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Catholic Charities USA is the membership association of one of the na tion's largest social service networks. Catholic Charities agencies a nd institutions nationwide provide vital social services to people in need, regardless of their religious, social, or economic backgrounds .
Catholic Charities USA, based in Alexandria, Virginia, is the largest private social service network, comprised of more than 1,400 social services agencies and institutions with a combined budget of more tha n $2 billion. CCUSA supports Catholic Charities membership throug h program development, training, financial help, national advocacy wo rk, and media efforts. CCUSA is, in turn, a member of Caritas Interna tionalis, a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and soc ial service organizations located in more than 200 countries and terr itories.
U.S. Catholic Charitable Work Dates to 1700s
Shortly after Christopher Columbus discovered the New World in 1492, the Catholic religion came to the United States through the activitie s of Spain. While the Spanish were successful in colonizing America's Southwest, Central America, and South America, what would become the United States and Canada were dominated by the Protestant English an d Jesuit French, the latter concentrating on the upper reaches of Nor th America and a settlement at the mouth of the Mississippi called Ne w Orleans. It was here that the Ursuline Sisters from France came to open an orphanage for street girls, becoming the first formal Catholi c charity in the United States. After the French were driven out of C anada during the French and Indian War of the mid-1700s, Colonial Uni ted States became a predominantly Protestant country.
Catholic numbers grew dramatically in the United States during the 18 00s. In 1820 there were 195,000 Catholics and 124 Catholic parishes, located mostly in Maryland and Kentucky. But after 1820 there was a w ave of Irish and German immigration, so that by 1860 there were 3.1 m illion American Catholics and 2,385 parishes. Most of them came to Am erica to escape famine and poverty, and now represented the vast majo rity of the underclass in the United States, essentially relegated to second class citizenship because of their religion and were often sh unted aside by the public institutions. As a result, the Catholics in the United States began to organize to take care of their poor, espe cially orphaned and delinquent children. By the end of the 1800s ther e were over 800 Catholic charitable institutions, mostly providing ca re to dependent children, the aged, and infirm. In many ways it was a chaotic collection of institutions and it became increasingly clear that a national structure was needed to bring some order to it.
In 1909 Brother Barnabas McDonald, F.S.C., a man recognized internati onally for his work with orphans, abandoned children and delinquents, asked the President of Washington, D.C.-based Catholic University, T homas Shahan, to issued a call for a meeting of everyone involved in Catholic charities. Six months later, in 1910, the National Conferenc e of Catholic Charities, the predecessor to Catholic Charities USA, w as convened, and 400 delegates from 38 cities in 24 states attended. The attendees included clergy as well as laypeople, representing a wi de variety of charitable organizations serving the needs of children, the poor, and immigrants. The mission of NCCC was to help bring prof essional social work practices to the charities--many of which were l ed by the laypeople who had founded them in their communities--as wel l as to promote the creation of diocesan Catholic charities bureaus. NCCC also sought "to be the attorney for the poor." A 22-person execu tive committee was selected and Catholic University's Msgr. William J . Kerby was named the first executive secretary.
A sociologist at Catholic University dedicated to bringing Catholic v alues to social work education, Kerby had for many years stressed the importance of organization, and in 1908 helped promote the creation of the short-lived St. Margaret's Union, a confederation of Catholic Women's social work organizations. Kerby was a self-effacing man who knew how to smooth over differences and played a key role in NCCC est ablishing itself as a fixture among catholic charities. During the 10 years that he serve as executive secretary, the 400 leaders of the N CCC met every other year, bringing national focus to an evolving Cath olic social agenda, while urging Catholics to pursue so-called "scien tific charity." Kerby was also responsible for grooming his successor , Msgr. John O'Grady, who lead NCCC for the next four decades and sha ped it into a modern organization.
O'Grady was an inquisitive Irish-born man who after being ordained at the age of 23 chaffed at his assignment to the diocese of Omaha. He soon moved to Washington D.C. 1912 to continue his education at Catho lic University. It was here that Kerby took him under his wing and be gan grooming him. O'Grady assisted Kerby in organizing the 1912 NCCC conference, including the editing of all the papers presented there. Later Kerby recruited O'Grady to help with the editing of a monthly p ublication, Catholic Charities Review. In 1915 O'Grady receive d a degree in labor economics and became a professor in Catholic Univ ersity's Department of Sociology. The United States was soon involved in World War I and Kerby urged his protégé to wander a round the Midwest to get a feel for the country. He reportedly told O 'Grady, "John, this war will end someday and a huge army will be demo bilized. Think of what that will mean. What it will mean so far as ho using, job dislocation, problems of security, reconstruction and all kinds of problems. Go out to the Midwest and check around. Come up wi th some ideas." As soon as the war ended in 1918 Kerby was instrument al in having O'Grady appointed secretary of the Committee on Reconstr uction for the National Catholic War Council. Shortly after finishing this assignment, he was considered to be experienced enough, despite being just 34 years of age to succeed his mentor as executive secret ary of NCCC in 1920.
Far less politic than Kerby, O'Grady had already ruffled some feather s within the ranks of NCCC. In June 1919 he spoke before a meeting of the National Conference of Social work and outlined his ideas about expanding the influence of NCCC. The first step, he advocated was rep lacing lay volunteer leaders with professionals. The lay people objec ted, but had little influence on O'Grady who reportedly told a collea gue, "We cannot change some of these old fellows. After I get full co ntrol, I expect to throw some of them overboard." Moreover, once O'Gr ady took the reins from Kerby, their relationship began to fray, as t he steps O'Grady took were inherently critical of the man he replaced .
