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Records of YMCA international work in Portugal

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-54


Correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, pamphlets, building plans, journal and newspaper articles and other records of the YMCA movement in Portugal, especially Coimbra, Lisbon and Porto, with the majority of the collection covering the years between 1916 and 1979. Material from earlier years include discussion of the development of the Portuguese YMCA and the North American involvement. This material includes discussion of the North American YMCA's Buildings for Brotherhood program and a grant for a building project from John D. Rockefeller. Correspondence primarily involves Erasmo F. Chavez, Myron Augustus Clark, Orton Skinner Clark, Luis De Silva, Antonio De Souza, Silas Reader and William Henry Stallings.

Myron Augustus Clark's work setting up a student association in Coimbra in 1916 is especially well-documented, as is William Henry Stallings continuation of Clark's work in 1918. Myron Clark's assignment with the Red Triangle Service within the Portuguese Army in France during World War I is mentioned as well. Throughout the years surrounding 1930 there is discussion of the depression and the lack of ability for the North American International Committee to fund a majority of their international work, including Portugal. The pulling of secretaries from Portugal is mentioned and there is information about the Portuguese attempt to maintain their YMCAs without outside assistance. This information is primarily covered within the correspondence and reports of the time.

In the material covering the late 1950s, Brazilian secretaries Silas Reader and Erasmo F. Chavez are discussed. They establish for a second time a Portuguese National Alliance and organize the Portugal YMCA. The also begin a cooperation between the Brazil and Portugal that develops into the Luso-Brazilian YMCAs Cooperation Council. The Brazilian military coup of 1973 that developed into the Carnation Revolution of 1975 is also referred to within the collection, as is the evolving governance of the Portuguese colonies in Africa, Angola and Mozambique. Much of the late 1970s portion of the collection refers to the refugee programs run by the Portuguese YMCA and the United States Agency of International Development. (USAID) These programs include but are not limited to the Angolan Refugees program, which was for refugees streaming into Portugal from war-torn Angolia and the Emergency Houses Project, which was in response to the earthquake in the Azores in the year 1980.


  • Creation: 1898-1987
  • Creation: Majority of material found within ( 1916-1979)


Language of Materials


Use of Materials:

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


YMCA work in Portugal dates back to the 1890s; acity association was founded in Porto in 1894 by Alfredo da Silva, a friend of John R. Mott and another was established in Lisbon in 1896. These early Ys were exclusively Protestant and had evangelism as their focus. A Portuguese National Committee was formed and admitted into the World's Alliance of YMCAs. Rudolf Horner, a Swiss secretary sent to Portugal in 1902, helped to develop work in the Porto association and then the Lisbon association. He was supported by the German Swiss YMCA. Through him classes and lectures were emphasized and the Portugal YMCA began to attract non-Protestants as well as Protestants. He also introduced physical education courses and basketball.

In 1909 John R. Mott visited the country while giving evangelical addresses. After his visit he convinced John D. Rockefeller to give $30,000 for the construction of a building at Coimbra, in close proximity to the University of Coimbra. In 1916 Myron A. Clark, the North American Secretary who pioneered South American YMCA work, left his assignment in Rio de Janeiro and was sent to Portugal. Clark purchased a site, supervised the beginning of construction and began a student association. Following Portugal's entry into World War I in 1916, Clark went to France in February of 1918 to become head of the Red Triangle Service in the Portuguese army. W. H. Stallings took over as General Secretary of the Coimbra student association. Initially viewed with suspicion by even its members, due to the religious aspect of the program, it required significant subsidies during the first few years. YMCA work among Portuguese soldiers in World War I brought positive attention to the association. Despite opposition from the Catholic church, since nothing like the YMCA existed anywhere else in Portugal, the YMCA held its appeal to men and boys of the country. Many of the YMCA's youth asked for more educational classes but it was difficult to procure the funds needed for such growth.

By the early 1920s, neither the Lisbon YMCA nor the Porto YMCA had any secretaries. The equipment needed updating and work was limited. The Protestant YMCA had difficulties establishing itself among the mostly Roman Catholic population of Portugal. In 1920 the Porto Association, which held to a strictly evangelical membership, withdrew from the national committee when the other Portuguese associations wanted to broaden their membership to anyone who declared their faith in Christ. Orton S. Clark was sent from the United States to become General Secretary in Porto. He reorganized the Porto YMCA and directed service in two barracks for Portuguese troops. Clark was succeeded in 1922 by Eduardo Moreira. Meanwhile, under the direction of Clark H. Hagenbuch, general secretary in Lisbon from 1920 to 1921, the YMCA there was also modernized.

