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German Roman Catholic Central Verein of North America
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(Deutscher römisch-katholischer Centralverein von Nordamerika)
The origin of the Central Verein dates back to 1854, in which year the presidents of three German Catholic benevolent societies of Buffalo, new York, issued a call to various German Catholic societies for the purpose for forming a central body. The movement was inspired and advocated by zealous missionary priests, and approved by Bishop Timon of Buffalo. The success of a similar organization among their Catholic brethren in Germany (founded at Mainz, 1848), lent additional force to the arguments for a union in the United States . The call was responded to by seventeen societies, and on 15 April, 1855, the Central Verein was duly organized in St. Alphonsus Hall, Baltimore, Maryland. The main object at the outset was to unite the energies of the various associations against freemasonry and secret societies in general. Hence the efforts of the new organization were directed chiefly towards defending the menaced rights of the Catholics in the United States as also "to promote a vigorous religious activity in the united societies according to the spirit of the Roman Catholic Church and mutually to aid and materially to benefit one another". Membership was restricted to Catholic benevolent societies whose official language was German. The growth by decades was as follows:
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- 1855 — 17 societies (1,500 members)
- 1865 — 62 societies (8,340 members)
- 1875 — 302 societies (31,672 members)
- 1885 — 378 societies (32,783 members)
- 1895 — 548 societies (48,989 members)
From the last named date, however, the growth became less marked, and in 1901 a reorganization movement was inaugurated. Instead of affiliating local societies as heretofore, the formation of state organizations was encouraged, and these so-called "Staatsverbände" were then incorporated as a whole, the various local societies losing their direct affiliation to the Central Verein. This plan proved a complete success. In 1907 the report of the secretary showed sixteen state organizations and fifty-two local societies from states in which no "Staatsverband" existed, with a total paid-up membership of 99,291. The unreported membership would bring this total far beyond 100,000. The Holy See approved the work of the Central Verein in a reply to a letter of allegiance sent by the eleventh general convention held at Buffalo, 1866, to Pope Pius IX. The reply praises the spirit of Catholic unity prevailing among the members and wishes them success and the ever copious assistance of Divine grace. It gratefully acknowledges and appreciates the contributions the Central Verein had gathered for the support of the Holy See. During fifty-two years the society contributed about $12,000 to the Peter's-pence collection.
The care of the immigrants was made a prominent feature of the work of the society, and special agents were appointed to look after their interests in New York and Baltimore. Later on the Central Verein was affiliated to the St. Raphael's Society. The result of their combined efforts was the establishment in New York of the Leo House for the use of Catholic immigrants. Aid was extended to a similar undertaking at Galveston, Texas. The cause of Catholic education has a conspicuous advocates in the Central Verein. The Teachers' Seminary at St. Francis, Wisconsin, was founded mainly by contributions from the society. In his address to the delegates assembled in Dubuque, Iowa, 1907, Archbishop Falconio, the Apostolic Delegate, said: "What your society has done in the interest of Christian education is truly admirable and an example worthy of imitation for all Catholics ". The annual conventions, under the name of "Katholikentage", have assumed large proportions. Extending over four or five days, they include solemn church festivities, parades, addresses by prominent clergymen and laymen, business meetings, and social gathering.
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