Origins of the Catenian Association
The Catenian Association undoubtedly owes its existence to the vision of Bishop Casartelli, who became Bishop of Salford in 1903. At that time there were only one and a half million Catholics in England and Wales and they were still viewed with suspicion by many of the population. These Catholics were divided between the very rich, landed Catholic gentry and the very poor: especially the recent immigrant Irish who had arrived over the previous 50 years.
However there were signs of an emerging Catholic middle class, which was unsure of its place in society. Bishop Casartelli recognised this, and in October 1903 in his first Pastoral letter, 'The Signs of the Times' he called on Catholic laymen "to go forth to all the interests of the commonwealth of which we are part", going on to say that he wanted the laity to play their role "…in matters social, municipal, philanthropic, educational, artistic, literary in which we may use the powers we enjoy".
In1906 a Liberal Government, pledged to abolish Voluntary (including Catholic) schools was returned with a massive majority. In the Salford Diocese Bishop Cassartelli formed the Catholic Federation to fight this. Two years later in 1908, and with the active encouragement of the Bishop, a number of Federation's leading lights became the founder members of 'The Chums Benevolent Association', which two years later adopted its present title 'The Catenian Association'. The name is taken from 'Catena' the Latin for chain.
The Catenian Association today
There are over 10,000 members in Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, Malta, South Africa, India, Zambia and Zimbabwe. They belong to one or more of approximately 300 Circles. As part of the process of extending the Association into new areas there are also a growing number of Groups comprising a smaller number of members than is required for Circle status.
The Circles are grouped into geographic Provinces or Area Councils. Each Province has a representative known as a Director who serves on the Grand Council, which is the governing body of the Association. A Grand President (who is elected annually from those serving on Grand Council), Grand Secretary, Grand Treasurer and three immediate past Grand Presidents complete the Grand Council.
The ethos of the Association can perhaps best be summed up by the words used by a Circle President when addressing someone about to be enrolled:
"… It is our purpose to encourage our brothers and their families to meet socially. We strive to help one another as far as we may to happiness and prosperity; and should a Brother suffer misfortune, our concern is to aid him in full measure. We are proudly Catholic, and as a Brotherhood we are non-political. We do not permit wrangling to mar our meetings, nor do we tolerate excesses in the behaviour of Brothers. We expect you to observe faithfully all the obligations of life, to be charitable in judgement, forbearing in temper and slow to condemn. We look to find a Brother, if husband, loving and trustworthy; if father ever mindful of the moral and material well-being of your children and dependents; as a son, dutiful and considerate; and as a friend steadfast and true …"
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