This work continued with success until pre-depression budgetary constraints caused the United States to withdraw their most of their overseas secretaries. The few members who had any wealth already carried a heavy financial burden due to the large portion of poor members who could not pay much towards the YMCA work. By 1932 the individual YMCA church groups had died out and the only remaining associations in Portugal were Porto, Lisbon and Coimbra. Antonio DeSouza, lawyer, poet, and the assistant to William Stallings in Coimbra, became the supervisor of the work in Lisbon as well as general secretary of the Student Association in Coimbra. The Portuguese YMCA was reorganized and Coimbra became a branch of Lisbon, where a strong board of directors already existed.

In the years after 1932, Antonio DeSouza's failing health caused him to withdraw from most of the responsibilities of his YMCA work. With DeSouza's work slipping, no paid secretaries remained fully active in Portugal. Without a trained YMCA secretary, the three Portuguese YMCAs had no common policy and little contact. The YMCA work in Lisbon was conducted by the board of directors who were young and inexperienced. While buildings were maintained in Lisbon and Coimbra, in Porto the owner of the YMCA building died and neglected to make a will that would leave the building to the YMCA, leaving the ownership of that building in question for years. The general expenses were not fully being covered by income and the need for a trained secretary was recognized.

Beginning in 1957, Silas Reader of Brazil was able to reorganize the Portuguese National Alliance of YMCAs, solve a number of legal problems, and initiate a renewal in the movement. In 1959 Erasmo Chavez, also from Brazil, went to Portugal to replace Reader as fraternal secretary. The National Alliance of Portuguese YMCAs attempted to develop a national policy to unite and coordinate the resources and administrative aspects of the three YMCAs. This strategy sought the development of local professional leadership who could continue the program into the future and establish a structure for development and expansion without the need of constant consultations and requests of permission from authorities. Much growth occurred over the next decade. The Lisbon YMCA's membership was multiplied ten times over and the staff grew to 25 people. The Coimbra YMCA undertook an extension project, adding a residence floor to their building. In Porto, however, the title of the YMCA building was still in question so the repair and improvement of the property was put on hold.

On April 24, 1975, the Carnation Revolution, a military coup coupled with a campaign of civil resistance, created a new, democratic Portugal. During that same year, Angola, a Portuguese colony in Africa, achieved its independence. The civil war that ensued there sent refugees streaming into Portugal. Multiple refugee homes for boys, young men, girls, young women, and families from Angola and Mozambique were opened, as was a school geared towards youth with physical and mental disabilities from refugee families. A project was also undertaken with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that involved farm management and training. The Portuguese YMCA also manufactured houses in Lisbon for the 15,000 people from the Azores Islands who were rendered homeless due to the 1980 earthquake. As of 2011 the Portuguese YMCA was still working to develop the well being of the Portuguese citizen through various programs.

The following is a list of individuals who served as YMCA secretaries in Italy along with their dates of service:

Alpin, Lawrence Edgar Denison (1950-1951) Ferreira, Cezar Mory (1980-? )
Brandt, Henri Arnold (1926-1931) Hagenbuch, Clark H. (1920-1922)
Clark, Myron Augustus (1915-1918) Kaliher, Terry L. (1977-1979)
Clark, Orton Skinner (1920-1923) Stallings, William Henry (1917-1922)
Dilley, Earl Edward (1922-1932)
Historical information largely adapted and quoted formWorld Service: A History of the Foreign Work and World Service of the Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States and Canada, (New York: Association Press, 1957) by Kenneth Scott Latourette; from YMCA Europe - "YMCA Portugal" (, 2006-2011, retrieved November 8, 2012); and from the collection.


3.6 Cubic Feet (10 boxes)


Correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, pamphlets, building plans, journal and newspaper articles and other records of the YMCA movement in Portugal, especially Coimbra, Lisbon and Porto.


Additional information on and papers of many of the YMCA secretaries who served in Portugal (see names listed in the historical sketch above) can be found in the YMCA Biographical Files (Y.USA.12) at the Kautz Family YMCA Archives.

Processing Information:

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, February 2009, as collection FP011. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has not been grouped into series.

Catalog Record ID number: 9971920390001701

An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman-Shedlov and Melanie Doherty.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Revision Statements

  • June 2023: Revised to include folder list.

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area