What is the Catholic Committee of the South?

Catholic Committee of the South (CCS), a 501(c)3 organization, is a network of Church leaders, bishops, field workers, and grassroots organizers across the South who are committed to solidarity with those on the margins. The mission of CCS is to listen to the cry of struggling peoples, identify the injustice, bring the voice of the Gospel to the reflection, and encourage the faith community to take action. Founded in 1939 to address issues of land, labor, and race, CCS has extensive experience in both dialogue and encounter.

History of CCS

CCS is a regional network of the church to address social justice issues that often cannot be resolved on their own at the local level.  Its purpose is solidarity with those who are struggling to claim respect and human rights. The mode is to listen and then to walk with. The theological foundation of the Catholic Committee of the South is the social justice teaching of the church and the gospel mandate to uphold the God-given human dignity of each and every person.  CCS’ history reflects a fervent belief in the statement from the 1971 Synod of Bishops that “action on behalf of justice is a constitutive dimension of the gospel.”

CCS was established in 1939 and hosted an annual gathering in many of the major cities of the south. While never ceasing to exist, CCS became dormant in the 1950s with the intensified struggle for civil rights and racial integration. Yet, there were always those who would “carry the banner” for CCS as issues of injustice became public.

In 1980, a group of Catholic priests, sisters and laity reinvigorated the network, and resumed the organization of annual Gatherings. CCS was later incorporated as a 501(c)3 in the State of Mississippi. The network’s Bishops Advisory Council consists of six bishops from across the region and is presently chaired by Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston.

Sister Evelyn Mattern, CCS’ coordinator in 1984, wrote a paper entitled, “The Best Ones to Speak It,” documenting the network’s compassionate commitment to walking with those who are poor.

In 1999, through the efforts of CCS, the 48 Southern bishops signed and promulgated a pastoral letter entitled, “Voices and Choices: Justice in the Workplace.” The pastoral letter raised the problems encountered by those working in the poultry industry, from farmers to catchers to factory workers.

In the early 2000s, CCS worked with the bishops to publish a series of eight statements on the criminal justice system. The statements were issued during Advent and Lent over a period of four years.

  1. Challenges for the Criminal Justice Process in the South
  2. Wardens from Wall Street: Prison Privatization
  3. Juvenile Justice in the South
  4. Restorative Justice in the South
  5. Prison Conditions
  6. Post-Release from Prison
  7. Women in Prison
  8. Call for Action

CCS has collaborated with other groups to support community efforts including the work of Building the World House, an effort to build bridges between African American and Latino groups; and “The Telling Takes Us Home: Taking Our Place in the Stories that Shape Us,” the People’s Pastoral of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia.

The Gathering, CCS’ annual meeting, is hosted in various regions of the south. It provides an opportunity for network members to address the range of social justice issues on which they are working and receive recommendations for future action when a response is imperative. Since 2012, the testimony offered at each Gathering has been the basis of an annual field report which is sent to all bishops in the United States.

Members of the CCS Bishops’ Council

Bishop Robert Guglielmone
of Charleston, Chair

Bishop Michael Duca of Shreveport

Bishop Joseph Kopacz of Jackson

Bishop John Noonan of Orlando

Bishop William Medley of Owensboro

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler

Thus we have the rebirth of the desire to bring His love to all, especially those who are lonely, marginalized, humiliated by suffering, by social injustice, to those who, weary of other’s words, feel a deep longing for God…

May these intense times elicit a vigorous missionary enthusiasm especially in parishes, where ecclesial communion finds its immediate and visible expression.

Pope Francis