Founded at CUA, Catholic Charities USA to Celebrate 100 Years

Founding members of the National Conference of Catholic Charities
Founding members of the National Conference of Catholic Charities on the steps of McMahon Hall during the organization’s first meeting in 1910.

Photo courtesy of the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

In 1910, immigration from Europe brought the Catholic population in the United States to more than 16 million. Although many needed social services, there was no cohesive organization to care for them. Members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society worked with CUA’s rector, Monsignor Thomas Shahan, to found the National Conference of Catholic Charities. That organization, now known as Catholic Charities USA, has become the nation’s largest Catholic charitable organization, each year helping more than 8.5 million people of all faiths.

A house damaged during a natural disaster
Among its many services, Catholic Charities provides emergency relief services such as rebuilding houses damaged during natural disasters.

Photo courtesy of University Archives.

Catholic Charities was based at CUA until 1921; the university became the official repository for the records of the organization, one of the five largest collections housed in CUA’s American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the organization’s founding, Catholic Charities and CUA are working on a few special projects. University Archives will create two websites. One, a “greatest hits” site, will summarize the history of Catholic Charities and feature 20 to 30 documents from the university’s collection that illuminate that history.

The second website will be a resource for Catholic school teachers about Catholic Charities’ role in drafting Social Security legislation in the 1930s and 1940s. The organization worked with congressmen on the Social Security Act of 1935 and subsequent amendments.

University Archives is also planning an on-campus exhibition (also to be posted online) of photos in CUA’s Catholic Charities collection to coincide with the Washington, D.C., celebration of the charity group’s Sept. 25–28 centennial — the same dates as the organization’s first meeting at CUA in 1910. The celebration, which is open to the public, will feature liturgy at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, speakers such as CUA alumnus and New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, and a visit to congressional offices.

Finally, CUA Education Archivist Maria Mazzenga is editing a memoir by Monsignor John O’Grady, a former Catholic University economics professor, whose charisma and drive, says Mazzenga, helped him become Catholic Charities’ executive secretary in 1920; he ran the organization for the next 41 years. He is also one of the founders and the first dean of CUA’s National Catholic School of Social Service. University Archives is working with Catholic Charities on the manuscript in hopes of publishing it as a book. — L.C.

What’s the Impact?

Catholic Charities USA provided the following services during 2008:

No. of people fed:

No. provided housing services:

No. clothed:

No. counseled or provided mental health services:

No. provided immigration services:

No. provided disaster services:

No. given utilities assistance:


Father O’Connell Urges Grads:
Stand By What Is Right

Father David O'Connell, Father Robert Schlageter, Sister Alice Zachmann, Ida Cammon Robinson and Archbishop Donald Wuerl
Father David O’Connell and Archbishop Donald Wuerl flank Commencement honorees Father Robert Schlageter, Sister Alice Zachmann and Ida Cammon Robinson.

Kara Fitzgerald and Jonathan Jerome
Kara Fitzgerald and Jonathan Jerome receive the President’s Medal.

In his May 15 Commencement address, Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M., wished the 121st graduating class of Catholic University “the wisdom to choose what is right and to stand by it when the prevailing culture says that’s not necessary or advantageous or comfortable or politically correct.”

His Commencement address began with a story of how President Abraham Lincoln once critiqued a church sermon: Lincoln said the pastor “never asked us to do something great.”

Father O’Connell, who stepped down as president of Catholic University this summer, made it clear to the 1,400 new graduates that he didn’t want to make the same mistake Lincoln’s pastor did.

“I want to ask you ‘to do something great,’ ” he told the graduates and their thousands of family members and friends assembled outside the east entrance of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

“It is for us … to achieve greatness by sacrifice: putting what we have and who we are at the service of others,” he continued. If the graduates will do that, he said, “you probably will not become famous — most of us do not — but you will become known for whom and what you are among those to whom you matter most and who matter most to you.

“The believer,” he said, “acknowledges that he or she is a child of God, created by God in his image and likeness. …That truth of faith plants the seed of greatness in our souls. How we nurture and water and grow that seed is up to us, my dear graduates; it is up to you.”

