interest earning saving accounts for employees to purchase homes and autos or use for retirement and medical expenses.[1] Callahan and Ryan continued to be friends even though they clashed over Callahan’s strong support for Prohibition.

The Callahan Correspondence from August 2, 1926, addressed to Luther Martin of New York City commenting on his personal reasons favoring prohibition of alcohol. Patrick Joseph Callahan Papers, The Catholic University of America.

Callahan participated in industrial conferences and spoke out against child labor. During the First World War he was an organizer of the National Catholic War Council and chairman of the Knights of Columbus Committee on Religious Prejudice and the Knights Committee on War. Additionally, President Woodrow Wilson offered him a position on the Federal Tariff Commission, though Callahan declined due to his already overburdened schedule. He was also involved with the postwar successor of the National Catholic War Council, the National Catholic Welfare Council/Conference, especially as vice president of the Social Action Department’s Catholic Conference on Industrial Problems, as well as vice president of the National Conference of Catholic Charities (now Catholic Charities USA), chairman of the organizing committee of the Catholic Association for International Peace and an organizer of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Callahan also mimeographed and did mass mailing of portions of his personal correspondence, dubbed the ‘Callahan Correspondence,’ to his employees, newspaper editors, friends, and Catholics though out the country. Awarded the honorary title of ‘Colonel’ by Kentucky Governor James B. McCreary, Callahan used his correspondence to comment on national affairs, especially regarding Catholics and prohibitionists. From his association with William Jennings Bryan, his vehement opposition to the Democratic nomination of New York governor Alfred E. Smith for President, and his staunch support of Prohibition, Callahan publicized and was nationally known for his opinions that were often controversial to his fellow Catholics. He summed up his political philosophy as “the country would be much better off if we go down in defeat fighting for a fine principle than the mere winning of an election which of course is rank heresy to some people.”[2]

Callahan’s published account of the 1928 election, 1929. Patrick Joseph Callahan Papers, The Catholic University of America.

A supporter of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Callahan worked to get him elected and was a key liaison between the FDR administration and both Catholics and businessmen. His opposition to firebrand radio priest Father Charles Coughlin, whom he called “virulent”[3] and backing of Ambassador Josephus Daniels (a Methodist) in Mexico brought Callahan criticism from fellow Catholics but gratitude from FDR’s White House. In return, Callahan publicly endorsed many of New Deal programs. Though nominated for national posts in the Public Works Administration and on labor administration panels, Callahan preferred to work locally, serving as a member of the Advisory Committee of the Loan Agency for the Louisville Office of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation and of the National Labor Relations Board for Kentucky.

Photograph of Callahan’s good friend, Msgr. John A. Ryan of Catholic University, along with U.S. Supreme Court justices Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, and James C. McReynolds at a Testimonial Dinner in honor of Ryan’s seventieth birthday, May 25, 1939. John A. Ryan Papers, The Catholic University of America. See Callahan’s description of the dinner in a letter to Rev. Maurice Sheehy of Catholic University.

After two decades of the ‘Callahan Correspondence’ and even more years of public service, ‘The Colonel,’ also known to his workers as ‘The Boss,’ died on February 4, 1940. He was buried in the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Calvary Cemetery. Among his most prestigious awards were his appointment by Pope Pius XI in 1922 as a Knight of the Order of St Gregory the Great and Newman Foundation’s Memorial Award in 1931. His archival papers along with those of his friend Msgr. John A. Ryan, the National Catholic War Council, and the NCWC Social Action Department, are all housed in the Archives of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D. C.

[1] Callahan to R. W. McGrath, undated, CUA-PJC Papers, Box 2, Folder 24.

[2] Callahan to W.W. Durban, October 8, 1927, CUA-PJC Papers, Box 1, Folder 2.

[3] William E. Ellis. Patrick Henry Callahan. Lewiston, Queenston, Lampeter: The Edward Mellen Press, 1989, pp. 12-14.

The Archivist’s Nook: Tending the Fields of Social Justice

Linna Eleanor Bresette, standard portrait of her, ca. 1930. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.
Linna Eleanor Bresette, standard portrait of her, ca. 1930. American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Linna Eleanor Bresette (1882-1960), was a teacher and pioneering social justice advocate in her native Kansas for nearly a decade before serving for thirty years as the field secretary of the Social Action Department (SAD) of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (now the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops). It was with the SAD that she worked with legendary labor priests John A. Ryan, Raymond McGowan, and George G. Higgins as a tireless field worker on behalf of the working poor regardless of race or gender.

