Frank Maher

Born in South Yarra, Victoria, on 10 November 1905, Francis Kevin Heathcote Maher, became the founder of the Campion Society.

While studying law at Melbourne University, Maher realised that his own religious education was superficial.

As a result, early in 1931 he had formed a group of like-minded friends from school and university to discuss matters of Catholic doctrine and social justice. Known as the Campion Society, the group drew on the holdings of the Central Catholic Library but it had no clerical supervision, no set papers, just ‘talks where anyone is free to interrupt’ .

Its success inspired the formation of similar groups in rural Victoria and in other States. The archbishop of Melbourne, Daniel Mannix, who believed that priests should not monopolise Catholic teaching, saw the opportunities presented by the organisation of intelligent and influential laymen.

In 1937 Mannix and the other Australian bishops approved the founding of the Australian National Secretariat of Catholic Action (ANSCA) with Maher as director and Santamaria as his deputy.

Based in Melbourne, Maher and Santamaria established the ANSCA to foster the promotion of Catholic social principles in everyday life by the laity. Over the next seven years they were assisted by a talented administrator, Noreen Minogue.

The secretariat provided information on Catholic Action (CA), coordinated and nurtured existing Catholic organisations, and helped to establish new groups such as the Young Christian Workers and the National Catholic Rural Movement.


Brenda Niall, Frank Kevin Heathcote Maher, Australian Dictionary of Biography