Christian Family Movement

Christian Family Movement

The Christian Family Movement (also known as CFM) is a national movement of parish (neighborhood) small groups of families that meet in one another’s homes to reinforce Christian values and actively encourage other fellow Christian parents through active involvement with others. CFM groups contain five to seven families and the adults meet two nights each month in each others houses.

At meetings the members of CFM use many different programs provided by CFM USA Offices. Parents talk about what they have seen in their family or neighborhood and discuss these opinions on what they have seen through the life and teachings of Jesus. After these discussions they make plans on how they can act out the changes they talked about that will positively affect families in their community. The method used by CFM members is called the Observe/Judge/Act technique. Members say this method helps in such areas as “foster-parenting, prison ministry, refugee sponsorship, religious education and couple counseling”.[1]

Joseph Cardijn, the founder of the Young Christian Workers Movement in Belgium, was the first person to bring about the observe/judge/act technique (also known as the Jocist Method).[2]



The first CFM groups began in the early 1940s in South Bend, Indiana and Chicago, Illinois. Burnie Bauer and his wife Helene formed a Young Christian Students group in 1940. They began to include couples into their group where they used the Jocist Method (observe/judge/act) to help young married couples with their problems trying to focus on having a Christ-centered marriage. Pat Crowley and six other men began to meet in a law office in Chicago in February 1942 to discuss the laymen’s role in the church community. Using the Jocist Method they began to focus their discussions on the relationship of husband and wife in relation to the church. The group hosted a day of husband and wife recollection in 1943 that marks the start of the Cana Conference. The wives of these men began to form a group that birthed the Pre-Cana Conference (the Catholic Church’s conference for engaged couples). The Christian Family Movement was born when Burnie and Helene Bauer and Pat and Patty Crowley met each other at the Cana Conference in August 1948.

The Christian Family Movement had its first national seminar in June 1949 where it was represented by 59 delegates from 11 different cities. Pat and Patty Crowley were first elected to be the Executive Secretary Couple where they led the movement for the next 20 years. CFM had become a nation-wide movement. This was shown through its first publication (ACT), its official recognition by the church, and the way that CFM groups from other cities were able to communicate with each other. The first CFM program was called For Happier Families and was dispersed to over 2,500 groups within the span of a year.

The CFM moved through the country at a fast pace in the 1950s. In the 1960s CFM even caused the formation of such new organizations as the Foundation for International Cooperation (FIC) and the Christian Family Mission Vacation. The next big move of CFM was the formation of the International Confederation of Christian Family Movements (ICCFM) in 1966 which placed CFM in over 50 nations.

CFM members in 1975 wrote and tested a family centered drug awareness campaign that was published by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. They also worked together on the U.S. Bishop’s Call the Action manuscript about the “Family”. Members became joined in with the White House Conference on Families and were able to present eight position papers in 1979 and 1980. CFM and ICCFM contributed to Pope John Paul II’s council on issues dealing with the family. Due to the fact that the U.S. Catholic Bishops named the 1980s the Decade of the Family, CFM began to publish programs for the needs of families including publications for teens, widows, family crisis, and divorce/separation within the family. CFM added its input with the U.S. Bishops in their preparing for the council in Rome on the Vocation and Mission of the Laity in the Church and in the World in 1987.

In 1993, it again supplied the U.S. Bishops’ pastoral Follow the Way of Love. It was also given special recognition by the National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers (NACFLM) for its work with families. In 1994 CFM began to put out a column called “Taking the Time to Make a Difference”. Families Against Violence Advocacy Network (FAVAN) was formed in 1996 through the help of CFM. In 1999 CFM celebrated its 50 year anniversary and was awarded the Salt and Light Award by the Hillenbrand Institute.[3]


The first national presidents were Pat and Patty Crowley from 1949 to 1968. Other presidents have been 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), and Peter and Jane Buchbauer (2001–2005). From 2005 to present John and Lauri Przybysz have been the national presidents.[4]

Mission statement

The Mission Statement of CFM is taken directly from its website and was adopted by its Board of Directors on March 10, 2002. “The mission of the Christian Family Movement is to promote Christ-centered marriage and family life; to help individuals and their families to live the Christian faith in everyday life; and to improve society through actions of love, service, education and example”. CFM also uses the Bible verse James 1:22 (Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers) to help portray its mission to its fellow Christians.[5]

Anthony M. Pilla, Bishop of Cleveland, explained the mission of CFM best when he addressed the Christian Family Movement on August 5, 1995.

"The Church speaks clearly of the duties of family members to one another that build a radiant faith. . . . But the Church doesn't stop there; it also speaks of the relationship between families and the larger culture, the duty of service, working for the common good, welcoming strangers, and giving voice to the Christian conscience. That is the message; you are the messenger". - Anthony M. Pilla


The Christian Family Movement website has 6 recorded goals for their members to strive to accomplish. The first goal is to develop a consciousness (both a family and a social consciousness) based on Christian principles and examples. The second goal is to develop responsible, concerned and happy families that are part of a supportive and affirming network of families within every community who will individually and collectively reach out to others in need. The third goal is to offer opportunities for families to grow in their personal relationships with one another as well as with their friends, neighbors and co-workers. The fourth goal is to develop a caring society that not only recognizes, but actively supports family life. The fifth goal is to initiate and encourage research that impacts on the actual needs of families. The sixth goal is to continue to foster the international spirit of the Christian Family Movement.[6]

The Symbol

The movement has a symbol that is made up of four different parts. They are the ancient signs for man, woman, and child joined together with the Christian symbol for Christ. The symbol is supposed to form a single unit that shows the most basic characteristics of the Christian Family.

