The Grail in the USA

History of the Grail in the United States

The Grail began in Holland in 1921 as a Catholic lay organization, called The Women of Nazareth.

It was founded by a Jesuit priest, Jacques van Ginneken (1877-1949), but from its beginning, women directed the Grail. They staged massive, colorful rallies and enacted religious dramas, working with young women in Holland, England, and Germany.

In May 1940, two Dutch Grail women, Lydwine van Kersbergen (1904-1998) and Joan Overboss (1910-1969), came to the United States at the invitation of Chicago’s archbishop.

They began their work as the Grail at Doddridge Farm, a summer camp in Libertyville, Illinois. In 1944, the Grail, which had grown to sixteen women, moved to a farm in Loveland, Ohio (near Cincinnati). This farm is now Grailville.

Lydwine van Kersbergen 1994, small image

Lydwine van Kersbergen, 1994

Lydwine van Kersbergen

In 1990, Lydwine van Kersbergen was interviewed by Carol White, during a gathering of the Grail in the United States, a Grail General Assembly. Mary Gene Devlin transcribed that interview.


Our Story

Grail Stories: History of Grail Countries 1980 to 2017 In anticipation of the Grail’s 100th anniversary in 2021, the histories of the Grail in this book present the life and work in 18 countries from the 1980s to the present. The earlier history of 16 Grail countries appeared in a book published in 1984.

Telling the Grail Story is a look at the history of the Grail across the globe in the art collections of the Grail in the U.S.

Brief History of the U.S. Grail, by Marian Ronan

An Update: Grail in the U.S. 1985-2016

History of the Grail in the U.S. 1940-1984

“The Grail at Grailville: The Early Years”  Created by Elizabeth Hughes Murphy and Elizabeth Schickel-Robinson


In the 1950s and early 1960s, the Grail established centers across the country in Brooklyn (1947), Cincinnati (1951), New York (1952), Detroit (1952), Philadelphia (1954), Lafayette, Louisiana (1957), Queens (1958), San Jose, California (1961), and Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York (1963). Today the Grail continues to operate centers in Loveland, OH, Cornwall-on-Hudson, and the Bronx (opened in 1982).

In the late 1960s and 1970s, the Grail, influenced by changes in the Catholic Church and by the growth of the women’s movement, become more inclusive of other religious traditions, and Grail members became pioneers in Catholic feminist theology. In 1969, the Grail in the USA voted to admit women of other Christian traditions as full participants, and in 1975, welcomed Jewish women as well.

Janet Kalven, Grailville Co-Founder
Janet Kalven helped to found Grailville in 1944 and was instrumental in the development of feminist theology in the US in the 1970s. She died April 24, 2014.



  • Ethel Simpson says:

    I attended Grailville from Lafayette La in Summer, 1954. It profoundly influenced my life. The Grail worked in Lafayette during the next interval when I was in college, and I greatly benefited from their example of the lay apostolate.

    I am still a Catholic, still devoted to the concept of the liturgical year, still active in a Gregorian schola. A lot of that is due to my involvement with the Grail.

  • Meghan Odom says:

    My grandmother, Patricia Crawford was apart of the Grail in Lafayette, however I’m not sure of the dates. She was born in 1942 and attended after higschool so I would assume around the 1960’s. I always heard her talk about”Grailville” growing up and just thought of it now to research. I’d love if anyone has any pictures or history to try and find information about her time there!

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