The Conference for Catholic Lesbians, 1980-2019 – Administrative History/Scope and Content

Administrative History


The Conference for Catholic Lesbians, Inc. (CCL) was founded in 1983 in New York City as a non-profit, social-action organization.  Its Articles of Incorporation state,

“The Corporation is a formed exclusively for the purpose of serving both charitable and educational functions by promoting human rights and, in particular, the rights of Catholic lesbians, by fostering a better understanding and tolerance of homosexuality within the Catholic community in order to benefit the community as a whole by eliminating prejudice, reducing tensions and increasing the meaningful participation of Catholic lesbians in the life of the community.”

The idea for an organization for Catholic lesbians was first discussed at a 1981 retreat for women sponsored by New Ways Ministry, an organization for gay, lesbian and transgender Catholics.  The initial discussion centered on a proposal for a national meeting of Catholic lesbians.  By February 1982, the idea had gathered enough momentum that a group met to draw up plans for a fall 1982 conference.  The catalyst for the conference came from the belief that no women’s or Catholic group spoke sensitively to the needs of Catholic lesbians or encouraged activities relating to their identity, both social and spiritual.

The first Conference for Catholic Lesbians took place November 5-7, 1982 at the Kirkridge Retreat Center in Bangor, Pennsylvania.  The founding members of CCL (listed as “directors” in the Articles of Incorporation) organized the conference: Christine Nusse, Karen Doherty, Kathy Healy, Barbara Strange and Marsie Silvestro.  Speakers consisted of prominent Catholic scholars, feminists and activists, including Sister Theresa Kane, Mary E. Hunt, Diann L. Neu, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, and Sister Jeannine Gramick, the co-founder of New Ways Ministry.

In total, CCL organized seven conferences:

                November 5-7, 1982, Kirkridge Retreat Center, Bangor, Pennsylvania

                October 19-21, 1984, Kirkridge Retreat Center, Bangor, Pennsylvania

                May 23-26, 1986, Meadow Lake Camp, Auberry, California

                May 27-30, 1988, Grailville, Loveland, Ohio

                May 25-28, 1990, Aspen Lodge, Estes Park, Colorado

                July 17-20, 1992, Waltham, Massachusetts

                July 21-24, 1994, Redwood City, California

Two groups within the organization administered The Conference for Catholic Lesbians.  The CCL Collective was volunteer board of directors that implemented CCL goals through several committees: network, community relations, newsletter, membership, public relations, national conference, advertising and fundraising.  The CCL Network was a nation-wide support and communication network made up of women who helped to start local, state and regional CCL groups.  The Network coordinators were women who were willing to make their names and contact information public in order to act as contact persons.  The 1983 CCL flyer “Catholic and Lesbian: Is It Possible…” gives the following description:

“CCL maintains a Network of local groups and contacts.  The Network lies at the heart of the founding of CCL itself—a deeply felt need for a way Catholic lesbians could be in touch with one another.  In the past years, hundreds of CCL members have used the Network as a way to reach out to new friends, find out about local lesbian resources and activities, and connect with area   members to start groups and participate in liturgies, discussions and social events.”

The Conference of Catholic Lesbians also published a quarterly newsletter titled “Images” from approximately 1983 to 1997.  CCL was defunct as of 1997, but a Website was maintained until the 2010s for the purpose of maintaining contact among former members, and referring Catholic lesbians to other groups and resources.


Scope and Content

Series 1: Administration and Membership (.4 cubic feet), consists of CCL’s administrative records, with the bulk relating to the CCL Collective, CCL Network, membership, and the CCL Website. The documents include the Articles of Incorporation, By-Laws, meeting minutes, agendas, correspondence, committee reports, membership surveys, and marketing materials such as membership flyers and event notices. There is also a flash drive containing Microsoft Word documents of CCL Website content, including page text, essays, and forum postings.  The documents in this series are in their original order, and labelled with the original folder headings.  One folder containing completed survey forms is restricted for 20 years starting in 2020 at the request of the donors.

Series 2: “Images” Newsletter (.2 cubic feet), consists of issues of “Images,” CCL’s official newsletter.  Many issues contain loose contact lists of CCL Network coordinators and volunteers.  This series also contains a small number of newsletter-development records, as well as 1987 correspondence related to a proposed name change for the organization.

Series 3: Conferences (.35 cubic feet), consists of records related to the CCL conferences, with the bulk from the 1980s.  The documents include speaker lists, bibliographies, correspondence, schedules, mailing lists, presentation transcripts, planning documents, liturgies, and marketing and registration materials.  Three folders containing conference registration and survey forms are restricted for 20 years starting in 2020 at the request of the donors.

Series 4: Correspondence (.07 cubic feet), consists of CCL-related correspondence, domestic and international, with the bulk from the 1980s.

Series 5: Related Organizations and Collaborators (.3 cubic feet), consists of records of CCL’s work and contacts with similar organizations and individuals, including the Catholic Lesbian Sisterhood of Great Britain, Dignity, and New Ways Ministry.  The documents include correspondence, newsletters, position statements, meeting minutes, survey forms, essays, marketing materials, and news clippings.

Series 6: Articles and Resources (.1 cubic feet), consists of essays, books, periodicals and articles related to CCL and the concerns of gay and lesbian Catholics.  The bulk are from the 1980s.

Series 7: Photographs, Audio and Video (.4 cubic feet), consists CCL and CCL-related content in photographic, magnetic and digital formats.  The Photographs sub series consists of hard copy and digital photos of CCL members and events.  The Audio sub series consists primarily of audiocassettes of CCL conference sessions, as well as sessions from other gay and lesbian religious conferences, and a selection of lectures and interviews.  The Video sub series consists of VHS tapes and DVDs featuring CCL conferences and events.


Related Collections at Marquette University Special Collections and University Archives:


Related Resources in the Marquette’s Raynor Memorial Libraries:

  • “A Faith of One's Own: Explorations by Catholic Lesbians,” Barbara Zanotti (Call Number: BX2373.L46 F35 1986)
  • “Lesbian Nuns: Breaking Silence,” Rosemary Curb and Nancy Manahan (Call Number: BX4225 .L47 1985)
  • “Listen to the Stories: Gay and Lesbian Catholics Talk about Their Lives and the Church,” Raymond C. Holtz (Call Number: BX1795.H66 L57 1991)


Processed by Maria DeWeerdt, 2020.