Christ – covering the top of the whole symbol is the symbol for Christ; this is the "Chi Rho", which is said to hold the family together and supposed to be the center of family life. Man – shown lifting his arms to God, it represents a strong tower, being the total embodiment of the head of the family. Woman – shown reaching toward the earth, which enhances her similarity to the earth in her ability to give birth. Child - the circle is a sign of life that shows the closeness of the power of man and woman to God's power of creation.[7]

Conflict with the Family Life Bureau

While the CFM and the Family Life Bureau (FLB) might have had many of the same goals and been part of the same apostolate, the FLB ran a very intense campaign against CFM arguing that the American Bishops had not given it official approval. The FLB also argued that "CFM had usurped one of the natural duties of the Family Life Bureau by ignoring the authority of the NCWC, the official voice of the American Bishops".[8] The conflict between the CFM and the FLB was in most cases due to the overall new approach CFM was taking in allowing the laymen of the congregation take control instead of the clergymen of the Catholic Church. According to Kathryn Johnson in her article Stealing Movements: Conflict between CFM and the Family Life Bureau, "CFM lay (those not of the clergy) leaders saw their group as a strike against older ideas about hierarchical control". CFM allowed everyday lay Catholics to feel that they had a say in what went on in their church and local communities. Johnson also attributed "the real change in the relationship between the laity and the clergy" to the Christian Family Movement's ideas about authority. It also pushed local clergy to think about the relationship they had with their congregation.[9]

Because of the conflicts between CFM and FLB over the creation of the family life apostolate the American Catholic Church was changed. Johnson also states that "CFM and other groups taught lay Catholics that they had a powerful voice within the Church".[10] Other groups like CFM, the Young Christian Workers, the Grail Movement, and the Sister Formation Conference forced lay Catholics to reevaluate how they interacted with the Church, mostly in how they dealt with authority of the clergymen.

"The grassroots of CFM--the emphasis on small groups of committed Catholics working to change society--helped to construct an American Catholic identity for suburban, middle-class Catholics that depended in large measure on their own decision-making abilities". -Kathryn Johnson, from An Effort was Made to Get Good Will: Changing Views on CFM[11]

The Fading Movement

Recently the CFM has been fading away throughout the world. According to an article in the National Catholic Reporter by Tim Unsworth there are many reasons this is happening. Some of the reasons attributed to the fading CFM were the banning of birth control, the integration of the upper class neighborhoods, the increased amount of women in the working world, the increase in car travel changing parish boundaries, and the increased use of Catholic schools causing parents to be unable to see the need for having parental conversations with other adults outside of their spouse.[12] The decline of the CFM can be measured throughout the years by the declining number of families involved. Robert McClory explained in his book review of Disturbing the Peace: A History of the Christian Family Movement that "after 1964 the movement shrank: from a high of 50,000 couples in the United States and Canada to 32,000 in 1967, to 16,000 in 1968, to 4,313 in 1974, to an all time low of 1,100 couples in 1980". [13]


  1. ^ Pozdol, Andy. Christian Family Movement. 24 NOV 2008. Christian Family Movement. 24 Nov 2008 <>.
  2. ^ Pozdol, Andy. Christian Family Movement. 24 NOV 2008. Christian Family Movement. 24 Nov 2008 <>.
  3. ^ Pozdol, Andy. Christian Family Movement. 24 NOV 2008. Christian Family Movement. 24 Nov 2008 <>.
  4. ^ Pozdol, Andy. Christian Family Movement. 24 NOV 2008. Christian Family Movement. 24 Nov 2008 <>.
  5. ^ Pozdol, Andy. Christian Family Movement. 24 NOV 2008. Christian Family Movement. 24 Nov 2008 <>.
  6. ^ Pozdol, Andy. Christian Family Movement. 24 NOV 2008. Christian Family Movement. 24 Nov 2008 <>.
  7. ^ Pozdol, Andy. Christian Family Movement. 24 NOV 2008. Christian Family Movement. 24 Nov 2008 <>.
  8. ^ Johnson, Kathryn. "' Stealing ' Movements: Conflict between CFM and the Family Life Bureau". Catholic Historical Review Vol 86. Issue 2.Apr 2000 229. 10 Nov 2008 <>.
  9. ^ Johnson, Kathryn. "' Stealing ' Movements: Conflict between CFM and the Family Life Bureau". Catholic Historical Review Vol 86. Issue 2.Apr 2000 229. 10 Nov 2008 <>.
  10. ^ Johnson, Kathryn. "' An Effort was Made to Get Good Will ' : Changing Views on CFM". Catholic Historical Review Vol 86. Issue 2.Apr 2000 237. 10 Nov 2008 <>.
  11. ^ Johnson, Kathryn. "' An Effort was Made to Get Good Will ' : Changing Views on CFM". Catholic Historical Review Vol 86. Issue 2.Apr 2000 237. 10 Nov 2008 <>.
  12. ^ Unsworth, Tim. "Millennium reunion of faded movement". National Catholic Reporter 37.3 (Nov 3, 2000): 18. Academic OneFile. Gale. UNC Chapel Hill. 10 Nov. 2008 <>.
  13. ^ McClory, Robert. "At 50, CFM is still alive and risking". National Catholic Reporter 34.n38 (Sept 4, 1998): 22(1). Academic OneFile. Gale. UNC Chapel Hill. 10 Nov. 2008 <>.

Further reading

  • Leingang, Paul. "Dynamic duo". U.S. Catholic 71.6 (June 2006): 46(2). Academic OneFile. Gale. UNC Chapel Hill. 10 Nov. 2008


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