The Catholic University of America

Caldwell Hall weather vane

Celebrating 125 Years

April 10, 1887 – April 10, 2012

On April 10, 1887, Pope Leo XIII sent a letter to Cardinal James Gibbons, archbishop of Baltimore, giving his formal approval for the founding of The Catholic University of America.

In his letter, the pope urged the bishops of the United States to "earnestly promote true knowledge ... in conformity with divine faith, so that the forces of revelation and reason combined should form an invincible bulwark of faith." He wrote that the University was "destined to provide the Church with worthy ministers for the salvation of souls and the propagation of Religion, and to give the Republic its best citizens."


The Catholic University of America observes the date of Pope Leo XIII's letter as its Founders Day, the official beginning of its history as the national University of the Catholic Church in the United States.

During the 2011-2012 academic year, Catholic University celebrated its 125th anniversary with an ambitious commitment to perform 125,000 hours of service in gratitude for the blessings of the past 125 years. The students, alumni, faculty, staff, and trustees of the University far exceeded their original commitment, completing 352,627 hours of volunteer service. 

In addition to the service commitment, the 125th anniversary observances included reflections on the University's rich legacy and contributions in service to the Church and nation today. There were lectures, concerts, conferences, times of prayer, and celebrations.

In keeping with Pope Leo XIII's commission, The Catholic University of America took this occasion to recommit itself to providing the Church with "worthy ministers," and the nation with "its best citizens."