Two longtime fraternal benefit organizations are set to merge this fall. St. Paul-based Catholic United Financial, founded in 1878, and its 74,000 members will welcome 12,000 members of Ely-based American Fraternal Union, which was organized in 1898 as the South Slavic Catholic Union.

Fraternal benefit societies are not-for-profit membership groups that have common bonds and typically provide life insurance and other financial benefits to their members. Profits from the organization are directed at related charitable organizations and causes in the forms of grants, scholarships and assistance.

Catholic United Financial (which changed its name from Catholic Aid Association in January) provides life insurance, annuities and retirement savings products to its members.

Michael McGovern, president of Catholic United Financial, said in its release, "The merger will ensure the continued strength, quality of service and longevity of our societies. We will continue to adhere to the fraternal benefit society model in the way we conduct business and benevolence."

As of Dec. 31, 2010, the American Fraternal Union reported $53.2 million of insurance policies in force and total assets of $23.4 million. Catholic United Financial reported $1.9 billion of insurance in force as of Dec. 31, 2010, and total assets of $669 million.

Catholic United Financial was the 11th-largest fraternal benefit society by asset size, according to the American Fraternal Alliance, which represents 70 not-for-profit fraternal benefit societies.

Now that boards of both organizations have approved the merger agreement, members of both organizations must approve the deal. The combined companies will operate under the Catholic United Financial name, and the headquarters will be in St. Paul.

Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926