Pope Pius XI Call to Nursing Organization Foundational Meeting 1933 & 1935

Expanded History Past Presidents & Brief History

In the early 1930’s, a few existing groups of Catholic nurses from the USA, along with nursing groups from elsewhere in the world, assembled in Lourdes, France, and founded the International Catholic Committee for Nurses and Medico-Social Assistants* (CICIAMS). This private, international group promotes Christian and professional values in nursing care. It is recognized by the Ecclesiastical Authority, and has a close working relationship with the Holy See, along with all national and international Catholic organizations around the world.

U.S. delegation to the XIX CICIAMS Congress in Ireland, 2014: Dr. Marie Hilliard, Kathy Kirkpatrick, Alma Abuelouf, Marylee Meehan & Lorette Tierman

Following the development of CICIAMS, the National Council of Catholic Nurses of the United States was formed, along with several local-level councils/chapters in various states. The organization was very active early on, but later in 1970, it was disbanded. Yet, several local/regional councils remained active, and some of their members continued to participate in the meetings held internationally by CICIAMS.

After more than 20 years, a resurgence of interest in having a new national association arose.

Between 1993 and 1994, the National Catholic Nurses Association-USA (NACN-USA) was newly formed under the auspices of the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois, with the permission and spiritual advisement of the bishop at that time, Bishop Joseph L. Imesch. In October, 1994, the Association became a full voting member of CICIAMS, thus all NACN-USA members are also part of CICIAMS through the Association. Two years later, in October 1996, NACN-USA was approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for inclusion in the “Official Catholic Directory” under the Joliet Diocese. NACN-USA is registered as a non-profit 501c3 organization. Several local/regional councils remain as independent affiliates of NACN-USA and others are in formation.

History Timeline

1909 Guild of St. Radegone for Nurses (for students & graduates of recognized schools of nursing in Boston.

1924 International Catholic Guild of Nurses (ICGN) founded in June 1924 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Spiritual Director, Fr. Edward J. Garesche, S.J.

1933 1st International Committee of Catholic Nurses (now CICIAMS) met in Lourdes, France

1933 In the United States, a new constitution & bylaws of a “national character” were adopted by ICGN & the name changed to the “National Federation of Catholic Nurses.”

1935 2nd International Congress of Catholic Nurses (now CICIAMS) held in Rome
Pope Pius XI address, “After describing the important work of the Nurse, her lofty vocation and the preparation so necessary for the successful execution of her mission to the sick, His Holiness Pope Pius XI told the assembly that it was the duty of every Catholic nurse to belong to Catholic associations of nurses and to promote them in every way possible (excerpt from G. Cardinal Pizzardo’s 1937 letter to bishops).

1937 Excerpt from the Address of Pope Pius XI to the 3rd International Congress of Catholic Nurses:
“…The exercise of the profession of nurse is surely one of those which offer the greatest possibility for the apostolate, but we must not forget that the nurse, in the exercise of her profession, has to employ all sorts of technical means, and lives in a materialistic atmosphere, exposed to the danger of a limited interior piety only, dissociated from the profession and exterior practices enjoined by the Church. Furthermore, modern theories seek to penetrate the minds of Catholic nurses and to make them become unconsciously strong agents for the propagation of eugenics and neo-malthusianism. It is necessary, then, to protect them by means of Catholic Action, which has for one of its duties to sustain and fortify them in their professional and Christian formation.”
(Reference p25 Conference Report – Excerpt from Pope Pius XI address).

1937 3rd International Congress of Catholic Nurses (now CICIAMS) held in London.

1938 G. Cardinal Pizzardo shared the report from the 3rd International Congress of Catholic Nurses (now CICIAMS) and wrote each bishop expressing His Holiness Pope Pius XI’s desire “that ways and means be found to emphasize the necessity of bringing all Catholic nurses within the influence of Catholic Association of Nurses” and requested “In accordance with this wish of the Holy Father, It is most desirable, Your Excellency, that the Catholic nurses of the United States be gathered into one national association under the direction of the respective Ordinaries of the Hierarchy.” …”In keeping with the wish manifested in the words of His Holiness, that the Archbishops and Bishops should organize local associations of Catholic nurses according to the needs of their respective diocese, which in due time, under the guidance of the Hierarchy, might be united to create a National Federation of Catholic Nurses.”

*”Medico-Social Assistants” was the title for the Advanced Practice Nursing (APN) role in Europe.