Papers of a religious educator who co-founded Milwaukee's Casa Maria Catholic Worker House of Hospitality (1966) and destroyed draft records in the "Milwaukee Fourteen" anti-war action in 1968, for which he served 9 months in federal prison before being deported to Ireland. (He was readmitted to the United States in 1991.) Included are correspondence, legal records (including case files from the office of his attorney, James Shellow), manuscripts, photographs, press clippings, publications, and audiotape recordings, largely relating to Cullen's social ministry, anti-war activism, and imprisonment.

Related material is in the Casa Maria Catholic Worker records in this repository.

Gift of Michael Cullen, 1977.


Biographical Note

Michael Denis Cullen was born in Ireland in 1941 and raised in County Wicklow. As a teenager, he joined the White Friars missionary order. In 1961 Cullen emigrated to=the United States, spurred by an encounter with an American priest from Pueblo, Colorado (Charles Buswell, later a bishop), who encouraged him to seek ordination in the Pueblo diocese. Cullen studied  in Pueblo for a year and then spent time at the Benedictine monastery in Conception, Missouri before settling at St. Lawrence Seminary at Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin. Cullen left the seminary in 1964 to marry Annette "Nettie" Rhody. The two established a home in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, where Cullen managed an insurance office.

In 1966 Michael and Nettie left their home and careers in Cedarburg to help found the Casa  Maria Catholic Worker House of Hospitality in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A  supporter of the civil rights movement, Cullen also became an outspoken opponent of  U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

On September 24, 1968, Cullen and thirteen other anti-war protesters broke into Milwaukee's Selective Service office, seized draft records, and then burned them publicly in a park across the street. The "Milwaukee Fourteen" were arrested and prosecuted in high-profile trials. In 1970 a court convicted Cullen for his involvement in the Milwaukee Fourteen action and sentenced him to a year at the Federal Penitentiary in Sandstone, Minnesota. Following his release, the Cullen family lived for a year in northern Wisconsin before returning to the Milwaukee area.

In 1973 the U.S. Government ordered Cullen deported. Michael and Nettie settled with their children in Ireland, where he became active in lay ministry and retreat direction. Over the next eighteen years, Cullen tried repeatedly to return to the United States, but U.S. authorities refused his requests. He was finally readmitted on October 17, 1991. Michael Cullen served in pastoral ministry for the Diocese of Superior until 2016, when he retired for health reasons. He was ordained a deacon in 1997 and appointed liaison to Catholic Charismatic Renewal in 2009.

Scope and Content

Series 1, General Correspondence, 1960-1977, undated, consists of letters from friends and associates. Correspondents include Daniel and Philip Berrigan, Dorothy Day, James Groppi, and Albion Ross. The series is arranged in chronological order.

Series 2.1,  Family Correspondence, 1961-1977, undated, includes letters from relatives.

Series 2.2, Correspondence between Michael and Annette Cullen-Restricted, 1963-1976,  consists largely of letters exchanged during MDC's imprisonment.

Series 3, Manuscripts by Michael Cullen, 1963-1977, undated, contains unpublished writings, including articles and essays, a fragmentary spiritual diary and journal, and "An Open Letter to the Sioux Nation at Wounded Knee."

Series 4, Financial Records, 1964-1971, consists of scattered records concerning income and expenses.

Series 5, Materials Pertaining to Michael Cullen, 1953-1991, undated, includes files on the Milwaukee Fourteen action and his deportation, photographs, and writings by and about him. It is arranged alphabetically by topic or type of document.

Series 6, Audio Recordings, 1962-1976, consists primarily of recordings of radio interviews and talks. It also contains a lengthy recording of an interview of MDC that formed the basis for his published memoir, A TIme to Dance. Recordings of private conversations are restricted.

Series 7, Legal Records, 1942, 1964, 1968-2001, consists of case files received from the office of Cullen's attorney, James Shellow, who represented him during his trial and  subsequent efforts to prevent his deportation and readmit him to the U.S. Three boxes concern "United States v. Michael Denis Cullen," including transcripts of the trial.