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McGowan, Raymond Augustine


Expert in industrial relations, and second director of the Social Action Department of the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC); b. Brookfield, Missouri, June 23, 1892; d. Kansas City, Missouri, Nov. 13, 1962. Son of Augustine and Margaret (Gannon) McGowan, Father McGowan was educated at St. Benedict's College, Atchison, Kansas; St. Bernard's Seminary, Rochester, New York; the North American College, Rome; and The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. Following ordination on Dec. 18, 1915, McGowan served as curate and pastor in Missouri and for a brief period as an Army chaplain in World War I. In 1919 he was assigned as a writer on social and economic matters to the National Catholic War Council, Washington, D.C., which in 1920 became the National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC). Shortly after he was appointed assistant director of the Social Action Department, NCWC, under Monsignor John A. Ryan, and became its director on Ryan's death in 1945. He remained in this office until his retirement in 1954.

Father McGowan was a man of unusual vision and initiative, and his perception of needed social reforms in the interest of social justice was far in advance of his time. He strove for a wider understanding of Catholic social principles and for their application to the problems of the American economy. He advocated the industry council idea in the early 1920s, well in advance of its endorsement by Pope Pius XI in Quadragesimo anno. To promote an effective system of labor, management, and government cooperation in American economic life he founded the Catholic Conference on Industrial Problems (CCIP) in the 1920s and subsequently organized conferences on industrial problems throughout the United States. His acceptance in 1923 of an invitation of Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, to meet with the executive committee of that body was the first of a long series of conferences that he held with representatives of labor organizations and employer associations in an effort to convince them of the necessity of mutual cooperation for the solution of their problems.

McGowan's assignment in 1933 to the Latin American Bureau of NCWC occasioned his extensive travel in the Latin American countries. His concern for the social, economic, and religious problems he encountered there gave impetus to his work for the improvement of inter-American relations. In 1943 President F. D. Roosevelt appointed him to an advisory committee to study changes in the organic law of Puerto Rico; and after his retirement as director of the Social Action Department, he served for several months as a consultant to governor Luis Muñoz Marín on the problems of longshoremen in Puerto Rico.

McGowan founded, in addition to the CCIP, the Catholic Association for International Peace (CAIP) and the American Catholic Social Action Confederation. He received the Quadragesimo Anno Award of the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists in 1951 and the Peace Award of CAIP in 1957. He was named a domestic prelate in 1952.

McGowan's publications include Towards Social Justice, Europe and the United States, The Church and Social Reconstruction in Puerto Rico, and numerous articles for magazines and periodicals on the papal encyclicals, labor-management, and Latin American relations.

[a. mcpadden]

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