This was Father O’Connell’s final CUA Commencement as president. On June 4, Pope= Benedict XVI named him coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, N.J., a position he assumes in August.

The following awards and honors were bestowed at the Commencement:

  • Rev. Robert Schlageter, O.F.M. Conv., the university’s chaplain, received the President’s Medal, the university’s highest honor. He also stepped down from his CUA service this summer.

  • Ida Cammon Robinson received an honorary degree. In the 1940s and ’50s Robinson earned CUA bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing. One of only four women of color in her 1947 graduating class, she went on to serve as director of the School of Nursing at D.C.’s Freedmen’s Hospital and director of education and training at Children’s National Medical Center.

  • The CUA Alumni Association’s highest honor recognizing service to the Church, the country or the university, the James Cardinal Gibbons Medal, was awarded to Sister Alice Zachmann, S.S.N.D. In 1982 Sister Zachmann founded the Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA, which advocates for victims of repression in Guatemala.

  • Kara Fitzgerald, a social work major from Newtown, Conn., and Jonathan Jerome, a theology and religious studies major from Charlotte, N.C., received the President’s Award, the highest distinction given graduating seniors in recognition of service, leadership and outstanding scholarship.

On May 28, the Columbus School of Law conferred 300 degrees at its Commencement, which featured Paul R. Michel, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, as speaker. Judge Michel received an honorary degree that day.

7 Up: Alum Honorees Speak About CUA Experiences

Sandra Robinson, Michelle Sakayan, Nancy Nielsen, Father O’Connell, Meyer Chambers, James Phippard and Jerry Filteau
From left: Sandra Robinson, Michelle Sakayan, Nancy Nielsen, Father O’Connell, Meyer Chambers, James Phippard and Jerry Filteau.

James Phippard (B.A. 1954), who helped privatize state-owned banks in Poland and brought water systems to farming communities in Tunisia during his career as an administrator with the aid organizations USAID and ACDI/VOCA, says two important things happened to him at CUA.

The first thing: When he arrived as a freshman, he intended to study business. But there was no business major, so he switched to economics.

“To this day, I’m very grateful that I had to make that switch,” he said to CUA alumni, faculty, family and friends at the university’s annual alumni awards luncheon on April 17, 2010. “It’s been important in business and certainly in the areas of international development.”

The second thing that happened at CUA was his introduction to papal encyclicals on social justice — documents that he said came to life for him while working in international development.

Phippard and the following six CUA graduates received Alumni Achievement Awards at the luncheon held in CUA’s Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center:

  • Meyer Chambers (M.L.M. 1994), founder of the Archdiocese of Boston’s Black Catholic Choir and recipient of the archdiocese’s Augustine Healy Award for his service work

  • Jerry Filteau (B.A. 1966, S.T.B., 1970), a Catholic News Service reporter from 1970 to 2007 who currently writes for the National Catholic Reporter

  • Dr. Nancy Nielsen (M.S. 1967, Ph.D. 1970), immediate past president of the American Medical Association and senior associate dean for medical education at the University of Buffalo’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

  • Sandra Robinson (J.D. 1982), immediate past president of the Civil Justice Foundation, who was voted the 2001 Trial Lawyer of the Year by the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.

  • Michelle Sakayan (M.Arch. 1993), a civic-minded architect who helped design Oprah Winfrey’s school for girls in South Africa

  • Kathy Palomino (B.M. 2003), educator of learning-disabled students, founder of the Ford Center for Reading in Tampa, Fla., and winner of this year’s CUA Young Alumni Merit Award

In receiving her award, Robinson described the nurturing environment at CUA when she was a night student at the Columbus School of Law while holding down a full-time job and raising a child with her husband. “It was a time of camaraderie,” she recalled. “It was exciting to gather and develop friendships.

“It certainly has taken a village to get me to where I am today and I am glad the Columbus School of Law is part of that village,” she said.

