Lest we forget: Early publications of the Catholic Laymen's Association of Georgia defended the Church during critical times

Originally Appeared in : 9820-9/27/18

Founded virtually as the result of a challenge by Bishop Benjamin J. Keiley who met with a group of its leaders in 1916, the Catholic Laymen’s Association of Georgia was fortunate from its beginning in having energetic, young leaders, such as Richard Reid of Augusta. A native of Massachusetts, Reid would likely not have made it south if it hadn’t been for the businesses his father was involved with in Augusta. By 1920, Reid was pursuing the first of several law degrees he would eventually earn. Even then — when the first issue of the Bulletin of the Catholic Laymen’s Association appeared — many questions about the church were going unanswered. 


Because such questions were multiplying faster than they could be answered personally, the Bulletin, under Reid’s leadership, was willing to take them on. One means of doing this was to publish both questions and the answers to them in the Catholic Diocese of Georgia’s newborn newspaper. Favoring the church or not, such questions soon filled the mailboxes of the new publication. Complicated or not, the queries were answered intelligently and patiently.


Consequently, a sampling of such questions soon appeared in bold type in an early April 1920 Bulletin issue under the enticing caption “Information Free.” To give interested parties some idea of what they could expect when they considered the then, very-minority Catholic faith, Reid and other members of the Bulletin’s staff offered to supply answers to their questions in pamphlets with titles such as: “Catholics in Georgia,” “Catholics in American History,” “Catholics and the Bible,” “Catholic Beliefs,” and “Catholics and Marriage.”


In case readers doubted they would receive real answers to their questions, the editorial staff of the Bulletin promised: “Booklets giving information about Catholics and their attitudes to questions of the day will be sent “gratis, upon request.” All the inquiring reader had to do was to forward questions to the Catholic Laymen’s Association of Georgia, 107 9th Street, Augusta, GA.


Verifying the effect this free information had on those who read the Bulletin, letters thanking the Laymen’s efforts were promptly printed in follow-up issues of the paper. A reader from Tennille, Georgia wrote (as quoted in a July issue of the Bulletin): “Please accept my thanks for the booklets or leaflets sent me which I received O.K. I enjoyed reading them, every one, very much and feel much better for getting the information which I think many others ought to have. I am now 70 years old and have been in total ignorance as to what the Catholic Church stood for.”


Another correspondent, this time, from Augusta, wrote in a letter to the Bulletin editor that he had too many good friends “of the Catholic persuasion” for him to believe “all the rumors that are put afloat for certain effect and at certain times.”


From further away — Brooklyn, New York – another correspondent wrote that she had been receiving literature from the Catholic Laymen’s Association of Georgia for several months and wanted to let the CLA know that she admired and appreciated their “splendid work.” The writer, Henrietta A. Fox, observed that the facts in the pamphlets offered to interested readers like her, “were stated in such a clear and convincing manner that they could not fail to correct many of the misstatements that have been circulated about the Catholic Faith.”
Doing just that, revealing how false and inaccurate the statements deplored by Fox were, was just what those who wrote and published the early issues of the Bulletin strove to do. Lest we forget…we are indebted to them.


Columnist Rita H. Delorme is a volunteer in the Diocesan Archives.

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