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Call To Action records

Identifier: MSS0076

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the history and activities of Call To Action (CTA), an organization of Catholics established in 1978 in response to the 1976 U.S. Bishops Call To Action Conference in Detroit, Michigan. The records include publications created or collected by the organization and ready reference files documenting issues such as peace and justice, celibacy for priests, birth control, ordination for women, clergy sex abuse, and the nuclear disarmament movement. It also contains files about Call To Action’s Annual Conference, their Performing Arts Ministry, and the 1990 Call to Reform pastoral letter. Correspondence with regional chapters in the United States and individuals and groups in countries around the world document the extensive work of Call To Action staff to communicate issues and invite speakers to present at the Annual Conference.


  • 1947-2017
  • Majority of material found within 1980-2009


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Biographical / Historical

Call To Action (CTA), established in 1978, is a group of Catholics organized in response to the Second Vatican Council's challenge for all Roman Catholics to scrutinize the signs of the times and respond in the light of the gospel. In the early 1970s over 800,000 Catholics testified at hearings called by the U.S. Bishops, which culminated in the U.S. Bishops' Call To Action Conference in Detroit in 1976. After three days of debate the assembly declared that the Roman Catholic Church must stand up to the chronic racism, sexism, militarism and poverty in modern society. In order to do so in a credible way, it must also reevaluate its positions on issues like celibacy for priests, the male-only clergy, homosexuality, and birth control. The Detroit conference recommended that each diocese take the recommendations home and act upon them. In Chicago, several organizations of nuns, priests, Catholic school teachers, and concerned laity urged an ongoing follow-up to the Detroit initiative. A conference of over 400 people was held in October 1978, and Chicago Call To Action was launched as a local organization. The first projects in 1978 and 1979 were local: criticizing Cardinal Cody's lack of financial accountability, lobbying for more effective parish councils, and improved benefits for Catholic school teachers. CTA in the early 1980s focused largely on societal issues: the nuclear disarmament movement and the campaign against U.S. policy in Latin America. In the middle and late 1980s, Call To Action's Performing Arts Ministry sponsored a group of young, talented members in creating musical productions based on the U.S. bishops' pastoral letters regarding peace and economic justice. In 1990, the CTA board developed a Call for Reform in the Catholic Church, a pastoral letter capsulizing the organization's cry for a church that is responsive to the world's needs and calling on the church to examine its own record on issues of justice, equality, and participation. The statement was printed as a full-page ad in the New York Times on Ash Wednesday in March 1990, along with the names of 4,500 signers and an invitation for more signatures. Within a few months, the document had 25,000 signers, and CTA had become a national entity. The Call for Reform remains the organization's basic platform.


56 Linear Feet (73 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Call to Action records are arranged into fifteen series: 1. Publications; 2. Early Issues; 3. Catholics for Peace; 4. Board of Directors; 5. Sheila Daley’s Files; 6. Subject Files; 7. Performing Arts Ministry; 8. 1990 Call to Reform; 9. Conferences; 10. Regions; 11. Bob Heineman’s Files; 12. International - Don Wedd’s Files; 13. Photographs; 14. Media; 15. Memorabilia. The arrangement scheme for the collection was imposed during processing in the absence of a usable original order.

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession 2011.26

Processing Information

H. Fedchak and J. Lohndorf 2013; revised by P. Chavez 2018

Guide to Call To Action records
H. Fedchak and J. Lohndorf 2013; revised by P. Chavez 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the DePaul Special Collections and Archives Repository

John T. Richardson Library
2350 N. Kenmore Ave.
Room 314
Chicago Illinois 60614