A View of the Past – Great Britain & USA Guilds

Submitted by Diana Ruzicka, MSN, MA, MA, PHN, RN, Immediate Past President

Have you registered for the CICIAMS XXI World Congress, August 2-4 at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pennsylvania outside Philadelphia? It is not too late. It is a once in a lifetime event for the World Congress to be hosted in the USA since it rotates to each of the four world regions every four years. Currently attending are nurses from Kenya, Nigeria, Eswatini, Ireland, United Kingdom, South Korea, Poland, Canada, Mexico, Ireland, Netherland, Pakistan, Singapore, Italy, Japan, & USA. At last count nurses from Zambia and Malaysia were working to raise funds, our Pan American President, a NACN-USA member, was actively outreaching to Central and South American countries and we were awaiting word on a grant. Register at World Congress Info

While planning for the XXI World Congress, amongst our CICIAMS historical files were a couple articles that appeared in The Catholic Nurse issue dated March, 1953 that demonstrated collaboration and communication between countries. [By the Catholic Nurses’ Guild of England and Wales.]. Enjoy a view from the past:



The second issue of the official journal of the National Council of Catholic Nurses of the USA  shows very clearly how our two National Guilds are working on the same lines in their effort to increase membership and strengthen themselves by concerted action and interest. The two guilds both became national about the same time and doubtless for the same reason, namely in response to the appeal of the Holy Father in 1935 for the formation of Catholic Action groups among nurses. Our own Guild became national in 1936 when it received the approval of the Hierarchy. America following 1940*** after His Holiness had again enunciated his wish by requesting the bishops of the United States to organize Diocesan Councils (or Committees) and eventually to unite these Diocesan Councils into a National Council of Catholic Nurse. The objectives of the American Guild are the same as our own, but the conditions of membership are slightly different, because student nurses and those who are not registered are given associate membership.

In American in 1942 there were 3,387 members in only 21 diocese but for ten years great efforts were made to increase membership and spread the Guild throughout the country with the very successful result, that in 1952, there were 14,250 members in 71 diocese. The current (December, 1952) issue of the American magazine announces the formation of seven new diocesan committees and asks the following question which could just as easily be asked in this journal for our own nurses:

“How did you as a Diocesan Council like the suggestion of regional meeting?

Are you planning with your neighbours for a meeting in 1953?”

A recruiting campaign for membership of our own Guild is even now in the course of preparation and some target has to be fixed for an effort of this kind. As we now have about 3,000 members, and as there are at least 14,000 Catholic nurses in the country, let us set ourselves the challenge to beat our American friends by raising our number by that missing 11,000 in less than the ten years it took them to do it.

And by way of postscript, if there is any Catholic nurse who reads these words and still does not appreciate the need of a National Guild let us hope that a copy of this excellent American publication will fall into her hands so that she can read for herself on page 29-30 the clear and convincing answer to the question

“Why is a National Guild of Catholic nurses necessary?”

***Note that the National Association of Catholic Nurses, USA traces our origin to 1909 with the formation of the 1st Catholic Nurses Guild, the Guild of St. Radegonde in Boston, Massachusetts. Following which in 1924, an International Catholic Guild of Nurses (ICGN) was founded in Milwaukee under the Spiritual Direction of Fr. Edward Garesche, S.J. This took on a national focus following the 1st International Committee of Catholic Nurses (now CICIAMS) meeting in Lourdes, France in 1933 and later became known as NCCN. We were saddened by the passing to Joan Doherty, RN (1935-2018) who was an active member of the Guild of St. Radegonde. She devoted her life to Catholic nursing and traveled the world with Marylee Meehan, MA, RN attending national and international Catholic nursing gatherings.

The eldest councils currently in existence are those in Youngstown, Ohio (1945); Albany, New York (1946) and Chicago, Illinois (1954). Great leadership and perseverance!