Bresette was a teacher and later principal in the Topeka Public Schools. After Kansas granted voting rights to women in 1912, she became the first woman factory inspector and the first focused on women workers. After travelling the state observing labor conditions, she proposed the creation of an Industrial Welfare Commission. It was created by the legislature despite stiff employer resistance.  She became the Commission secretary, continuing her role as a fair but tough factory inspector, and also helping write minimum wage and child labor laws in Kansas. Inevitably, she made powerful enemies among employers, who joined together in 1921 to force her resignation, despite public protests on her behalf.

An excerpt relating to Bresette’s 1931 Pilgrimage to Rome from the story about her in the September 23, 1953 issue of the Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact comic book, America Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.
An excerpt relating to Bresette’s 1931 Pilgrimage to Rome from the story about her in the September 23, 1953 issue of the Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact comic book, America Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Bresette had already achieved stature as a social justice advocate so she received numerous job offers, including from the federal government and the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC) headed by the redoubtable John Burke, CSP, in Washington, D.C. She accepted the position of field secretary from the latter’s Social Action Department (SAD). She had been an active Catholic in Kansas, having been president of an organization of Catholic women. She also helped organize parish classes and evening schools for Mexicans who increasingly came to the United States looking for work after the 1910 revolution in their country.

With the SAD, Bresette thrived on grass roots efforts in the field, living up to her job title, as she traveled the country, over thirty states and thousands of miles, promoting social justice for workers. She became known as “The Workingman’s Friend” and also “The Workingwoman’s Friend” as she organized diocesan councils of Catholic women, Catholic summer schools for women, and regional meetings of the Catholic Conference on Industrial Problems (CCIP). Her enthusiasm and humor are on display in a 1930 letter¹ she wrote from the Los Angeles CCIP meeting to her boss, Rev. John A. Ryan, stating the conference ‘was great!”, but also referring to a bad speaker with “I deserve to be fired for putting that man Deeney on the Program.”

An example of the pioneering work of Bresette, a pamphlet of her 1928 survey of Mexicans in the U.S., National Catholic Welfare Conference (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), Social Action Department Records, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.
An example of the pioneering work of Bresette, a pamphlet of her 1928 survey of Mexicans in the U.S., National Catholic Welfare Conference (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops), Social Action Department Records, American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

Bresette notably organized conferences on African-Americans and Mexican laborers. In fact, she conducted the first Catholic social study on Mexicans in the United States in 1928².  She also helped found the Priests’ Institutes on the Encyclicals to educate lay and clerical Catholics on the Papal Encyclicals oriented to social justice, most notably Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno. Additionally, she was involved with the American Association of Social Work, Catholic Association for International Peace (CAIP), National Conference of Catholic Charities (now Catholic Charities USA), National Conference of Social Work, National Council of Catholic Women (NCCW), and the White House Conferences on Children and Youth.  

Although largely forgotten in the twenty-first century, Bresette was honored in her time, receiving the Immaculata Medal from Conception College in 1941, an honorary doctorate from Rosary College in 1947, and Papal Pro Eclesia et Pontifice, also in 1947. An unmarried laywoman, her retirement at age 69 in 1951 was lamented by the NCWC who gave a reception in her honor.³ She died at her home in Kansas City in 1960. Her legacy is preserved at The Catholic University of America (CUA) Archives in the records of the Social Action Department and a story on her in a 1953 issue4 of the Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact comic book. Additionally, Michael Barga has a fine entry on her at the Social Welfare History Project site.


¹Bresette to Ryan, April 2, 1930, John A. Ryan Papers, box 4, folder 37.

²Mexicans in the United States, 1928, Social Action Department (SAD) Records, box 68, folder 5.

³Administration: Personnel File, 1951, Executive Department/Office of the General Secretary, box 4, folder 13.

4‘Catholics in Action,’ February 26, 1953, Vol. 8, No. 13, pp 28-33, Treasure Chest of Fun and Fact Comic Book Collection, box 7, folder 13.