The Association was founded in 1908 in Manchester, as The Chums Benevolent Association. Two years later, it adopted the present title of The Catenian Association. Taking its name from the Latin catena for a chain, the Association is organised into local “Circles”. Indeed if you visit Manchester and find Barton Arcade you will see a blue plaque which records this piece of history. It has 11,000 members in the UK and abroad in Ireland, Malta, Africa, Australia and Hong Kong.
The Association aims to be a group of Catholic business and professional men who meet socially to help and encourage one another in the practise of their Faith, the upbringing of their children and the development of their own legitimate business interests. It is non-political and nor is it a fund raising organisation or pressure group.
The aims may seem unambitious but when the Association was founded, Catholics were treated with suspicion and often socially isolated. At the same time, they were beginning to emerge into business and the professions in reasonable numbers. The Association provided a framework, one which enabled them to draw strength from each other, to overcome the difficult business and social environment for Catholics at that time. It was well received and grew rapidly.
Today, Catholics are held in far greater respect, but it is Christianity which is under threat in our secular society. The Association continues to provide an oasis where one meets people who share the same values which are an integral part of their lives. The aims of the founding fathers may perhaps be even more relevant today.
Catenians meet socially together with their wives and families at formal and informal gatherings. They arrange annual Balls, formal and informal dinners and sometimes organise family weekends. Together they play Squash, Badminton, Tennis, Cricket, Bowls, Golf and Bridge. They go to Mass as a group at least twice a year. Nationally they meet in great numbers for the Annual Conference and the National Golf Championship.
Members promise to support fellow brothers whenever they are in trouble. Occasionally this trouble is of a financial nature so the Association has its own charities, which enable members to discharge this obligation. Consistent with an interest in youth, the Association also has a Bursary Scheme which provides funds to young people who undertake worthwhile charitable work. It is felt that support for these two charities places sufficient formal demand upon members so there is generally no official support for other charities.
The Association however, sometimes stumbles into the charity field, normally lead by our local, regional or national President whom members are pledged to support. As a result, the Association has been a benefactor to the BEDA College at Rome, the Catholic University Chaplaincies and Plater College. It even bought a Jumbulance for the The ACROSS Trust, which was presented to Jimmy Saville in 1975 .
The Association does not overlap with other excellent Catholic bodies like the SVP, KSC, or SERRA but many Catenians are members in these organisations. It is also not surprising that as a proudly Catholic body it has among its members Eucharistic Ministers, Readers, Organisers of Covenants and Bazaars, School Managers indeed all the necessary jobs which go with running our Church. The Association takes no credit for this but is proud that men of this quality find it attractive.
Over many years the Association has held its attraction and even today does not suffer to any great extent from falling numbers. It will continue to succeed so long as committed Catholic business and professional men see the value in maintaining strong social friendships with their fellow Catholics.