Sakayan, who was introduced to architecture when she took a summer course at CUA as a high school student and who returned to CUA for a graduate degree, was asked in 2003 to work on the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. “It was the perfect opportunity to marry my experience and education in design with my focus on social responsibility,” she said at the CUA event.

Nielsen described the unrest in the city during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when she and her three children marched on campus with other CUA students and sang “We Shall Overcome.”

“I am very thankful for this award and I am incredibly grateful for the wonderful education and nurturing I got here on the campus,” said the former AMA president.

As a reporter covering the Catholic Church, including the clergy sex-abuse crisis, Filteau says that the relationship between truth and love became very important to him.

“Speaking the truth in love has to begin with speaking the truth. But it also has to begin with love,” said the journalist who was a philosophy and theology student at CUA. “Catholic University helped me develop an understanding of the search for truth and how to search for the truth with love.”

New York City TV news anchor Rosanna Scotto, B.F.A. 1980, served as the master of ceremonies. — L.C.

Church Architecture: Connecting Heaven and Earth

Design of Oakland's Cathedral of Christ the Light
Craig Hartman speaks about how his team designed Oakland’s Cathedral of Christ the Light, whose shape alludes to two fish swimming.

Duncan Stroik, Eric Anderson and Michael Patrick
Three members of the Partnership for Catholic Sacred Architecture: (from left) Duncan Stroik, associate professor at the University of Notre Dame; Eric Anderson of Patrick Anderson Partners in Architecture; and Michael Patrick, visiting lecturer in architecture and planning at CUA.

More than 125 people from diverse disciplines relating to architecture, art and the Church attended “A Living Presence: Extending and Transforming the Tradition of Catholic Sacred Architecture,” a symposium held April 30 and May 1 at Catholic University.

The symposium was presented by the Partnership for Catholic Sacred Architecture, a collaborative effort between the schools of architecture at The Catholic University of America and the University of Notre Dame.

On Friday night, Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia and CUA trustee, delivered the keynote address. In the lecture, he noted that “the Church has not admitted any [particular] style as her own.”

The cardinal commented on how sacred design is an “exalted mission” to glorify God. The artist’s work must develop along a path to “true beauty,” he said. “Beauty changes us. Everything related to the Eucharist should be truly beautiful.”

Speaking about innovative design versus imitation of tradition, Duncan Stroik, associate professor at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture and principal of Duncan G. Stroik Architect, LLC, said, “Architecture is not about producing copies, but about producing children. [Architects should] learn from the examples of the past.” Stroik discussed how principles of traditional church architecture — cruciform design, bell towers and domes, for example — can be included in innovative current designs.

Many speakers at the symposium talked of how churches offer a connection between earth and heaven.

“Great churches, beautiful churches, both large and small, can offer a glimpse of a world to come,” said Randall Ott, dean of CUA’s School of Architecture and Planning, in his welcoming remarks. “[Churches] are the windows which remind us that there is something — something beautiful — outside the town, the village, the city, the world in which we live.”

The symposium’s final lecture was delivered by Craig Hartman, design partner of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill of San Francisco. He spoke about how his team explored the concept of light as the symbol of Christ in the design of the Catheral of Christ the Light in Oakland, Calif. The shape of the cathedral itself draws from the idea of fluidity and transformation — mimicking the shape of two fish in water. Wood was chosen as the main building material to imitate the most elemental home of humankind — a primitive hut.

Weaving these themes together into the cathedral’s design, the architectural team created a light-filled “lantern” reflecting God’s presence, said Hartman.

Following their presentations, panelists participated with the audience in a vigorous discussion, agreeing and disagreeing on how best to extend and transform the tradition of Catholic sacred architecture.

“The symposium was held with the hope of finding a path acknowledging — and building upon — what is good in diverse approaches; unified by a love for God and a desire for service to the Church,” said Michael Patrick, chair of the partnership and visiting lecturer at CUA’s architecture and planning school. “Based on comments by participants, it succeeded as a first small step in this large and profound task.” — M.F.M.

