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Liturgical Conference records

Collection MS-2004-092: Liturgical Conference records


  • Creation: 1927 - 1990
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1945 - 1969

Scope and Contents

Liturgical Conference records document the organization, which was comprised of Catholic religious and laity working towards liturgical reforms and greater lay participation in the liturgy, through correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, articles, scrapbooks, writings, and photographs. The materials focus on the annual liturgical weeks organized by the Conference and by the New England Liturgical Committee, an affiliated regional body.

Materials received from Thomas J. Carroll, SJ include correspondence, transcripts of Executive Committee meetings, materials on music, art, and publications, and essays by Carroll.

Materials from Martin B. Hellriegel include correspondence, reports, and meeting minutes. The papers document almost every Liturgical Week, 1940-1964, as well as Liturgical Summer Schools, Executive Committee meetings, and other gatherings. There are financial reports from the Conference and other administrative materials such as membership lists, bylaws, and resolutions. Correspondence includes general memoranda and internal planning.

Materials from William J. Leonard, SJ include correspondence, newsletters, minutes, and reports pertaining to the New England Liturgical Committee, the Vernacular Society, and the 1948 and 1960 Liturgical Weeks.

Materials from Shawn Sheehan contain notes, committee lists, and mailing lists. They also include commemorative materials relating to the fiftieth anniversary of the Liturgical Conference and the twentieth anniversary of the New England Liturgical Committee. Other materials include copies of the publication “The Mediator,” reports on Liturgical Weeks and International Liturgical Congresses, and planning materials for the 1969 Liturgical Week.

The audio and graphic materials include photographs of Liturgical Week gatherings and recordings of Executive Committee conference calls.


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research. Audio recordings have been digitally copied; all original media were retained, but may not be played due to format. Digital use copies can only be accessed in the Burns Library Reading Room.

Conditions Governing Use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Historical note

The Liturgical Conference grew out of a transatlantic Catholic liturgical movement that began in Europe, especially Austria, Germany, Italy, France, and Belgium. This movement inspired parallel discussions in the 1920s in the United States among Virgil Michel, Gerald Ellard, Martin B. Hellriegel, and others. The United States movement took organizational shape with the founding of the Liturgical Conference in 1940 as the Benedictine Liturgical Conference. Originally sponsored and organized by Benedictine monks, the Conference sought to renew monastic life. Through the inclusion of diocesan priests and laity, and the Conference expanded their scope to focus on the renewal of interest in and understanding of the liturgy among all Catholics. The preamble to the Conference Constitution stated: “We desire to lend out aid to the efforts of our Hierarchy in arousing the Christian people to a deeper consciousness of their dignity as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and of their privilege in uniting themselves with His redeeming Sacrifice by a more active and fruitful participation in the Sacred Mysteries, the primary and indispensable source of the true Christian spirit.” Members of the Liturgical Conference also participated in other organizations advocating for liturgical reform within the Catholic Church, including the International Liturgical Congress, the Vernacular Society, and regional or diocesan Liturgical Committees.

Annual Liturgical Week meetings served as the primary means for the Conference to promote the liturgy and lay participation in it. These meetings began in 1940, and increased in attendance and influence through 1968. They included instructional talks and pioneering liturgical practices such as the revived Easter Vigil and commentated Masses. The peak of attendance came around 1964, when the Liturgical Week program included the first High Mass offered in English in the Roman Rite, celebrated by Martin B. Hellriegel, a founding member of the Conference.

The themes addressed at Liturgical Week meetings included the organic nature of the Christian community as the Mystical Body of Christ, Christ as the sole mediator between God and man, the Christian life in Christ as strengthened through the sacraments and the Mass, the Bible as the formative word of God, the artistic expression of life in Christ (particularly through Gregorian chant, graphic arts, and architecture), the promotion of the vernacular, and the reform of liturgical rites.

The Liturgical Conference became primarily a publishing house after 1968, publishing books and two journals, Homily Service (discontinued in 2010) and Liturgy. It merged with the inter-Lutheran Society for Worship, Music and the Arts in 1979, and has continued to broaden ecumenical relationships since.


Barrett, Noel Hackmann. Martin B. Hellriegel: Pastoral Liturgist. St. Louis: Catholic Central Union of America, 1990.

Fenwick, John R.K., and Bryan D. Spinks. Worship in Transition: The Liturgical Movement in the Twentieth Century. New York: Continuum, 1995.

Hughes, Kathleen. How Firm a Foundation: Voices of the Early Liturgical Movement. Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications, 1990.

Jungmann, J.A. The Liturgical Movement. Derby, NY: St. Paul Publications, 1966.

Liturgical Conference (website). Accessed October 12, 2022.

Madden SJ, Lawrence. "The Liturgical Conference of the U.S.A.: Its Origin and Development: 1940-1968." Ph.D. dissertation, Trier Theological, 1969. Liturgy and Life Collection. John J. Burns Library. Boston College.

"Liturgical Conference Constitution and Bylaws". Box 10, Folder 56, Liturgical Conference records, MS.2004.092. John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Pecklers, Keith F. The Unread Vision: The Liturgical Movement in the United States of America: 1926-1955. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1998.

Torevell, David. Losing the Sacred: Ritual, Modernity, and Liturgical Reforms. Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 2000.


10.5 Linear Feet (15 containers)

2 Gigabytes (5 files with approximately 1 hour of audio)

Language of Materials



The Liturgical Conference is an organization originally comprised of religious and lay Catholics working towards liturgical reforms and greater lay involvement in the liturgy. The collection consists of organizational records once held by Thomas J. Carroll, SJ, Martin B. Hellriegel, William J. Leonard, SJ, and Shawn Sheehan, and includes correspondence, reports, minutes, and photographs.


Arranged into four series by provenance, plus an additional series of audio and visual materials: I. Thomas J. Carroll, SJ files; II. Martin B. Hellriegel files; III. William Leonard, SJ files; IV. Shawn Sheehan files; V. Audio and graphic materials.

Each of the first four series is further arranged into four sub-series: A. Administrative; B. Correspondence; C. Meetings; and D. Writings.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Records in this collection were assembled from papers of Liturgical Conference officers Thomas Carroll, SJ; Martin B. Hellriegel; William J. Leonard, SJ; and Shawn Sheehan.

Related Materials

Thomas J. Carroll papers. MS.2003.14. John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Martin B. Hellriegel papers. MS.2003.040. John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

William J. Leonard, SJ papers. BC.2000.023. John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

The Liturgical Conference Records. TLC. University of Notre Dame Archives (UNDA).

Liturgy and Life collection. BC.2013.17. John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Shawn Sheehan papers. MS.2002.026. John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

  • Duplicates, monthly financial reports from Hellriegel accession
Liturgical Conference records
1927-1990 (bulk 1945-1969)
Sarah K. Nytroe, 2006. Revised by Elizabeth Peters, 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2022 October: Incorporated Hellreigel papers. Intellectually arranged materials into parallel subseries. Revised collection-level notes.

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States