Ursuline sisters arrive from France to open an orphanage, school for street girls, and health facility in New Orleans. It is the first formal Catholic charity in the present United States.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in the United States is founded in St. Louis. A national organization will not be established until 1864. By 1920, ten national meetings will be convened.
Rerum Novarum, the foundational document for modern Catholic social teaching, is written by Pope Leo XIII.
The first St. Vincent de Paul Quarterly was published to promote developments in the field of social work.
By the new century, more than 800 Catholic institutions provided care to children, the aged, disabled, and the ill.
On the campus of Catholic University of America, at the invitation of the Most Rev. Thomas Shahan, CUA’s president, the National Conference of Catholic Charities (NCCC) was founded to promote the creation of diocesan Catholic charities bureaus, “to bring about a sense of solidarity” among those in charitable ministries, and “to be the attorney for the poor.”
Four hundred delegates from 24 states were largely laypeople, representative of women and men who had founded the many charitable institutions in various ethnic communities, of the Vincentians, and of Catholic academics and public figures concerned about the poor in this society. President Taft hosted the closing ceremonies at the White House.
Msgr. William J. Kerby (right) of Catholic University was selected the first executive secretary of NCCC. NCCC met every other year until 1920, when it began meeting annually.
Fourteen diocesan directors, all priests, proposed formation of the Diocesan Directors Committee within NCCC, drawing priests more formally into leadership.
With the support of the Superior Council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, NCCC begins monthly publication of the Catholic Charities Review, edited by Msgr. John A. Ryan of Catholic University.
Msgr. John O’Grady (left) assumes the office of executive secretary of NCCC, which he will hold until 1961.
The Conference of Religious is formed within NCCC to provide women and men religious with opportunities for peer support, to promote specialized training and leadership development, and to foster improved institutionalized care and services.
Thirty-five Central Bureaus of Catholic Charities had been formed. NCCC publishes the first Directory of Catholic Charities.
NCCC publishes A Program for Catholic Child-Caring Homes, a work of the Conference on Religious to improve standards.
The Depression prompts intense activity by NCCC and diocesan bureaus to promote social legislation based upon Catholic principles. Msgr. O’Grady becomes a major national voice on social reform.
The National Catholic School of Social Service is founded at Catholic University of America at the urging of NCCC with Msgr. O’Grady, NCCC executive secretary, as its first dean.
The Social Security Act passes Congress for the first time, with strong support from NCCC for the concept of insurance benefits based upon rights as opposed to a needs test for benefits.
Sixty-eight diocesan bureaus had been organized in 35 states.
Decent housing was long a concern of Catholic Charities. Msgr. O’Grady, who, according to one author, was the “unsung hero” of the American public housing movement, believed that providing a decent house was essential to helping people out of poverty. He helped to establish the first National Public Housing Conference in 1931, which helped to pass the National Housing Act of 1934. This act created the Federal Housing Administration and made housing and home mortgages more affordable. For more than a decade after, O’Grady worked tirelessly with Senator Wagner of New York to ensure that legislation to provide for low-income housing was eventually enacted. In the 1930s and 1940s, several pieces of housing legislation passed, culminating in the Housing Act of 1949, a landmark law that provided for massive slum clearance projects and money to construct more than 800,000 public housing units by 1955. While the measure fell short, this piece of legislation had an enormous impact on the landscape of American urban areas in the second half of the twentieth century.
An NCCC Standing Committee of Religious is established, parallel to the Standing Committee of Priest Director.
Msgr. O’Grady’s travels overseas after World War II, particularly to Germany, where Caritas Germany had been organized several decades earlier, prompted him to push for greater international cooperation and solidarity among the church’s worldwide charitable organizations. In 1951, the first meeting of the International Conference of Catholic Charities (later Caritas Internationalis) was held in Rome. Msgr. O’Grady (far left) was a prime mover in its founding and became its first vice-president.
Vatican II prompted Catholic Charities to engage in a self-study process to reexamine the mission of Catholic Charities. This study, launched in 1969, came to be known as the Cadre Study, taking its name from the cadre of fifteen Catholic Charities leaders who participated in the study. They were tasked with determining the future direction of Catholic Charities, considering not only the mandate of Vatican II to engage more deeply in charitable work for all people in need, not just Catholics, but also the changing social conditions in the United States, including the feminization of poverty, pluralism, and increased immigration. Pictured above are members of the Cadre Study committee, top, left to right, Msgr. J. Francis Stafford (now Cardinal Francis Stafford), Msgr. Lawrence J. Corcoran (president of the NCCC at the time), Msgr. Charles J. Fahey, Rev. Kenneth Knapp, Rev. Donald F. Dunn; bottom, left to right, Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan, Msgr. Joseph Semancik, Helen McDaniel, Sister Margaret Flynn, DC, Richard M. Kelley, and Rashey M. Moten. Members not pictured are Msgr. Robert J. Fox, Rev. Roberto Pena, Rita Kimble, and Rev. Bernard J. Coughlin.
With the Cadre Study’s new mandate to “humanize and transform society,” Catholic Charities became much more of an activist organization, raising awareness about troubling social problems and advocating for just social policies. In 1974, the NCCC held its first “congress” in conjunction with the annual gathering. It was designed to be a forum for members to discuss mutual issues of concern elicited from a regional meeting process and then develop policy statements. At the 1978 annual meeting (above), a policy statement was passed that “stressed the concepts of convening a caring community and renewal in parish outreach,” as noted by historians Sr. Ann Conrad and Sr. Vincentia Joseph. Later congresses produced some of the more prominent policy statements, such as those addressing affordable housing (1985), the feminization of poverty (1986), pluralism (1987), and a just food system (1989).
In the years following the Cadre Study, the NCCC and later Catholic Charities USA expanded its advocacy role, taking on a number of public policy issues. In 1991, CCUSA participated in an anti-hunger rally in Washington, DC, Rev. Thomas Harvey, president of CCUSA, spoke at the Capitol Hill rally in support of the Mickey Leland Childhood Hunger Relief Act of 1991. He was joined at the rally by representatives of Bread for the World and the Congressional Hunger Caucus.
Vision 2000 brought together a group of Catholic Charities leaders to recommend future directions for Catholic Charities locally and nationally. Vision 2000 defined with greater specificity the directions Catholic Charities should take as the network moved into the twenty-first century. These strategic directions guided Catholic Charities in how it should relate to those it serves, the community, the church, and one another. Vision 2000 also established policies regarding the purpose, governance, and funding of the national organization, Catholic Charities USA.
Rev. Fred Kammer, SJ, became president of Catholic Charities USA in 1992. As president of CCUSA, he enhanced and expanded the advocacy department, began co-sponsorship of the Catholic Social Action Gathering of the United States Catholic Conference, and involved Catholic Charities USA in public policy issues, notably the historic health care and welfare reform efforts of the 1990s. These activities brought him before Congress often to testify and into meetings with top government officials, including President Bill Clinton.
Hurricane Katrina caused one of the greatest humanitarian crises in U.S. history. The hurricane’s force wrought unprecedented devastation and flooding throughout Louisiana and Mississippi, destroying the homes, workplaces, and communities of hundreds of thousands of people. Again, Catholic Charities rose to the challenge. While the federal government was criticized for its inadequate response to the crisis, private humanitarian agencies such as Catholic Charities received praise for their work in assisting the ravaged communities. CCUSA President Rev. Larry Snyder led the Catholic Charities network in a nationwide disaster response effort. Catholic Charities USA received and distributed more than $163 million in donations for disaster response in the Gulf.
On January 10, 2007, at a Capitol Hill press conference, Catholic Charities USA launched the Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America, a multi-year campaign to reduce poverty in America by half by the year 2020. The national launch event was well attended by policymakers and the press, who were briefed on the importance of making poverty reduction a budget and policy priority. Representatives from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Catholic Health Association, and Ladies of Charity attended to support CCUSA in the campaign. The campaign has focused on five areas: affordable housing, affordable health care, job development and education, food security, and economic security.
At the national launch of the poverty campaign, CCUSA released a policy paper, “Poverty in America: A Threat to the Common Good.” The paper revealed the depth and nature of poverty in the United States, noting that in 2007, 37 million people, or about 12.6 percent of the population lived below the federal poverty level, with the poverty rate among minorities disproportionately high. The paper called for a number of policy changes and social investments to assists families in moving out of poverty. As a follow-up to the poverty paper, CCUSA issued another paper titled, “Poverty and Racism: Overlapping Threats to the Common Good” which explored the connections between racism and poverty. To make clear the inexorable connection between poverty and racism, and to signal Catholic Charities’ commitment to racial equality, CCUSA led a Freedom March during its 2007 Annual Gathering across the John A. Roebling Bridge in Cincinnati, which when it was built in the mid-nineteenth century connected the slave state of Kentucky with the free state of Ohio.
As a major feature of its centennial celebration, Catholic Charities USA launched a series of nationwide Centennial Leadership Summits to bring communities together in reducing poverty. Beginning in 2009 and continuing into 2010, CCUSA hosted the summits in St. Paul; Portland, Oregon; San Jose, California; San Antonio; Atlanta; Nashville, Tennessee; Albany, New York; Cleveland; Chicago; Newark, New Jersey; and Washington, DC. The summits provided an opportunity for civic leaders, elected officials, philanthropists, service providers, and interested citizens to take part in a conversation about poverty in their community and to identify ways to reduce poverty by 50 percent by the year 2020.
On Saturday, September 25, 2010, over 1000 representatives from local Catholic Charities agencies and partner organizations recreated the 1910 photo of the founders of Catholic Charities USA on the steps of McMahon Hall at the Catholic University of America. The photo was taken immediately following the Centennial opening liturgy at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
President Barack Obama met with leadership from Catholic Charities USA in the Oval Office, to mark the organization’s 100th anniversary celebration.Back