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The Christian Family Movement is a concrete expression of the family as “domestic church” in which members live their faith actively. CFM continues to reach out in action to inspire families to follow Christ and live their faith joyfully and generously.

CFM is listed in the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Directory of Lay Movements, Organizations, and Professional Associations, and we maintain a cordial and productive relationship with the staff of the Secretariat of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. CFM National Presidents served as advisors to the Bishop’s Committee on Marriage and Family from 2002-2005.

CFM leaders were invited by the Pontifical Council for the Family to present models of effective action for evangelization in 2009, in Rome (click here for Press Release) Of the programs considered, The Grand Adventure: A New Call to Grandparenting, by Deacon Gary and Kay Aitchison, past presidents of CFM, was honored in 2010. The Grand Adventure is available to CFM members as a digital program. 

ICCFM_logo_2.jpgMany expressions of CFM are active in many countries worldwide, all of which cooperate as the International Confederation of Christian Family Movements, ICCFM. In the United States, CFM has several movements besides CFM-USA. There are two Spanish-speaking movements in the USA: MFC – Movimiento Familiar Cristiano Catolico-USA, which has more than 7,000 member families; MFC-Los Angeles with members in more than 20 parishes. Like CFM-USA, the MFC movements use the Observe, Judge, Act Method. See current international CFM news at www.iccfm.org


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The National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers presented CFM with its special-recognition award in 1993 for enhancing the quality of life for families. Three years later, CFM was one of the founding members of the Families against Violence Advocacy Network. In 1999, CFM received FAVAN’s Circles of Peace Award.

In that same year, CFM celebrated 50 years of forming families through action with a gala jubilee celebration at the University of Notre Dame, and the Hillenbrand Institute awarded CFM its prestigious Salt and Light Award. Today CFM continues to promote awareness about domestic violence as a member of Catholics for Family Peace.

In 1979 and 1980, CFMers became involved in the White House Conference on Families, presenting eight position papers. The Movement, along with ICCFM, provided input to Pope John Paul II's 1980 Synod on the Family. In 1975, CFM wrote and piloted a family-oriented drug awareness program published by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The next year, they helped formulate the U.S. Bishops' Call to Action document on "Family."

In 1966, the International Confederation of Christian Family Movements, ICCFM, was founded to coordinate CFM in some 50 nations. Two years later, in 1968, CFMers hosted Spanish CFMers who brought the Marriage Encounter to the United States. The idea for La Leche League emerged at a 1956 Christian Family Movement picnic. All but one of the founders of the League were members of the Movement.

For an index of the documents in the archives concerning CFM and the persons who were important in starting the movement, click on this link: Notre Dame Archives CFM Papers.


The Jocist Movement and CFM Cardijn_color.jpg

The first chaplains of CFM in Chicago, Fr. Louis Putz and Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand, taught Pat and Patty Crowley and the other founding couples a method of faith formation that they learned from the dynamic Belgian priest, Canon Joseph Cardijn, later Cardinal Cardijn, founder of the Young Christian Worker Movement. Cardinal Cardijn employed this method, often called the Jocist Method, for his work with workers, forming them to become lay leaders.

Cardinal Cardijn said, "For me, laymen are not formed ... through books, purely theoretical teaching or spoken lectures however magnificent, or even through discussions.... Laymen are formed first of all by the discovery of facts, followed by a Christian judgment, resulting in the actions they plan, the plans they carry into effect, and the responsibilities they shoulder." 

How CFM Continues the Mission of Cardinal Joseph Cardijn through Observe, Judge, Act. Paper presented at the Cardijn Conference, July 5, 2018, at Mt. St. Joseph University, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Hillenbrand Award for Chaplains

In honor of Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand, CFM established an award to recognize exemplary leadership and dedication of priest chaplains of their local CFM groups:

  • Msgr. Michael Lenihan - St. Lawrence Martyr Parish, Redondo Beach, CA
  • Fr. Sam Palmer - Des Moines, IA
  • Rev. Thomas Rzepiela - St. Thomas of Villanova, Palatine, IL
  • Rev. Donald Conroy - St. Bernard Parish, Indiana, PA
  • Bishop George Rassas - Archdiocese of Chicago


The First CFMers

From its beginnings, CFM has been a grassroots movement with action for justice always at its heart. In the United States, CFM groups have adapted to the times but bear a strong resemblance to those that launched the Movement in the 1940's. CFM quickly spread across the country in the 1950's and went on to generate new ideas and new organizations in the 1960's. 

Two CFM groups emerged, almost simultaneously, in the early 1940's -- one in South Bend, Indiana, one in Chicago, Illinois.

Burnie Bauer was a member of the first Catholic Action group started by Father Louis Putz, C.S.C., at the University of Notre Dame. After leaving Notre Dame in 1940 and marrying, he formed a Young Christian Students group. Subsequently, Burnie and his wife Helene expanded this group to include couples. They applied the Jocist method of Observe, Judge, and Act to the common problems of young married couples trying to live Christian lives.

In February 1942, a group of seven men began meeting in a Chicago law office, arguing and theorizing about the role of the layman in the church. Pat Crowley was one of these. They, too, used the Jocist method and in time moved into issues of husband-wife relationships. In 1943, they sponsored a day of recollection for husbands and wives. This action was the beginning of the Cana Conference. At about the same time, the wives formed their own group, and one of their actions spawned the Pre-Cana Conference.

When Helene and Burnie Bauer met Pat and Patty Crowley at the Cana Convention in August 1948, the nucleus of the Christian Family Movement was formed.

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Spreading the Word 

In June of 1949, 59 delegates, representing the Movement in 11 different cities, met for the first national seminar. By this time, CFM had its own publication, ACT, contact with similar groups in other cities, and official church recognition. Pat and Patty Crowley were elected Executive Secretary Couple and served as leaders of CFM for nearly 20 years. Within a year, more than 2,500 copies of the first CFM program, For Happier Families, were distributed. CFM had become a nation-wide movement.


CFM National Presidents

Pat and Patty Crowley 1949-1968
Ray and Dorothy Maldoon 1968-1977
Bob and Irene Tomonto 1977-1981
Gary and Kay Aitchison 1981-1985
Wayne and Sue Hamilton 1985-1989
Peter and Carolyn Broeren 1989-1993
Paul and Jane Leingang 1993-1997
Chuck and Jan Rogers 1997-2001
Peter and Jane Buchbauer 2001-2005
John and Lauri Przybysz 2005-2009
Bob and Anne Tomonto 2009-2013
Tom and Mary Kay Halpin 2013-2015
John and Mary Poprac 2015-2019
Brian and Mary Ann Thelen 2019-2023
Sam and Juliette Tirone 2023-present

Board Meetings 

The National Board of CFM-USA gathers bi-annually to plan for new programming and membership-supporting activities.
The Board Member job description is here.


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