Peacebuilding collections in the Notre Dame Archives

Shortly after the beginning of the war to end war, a group of Christians from various denominations founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1915. Members of this organization recognized the absurdity of Christians making war on other Christians. They resolved to oppose war itself and worked to promote a world without violence. Though it began as what we might now call an ecumenical alliance of Protestant Christians, the Fellowship of Reconciliation eventually came to include Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Catholic affiliates.

In 1975 the head of the Catholic Peace Fellowship (CPF), Tom Cornell, wanted to find an archival repository for the organization’s records. Acting on advice from several members, he chose the Archives of the University of Notre Dame, and between 1977 and 2002 sent 13 shipments of records (22 linear feet) documenting the efforts of the Catholic Peace Fellowship and the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

These records of the CPF include manuscripts of talks and articles, organizational material for protest activities, newspaper and magazine clippings, press statements, photographs, and letters, including correspondence with Daniel and Philip Berrigan, Thomas Merton, James Forest, Dorothy Day, Thomas Cornell, George McGovern, and Robert F. Kennedy. We have made the Catholic Peace Fellowship Bulletin (1965–1978) available online at

In the early 1980s, CPF was overshadowed by another organization that promoted peace. Between 1984 and 1996 Pax Christi USA sent us 16 shipments of records dating from 1958 to 1995, amounting to over 50 linear feet. These records include correspondence, financial and membership records, subject files, records relating to the American chapter’s affiliation with Pax Christi International, files from the group’s conferences and special projects, audio and video tapes, and photographs, with correspondence from Thomas Cornell, Etienne de Jonghe, Vincent Dilalla, Eileen Egan, Joseph Fahey, Walter Grazer, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Robert Hovda, Mary Ellen Jegen, Carol ter Maat, Gerard Vanderhaar, Gordon Zahn.

Among those who recommended donation of the CPF records to Notre Dame was CPF and Pax Christi member Gordon Zahn, a Catholic conscientious objector in World War II who published a book about his wartime incarceration. Zahn became a professor of sociology and starting in 1981, under the auspices of Pax Christi USA, directed the Washington D.C.-based Center on Conscience and War (CCW) to help people concerned about military conscription, conscientious objection, and alternatives to military service. Between 1988 and 1993 Zahn sent Notre Dame seven shipments of records from the center amounting to five linear feet. These records consisted of his own correspondence and articles and the correspondence of the CCW staff, responding to inquiries and distributing printed material supporting the center’s cause. Correspondents include Michael Dukakis, Bryan Hehir, Sargent Shriver, and Catholic peace organizations, among them Pax Christi USA, the Commission on Catholic Community Action, and the United States Catholic Conference Department of Social Development and World Peace.

In nine shipments between 2007 and 2014, we received Zahn’s own papers, consisting of correspondence, memoranda, clippings, reports, and other papers; photocopies, brochures, printed ephemera, pamphlets, books, and other printed material; photographs, audio-visual material, and digital data. These papers document his life-long efforts to promote peace and his work in making known the life and martyrdom of Blessed Franz Jaegerstaetter.

Another Catholic peace activist and member of Pax Christi, Gerard Vanderhaar, sent six shipments of his papers between 1989 and 1999. Vanderhaar was co-founder of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, professor of religion and peace studies at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, and author of several books about Christianity and peace. His papers (25 linear feet) include research papers, drafts of his writings, correspondence, reports, material distributed at meetings, financial papers, periodicals, photographs, and videos. Moreover, between 1989 and 2014 Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, widely known for his support of the Catholic peace movement, sent 11 shipments of his papers amounting to over 130 linear feet. In 1993 Bishop George Fulcher sent papers documenting his service as a member of National Conference of Catholic Bishops in deliberations over the text of “The Challenge of Peace” (the U.S. bishops’ 1983 pastoral letter), with drafts, bishops’ responses, criticism from experts, files of pertinent articles, and reactions from the Vatican and from scientists.

The most recent addition to our peacebuilding collections came in 2017: the papers of David Cortright, director of policy studies and the Peace Accords Matrix in the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame. Cortright donated 20 linear feet of files representing his work from 1992 to the present—his writings and activities at Notre Dame, at Goshen College, and with the Fourth Freedom Forum.

Scholars interested in the Catholic Peace Movement should remember to look beyond these collections by searching our website ( A concern for peace turns up in many other collections, and the diversity of opinion regarding war and what to do about it can best be discovered by a broader search.


Wm. Kevin Cawley
Senior Archivist & Curator of Manuscripts
Archives of the University of Notre Dame