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The National Catholic Education Association was formed at a meeting held in St. Louis, Missouri, July 12-14, 1904. At that meeting, the Education Conference of Catholic Seminary Faculties, the Association of Catholic Colleges and the Parish School Conference agreed to merge and form the Catholic Educational Association (CEA).
From then until 1919, the CEA was the only unifying agent for Catholic education at the national level. In 1919, the establishment of the National Catholic War Council (NCWC), later changed to National Catholic Welfare Council, to serve as an agency of the American bishops to coordinate all Catholic activity, including education, marked a new era for CEA. A working relationship of cooperation between the Association and the Department of Education of NCWC was established that endures with the NCWC successor, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).Template:US-edu-stub