In this new book by James Hagarty will be found a very well written account of the first 100 years of The Catenian Association. The Association is an organisation of Catholic laymen with over 10,000 members in Europe, Africa and Australia.

The Catenians were founded in Manchester in 1908 as the Chums Benevolent Association under the leadership of stockbroker John O’Donnell. Their aims were to enable Catholic men engaged in business and the professions to meet socially, foster each other’s occupational interests and provide financial and prayerful support for members who were in distress. They also committed themselves to supporting the Catholic Church and serving the communities in which they lived.

The Chums met in ‘Circles’ and had their own ritual and regalia. They were similar to other male societies formed before the First World War but their exclusivity led to them being compared with the Freemasons, an organisation from which contemporary Catholics were barred. The exclusion of priests from the Association also gave rise to suspicion but bishops were happy to see the development of a Catholic middle class in their overwhelmingly poor dioceses. Bishop Louis Charles Casartelli of Salford gave his full support to the Chums and encouraged other bishops to do the same.

In 1910 the Chums Benevolent Association became the Catenian Association, a name derived from the Italian word for chain, symbolising men linked together by faith, friendship and mutual support. Starting with one Circle of 14 men in Manchester in 1908, the Association had grown to 27 Circles with over 1,500 men by 1914. Now there are over 300 Circles from Manchester to Sydney, Harare to Dublin, and Valletta to Glasgow. The chain has many links.

This beautifully produced and well illustrated hardback book, with a ‘Foreword’ by Bishop Terence Brain of Salford Diocese, traces the history of the Catenian Association from its origins in the Catholic heartland of Lancashire to the present day. It shows how the original mission of the founders has been maintained and how generations of Catenians and their families have not only helped each other but have generously contributed to the development of their Church and the advancement of civic life in many parts of the world.

The Catenian Association: A Centenary History 1908-2008 by James Hagerty is available from John Neale Publishing, The Mulberry House, Court Hill, Rous Lench, Evesham WR11 4UJ. Price £15.00.

For further details on the Catenians see www.thecatenians.com

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