Catholic Home Study Service is a ministry offering free correspondence courses on the Catholic Faith. It is sponsored by the Vincentian Community and the Religious Information Bureau of the Missouri Knights of Columbus. Its origins go back to 1935, when Fr. Lester Fallon, C.M. and Fr. Joseph McIntyre, C.M. began to do street preaching in small towns in Southern Missouri.
There were few Catholics and no priests in these towns, and residents knew little about the Catholic Church. Fathers Fallon and McIntyre would put up posters to announce their coming. They would arrive in a truck equipped with a pulpit and public address system, and would preach for several evenings in front of the post office, courthouse, or general store. They explained Catholic doctrine and answered questions.
Many people who heard the preaching expressed an interest in learning more about the Catholic Church. To help them, Fr. Fallon came up with the idea of offering religion courses by mail. Using the popular book, Father Smith Instructs Jackson, Fr. Fallon designed a course which he made available to all who asked. Soon large numbers of people were applying, and Fr. Fallon established Confraternity Home Study Service on Lindell Boulevard in St. Louis. When World War II started, soldiers from all over the world requested the course, and the ministry expanded rapidly.
In 1944 the Knights of Columbus began to offer financial assistance. They joined their Religious Information Bureau to CHSS, offering pamphlets and other materials. They sponsored ads in secular magazines reaching most households in the USA. From 1948 to 1971, over six million people responded to the ads, requesting pamphlets or enrolling in the instruction course. In 1962 CHSS moved to more spacious offices at 3473 South Grand in St. Louis. By this time, CHSS employed about 45 full-time workers and handled about 10,000 pieces of mail per week.
In 1971, the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus built a new national office in New Haven, Connecticut, and transferred its home study program there, renaming it "Catholic Information Service." The Vincentian Community kept Confraternity Home Study Service in St. Louis, and the Missouri Knights of Columbus continued to sponsor the Religious Information Bureau in their home state.
In 1991, the Vincentian Community moved Confraternity Home Study Service to St. Mary's Seminary in Perryville, Missouri, and changed its name to Catholic Home Study Service. The work sponsored by the Missouri Knights of Columbus continues as the Religious Information Bureau.
Students may send in lessons by postal mail or via the Internet.
Catholic Home Study Service enrolls students from all fifty states and from
many foreign countries. We send course materials to priests and religious instructors
who teach in parishes, schools, and prisons.
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