Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

The corporate name of a society whose directors are chosen from among the bishops of the United States, the seminaries, the parishes and the missionary organizations of that country, its purpose being to engage priests and lay-men as missionaries to non-Catholics in the United States to provide for their maintenance, to distribute Catholic literature, and in every way to assist the bishops in establishing and carrying on home missions in their various jurisdictions. It was formed by the Paulist Fathers in carrying out the vocation of their founder, Isaac Thomas Hecker, i.e. the conversion of non-Catholics in America.

This movement recognizes and helps to meet the responsibility of clergy and people for the spiritual welfare of Catholics, of baptized non-Catholics, as being even sacramentally part of Christ's fold ; and of all others, as called by God to be saved and brought to the knowledge of the truth by the Church's ministrations. Thus, instead of ignoring the religious condition of their non-Catholic countrymen, all classes of Catholics will be aided by this society in zealously striving to convert them. Among the practical efforts of this movement is the forming in each diocese of bands of missionaries composed of diocesan priests acting under their bishops. These assemble non-Catholics wherever possible and explain to them the doctrines of the Catholic Church. The mode of explanation is more expository than controversial. Through a "question box" queries are invited concerning the Church's teaching, and through carefully prepared lectures and the widespread dissemination of literature misunderstandings are dispelled and an attractive presentation of the Catholic teaching provided.

The Catholic Missionary Union owns the Apostolic Mission House, the training school for the missionaries, located at the Catholic University, Washington, D.C., and dedicated in April, 1904. It provides a normmal course of instruction for priests who are desirous of devoting themselves to the conversion of non-Catholics in the diocesan mission-bands, or even in the parochial ministry. The following dioceses are now provided with these apostolates, as the missionary bands are called: xxyyyk.htm">Providence, Hartford, Burlington, New York, Pittsburg, Cleveland, Wheeling, Covington, Peoria, St. Paul , Dubuque, St. Louis, Sioux Falls, Fort Wayne, Richmond, North Carolina , Charleston, St. Augustine, Mobile, Natchez, and Oklahoma, numbering together 51 priests. There are six other priests assisting at missions in these dioceses in preparation for forming apostolates in their own dioceses, namely in Springfield, Buffalo, and Winona. Meanwhile priests are making their courses of study in the Apostolic Mission House for Ogdensburg, Erie, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Alton, Baker City , Peoria, Pittsburg, Sioux City, St. Augustine, and St. Paul, together with several members of religious communities, some domiciled, and others attending classes giving missions, or preparing to do so, there is now a total of 82 priests. For the more necessitous dioceses not only are the missionaries trained without any expense to the bishops, but financial support is furnished them after they begin their work. During a decade of years the missionaries in the movement that centres about the Apostolic Mission House have given 1008 missions to Catholics,1468 missions to non-Catholics, and received many converts into the Church, besides placing many more under instruction to be received later by the parochial clergy. It is not possible to give precise statistics, but it is sure that conversions have been stimulated by these missionary activities. During the year 1906 it is computed that about 25,000 converts were received into the Church in the United States by various missionary agencies.

An important feature of the missions is the free distribution of Catholic literature. The books are given into the hands of non-Catholics by the missionaries themselves standing before the altar after the public services, it being expressly stated that they are accepted to be read. In this way a great deal more than a million of Catholic books have passed into non-Catholic hands during the last ten or twelve years. These are Cardinal Gibbons' "Faith of Our Fathers ", Searle's "Plain Facts", Conway's "Question Box", Faa Di Bruno's "Catholic Belief ", Xavier Sutton's "Clearing the Way", and others; not counting a very great number of catechisms, Mass-books, pamphlets, and leaflets.

A public convention of missionaries to non-Catholics is assembled by the society every two or three years. The delegates discuss fully the religious conditions in America and the prospects of converting the people to the Catholic Church. Carefully prepared papers are read, and addresses delivered, and their topics debated, all looking to the choice of means and methods for increasing the number of converts. The proceedings of each convention are published in book form and circulated very extensively with remarkly good results. It is noteworthy that at the latest convention (June, 1905) the principal religious orders were present by their representatives. The Mission Union depends wholly on charity for funds to support its work. The principal medium of collection is its monthly magazine "The Missionary" which, by edifying Catholics with authentic accounts of the results of the propaganda, stimulates their charitable offerings. The whole movement has from the begining enjoyed the fullest approval of the bishops and the co-operation of the religious orders, and has received the express commendation of the Holy See.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 3:2-12
2 You have surely heard the way in which God ... Read More

Psalm, Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6
2 Look, he is the God of my salvation: I shall have ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:39-48
39 You may be quite sure of this, that if the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 22nd, 2014 Image

St. Pope John Paul II
October 22: Karol J. Wojtyla, known as John Paul II since his October 1978 ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter