Catholic Charities: Celebrating 95 Years of Service
Thursday, April 19, 2012 by Monsignor Michael M. Boland

“Christ is risen from the dead!

Dying, he conquered death:

To the dead, he has given life!”

This ancient prayer and eternal truth proclaims what the Church throughout the world believes: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!”

As you read this, the Church throughout the world is celebrat­ing – or preparing to celebrate – the Feast of Easter: The resurrec­tion of Christ from the dead, and the promise of eternal life for all.

This truth and this hope is what drives the work of Catholic Chari­ties as we serve all people in need. The hope of resurrection, of a new life of dignity and justice for our neighbors who are poor or strug­gling is our goal and our mission.

And through the grace of God, Catholic Charities of the Archdio­cese of Chicago has lived Christ’s mission for the last 95 years. As we celebrate, we look back in gratitude and we look forward with anticipation to the future.

April 10, 1917. On that historic day, as the United States prepared to enter the Great War raging in Europe, 300 representatives from Catholic parishes in Chicago met with Archbishop George Munde­lein of Chicago for one purpose: to increase financial assistance for the growing numbers of poor families and individuals living within their parish boundaries – of all faiths. The result was the founding of the Board of The Associated Catholic Charities and its coordination and service arm: the Central Charity Bureau. The nucleus of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago had been formed.

April 2012. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago celebrates our 95th Anniversary. The men who met with Cardinal Mundelein on that historic day in 1917 were members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the chari­table organization named for its 17th century founder.

For decades, they had served as the parish-based “safety net” for poor families and indi­viduals, the elderly, and the indigent. But they acknowl­edged the great need for the creation of a formal archdi­ocesan agency “to lessen the suffering of the widows, the orphans, the sick, the friend­less and the penniless,” and the Catholic Charities was founded.

Today, Catholic Charities serves more than a million people in Cook and Lake Counties with 157 programs at 162 locations that are administered by more than 2,500 staff members. Our mission is to people of all races and religions who are in need: those who are poor, hungry or unemployed. We assist elders and spouses who suffer abuse. We care for the children of low-income and formerly homeless working families, and assist immigrants as they strive to achieve financial independence, and education for themselves and their children.

“Whatever you did for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me!” These words of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew sum up the first 95 years of Catho­lic Charities’ service to the poor. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the home­less, welcoming the stranger, strengthening families, protecting children, safeguarding seniors, offering recovery to the addicted, lifting up the discouraged, speak­ing up for the poor, the helpless and the unborn to the public and to presidents, restoring the hu­man dignity of all the children of God. …This remains our mission.

As we observe this historic milestone, we do so with great gratitude to God for the privilege of serving His people in need. Please keep Catholic Charities and all whom we help in your prayers. God bless you and your families! Happy Easter!

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