Middle States Reaffirms Catholic University Accreditation

Father O’Connell and Antoine M. Garibaldi
Father O’Connell poses with Antoine M. Garibaldi, president of Gannon University and chair of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education team that evaluated Catholic University for its 10-year reaccreditation.

On June 25, 2010, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education reaffirmed accreditation for The Catholic University of America. The commission commended CUA for the quality of its self study process and the 171-page self study report prepared by the university steering committee as part of the reaccreditation process. The self-study report addresses how the university meets the Middle States Commission’s standards and documents the university’s progress in many areas, including undergraduate education; support for graduate students; new professional graduate programs; research funding from foundations, corporations and the government; and strategies to strengthen CUA’s financial base.

The reaccreditation process started more than two years ago and involved task forces comprising 145 CUA community members. In April a Middle States team spent four days on CUA’s campus, the final event in the reaccreditation process. James F. Brennan, university provost, noted, “The investment of time and energy for both the self-study and the actual planning of the visit served the university well.”

The Middle States Commission evaluates all universities in D.C., New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware every 10 years before deciding whether to reaccredit them.

School of Nursing Marks 75th Anniversary

Seventy-five years after becoming a professional school at Catholic University, the School of Nursing will celebrate its students, faculty and alumni with a series of anniversary events.

On Nov. 15, 2010, the school and the Washington Regional Nursing Research Consortium will co-sponsor a Regional Doctoral Student Research Conference. In 2011, the school will host an anniversary gala on March 19 and, on April 13, the annual Instilling Hope Conference, a psychiatric-mental health nursing conference for nurses, nursing students and consumers of mental health services. CUA alumni are welcome to attend all events.

CUA began offering nursing education courses in 1932. In 1935, the nursing education program and the Division of Public Health Nursing were organized to form a school of nursing. Advanced degree programs were introduced in the 1950s and 1960s. The school, which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, District of Columbia Board of Nursing and Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, has more than 8,000 alumni.


Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M. Conv.

Rev. Jude DeAngelo, O.F.M. Conv., has become CUA’s university chaplain and director of Campus Ministry, succeeding Rev. Robert Schlageter, O.F.M. Conv., who stepped down after 12 years in the position. Franciscan Father DeAngelo was previously the Catholic campus minister at Wake Forest University in Winston Salem, N.C.

Photo: © WFU/Ken Bennett

Stephen J. Connaghan
Stephen J. Connaghan has been promoted to the position of director of CUA’s libraries as of May 17. A Catholic University alumnus (B.A. 1991, M.S.L.S. 1994), he began working professionally there in 1993, and became acting director of CUA’s libraries on Jan. 1, 2010.
Michael Mack
Michael Mack has been promoted from director of the University Honors Program to dean of undergraduate studies. He is also an associate professor of English.
Patricia McMullen
Patricia McMullen, Ph.D. 2002, has become dean of the School of Nursing, promoted from her previous roles as CUA’s associate provost for academic administration and associate professor of nursing. She succeeds Nalini Jairath, who joins CUA’s full-time faculty.
Sarah Phelps
Sarah M. Phelps was promoted from interim general counsel to general counsel of the university. She succeeds Craig Parker. Phelps came to CUA in 2008 as associate general counsel, having previously held that position at George Washington University.
Peter Shoemaker
Peter W. Shoemaker, associate professor of modern languages and literatures, has been named director of the University Honors Program.
Grayson Wagstaff
Professor of Music Grayson Wagstaff has been named dean of CUA’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music, effective summer 2010. He is an authority on the history of Catholic liturgical music in Spain and Latin America. He succeeds Murry Sidlin, who will continue at CUA as a professor of music.


CUA Magazine’s Summer 2008 cover article, “A Visit for the Ages: The CUA Community Welcomes the Successor to St. Peter,” received a Silver Award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in the category of best article. CUA Magazine also won five third-place awards from the Catholic Press Association in the following categories: general magazine excellence, best feature article (Fall 2009’s “Priesthood: A Rich Life in a Secularized World”), best cover (Spring 2009’s “The Green Issue”), best magazine website (, and best coverage of the Year for Priests.