While his abrasive personality put off some people, O'Grady's ambitio us nature provided a key influence on the growth of NCCC for the next four decades. When he took over as executive secretary in 1920, ther e were just six bureaus. Two years later there 35, and by 1937 there 68, and by the time he retired the number reached 140. Under his guid ance Catholic charities did indeed become more professional. They inc orporated the practice of family casework, and an organizational stru cture developed that included professionally trained case workers and supervisors handling day-to-day affairs while the clergy acted as ex ecutive officers of the diocesan charity organizations.
NCCC Becomes 1930s New Deal Advocate
Under O'Grady, NCCC also began to champion social issues in the polit ical realm. The primary catalyst was the advent of the Depression pre cipitated by the stock market crash of 1929. O'Grady now began to bec ome a national voice for social reform, as NCCC and the diocesan bure aus sought to promote social legislation based upon Catholic principl es. They became major backers of President Roosevelt's New Deal legis lation. For example, O'Grady and NCCC played important roles in the p assage of the Social Security Act in 1935 and the inclusion of child welfare provisions in Social Security. O'Grady would also help in the passage of housing legislation and become an advocate of a liberal i mmigration policy. Following World War II, NCCC helped in resettling displaced persons. O'Grady visited a number of internment camps and b egan urging the government to replace its quota system for immigratio n with a far more liberal policy. He would fight against the restrict ive McCarran-Walter Act of 1951, despite its support from the Nationa l Catholic Welfare Conference. The law would pass, and Congress would override President Truman's veto. O'Grady's efforts were appreciated by many, however, including his superiors at the Vatican, who sent a message: "God can only reward you for your noble and courageous figh t. You win even in apparent defeat."
Under O'Grady's tenure as NCCC executive secretary, the nature of Cat holic charity underwent a sea change. According to Dorothy M. Brown i n her book, The Poor Belong to Us: Catholic Charities and American Welfare, "By the end of the New Deal, Catholics in financial nee d were assisted primarily through public agencies. Catholics caring f or the material needs of 'their own' increasingly did so from the pro fessional ranks in the public welfare departments." Brown added, "Inc reasingly the poor were not 'us.' During World War II and after, many Catholics entered the expanding American middle class."
After O'Grady was replaced as executive secretary in 1961 by Msgr. Ra ymond Gallagher, NCCC experienced even more changes, as did the Catho lic Church in the wake of the Second Vatican Council that ushered in sweeping changes to the church. The 1965 Vatican II document, The Church in the Modern World, exhorted the church to become more in volved in the world and rededicate itself to serving the poor and dis advantaged. For charitable organizations it meant opening the doors t o everyone, regardless of their faith or lack of it. Gallagher was re placed as executive secretary in 1966 by Msgr. Lawrence Corcoran, the n in 1969 NCCC launched a three-year study, which would become known as the Cadre Study, to consider the organization's contemporary missi on. In 1972 a report called Toward a Renewed Catholic Charities Mo vement was published, expressing a renewed mission to serve peopl e in need and act as a social advocate.
Some of the outgrowths of the Cadre Study included the creation of th e parish outreach program in 1973. A year later NCCC began hosting an nual congresses where specific areas of concern could be discussed an d policy statements drafted. NCCC then became a legislative advocate of these positions. A few of the most important statements that emerg ed from these congresses was housing in 1985, the feminization of pov erty in 1986, pluralism a year later, and a just food system in 1989.
Name Change in 1980s
Corcoran was succeeded as executive secretary in 1982 by Rev. Thomas Harvey, who would later become the first to assume the titles Preside nt and Chief Executive Officer. During Corcoran's tenure NCCC followe d up on the work established by Bishop Gallagher, resulting in major growth in the programs, budgets, and staffing of local agencies. Harv ey continued that trend. In 1983 NCCC played an important role in the creation of the federal Emergency Food and Shelter Program, contribu ting about $130 million a year to local volunteer organizations. In that same year, NCCC published the Code of Ethics to lay ou t Catholic values and ethical standards, and to promote quality servi ce. In 1986, NCCC became Catholic Charities USA, a name more suited t o the organization's contemporary role.
In 1990 Catholic Charities USA expanded its purview when it entered i nto an agreement with the National Conference of Catholic Bishops to coordinate domestic disaster response on behalf of the conference. A year later Catholic Charities USA gained some national recognition wh en NonProfit Times proclaimed it to be the largest voluntary s ocial service network in the United States. Over the years an increas ing percentage of the organization's funding came from government mon ey, as public agencies contracted Catholic Charities for services, es pecially its children's institutions. By 1994 contracted services acc ounted for 65 percent of the $2 billion budget.
After ten years of heading the organization, Harvey was replaced as p resident and CEO by Rev. Fred Kammer, SJ, in 1992. Under Kammer's wat ch, Catholic Charities USA continued to refine its mission on both th e local and national levels. In 1993, following in the tradition of t he Cadre Study 20 years earlier, Catholic Charities USA: Vi sion 2000, a three-year "dialogue" within and outside the church, was begun. One of the initiatives to grow out of that effort was the 1995 Racial Equality Project. The final report of the Vision 2000 Ta sk Force was approved by the Board of Trustees in 1996 and a five-yea r effort to implement the report's plan was then put into place. In 1 997 the membership of Catholic Charities USA approved the new bylaws that would accomplish these changes and the Board of Trustees was reo rganized to increase representation of diocesan directors. In additio n member sections were formed, including Health Care, Emergency Servi ces, Parish Social Ministry, housing and community development, and c hildren, youth, and family services. Two years later a report titled In All Things Charity: A Pastoral Challenge for the New Millennium was submitted to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and approved.
In 2001 Rev. J. Baran Heir became the seventh head of Catholic Charit ies USA. He would only serve for two years before being called back t o his Archdiocese by his Bishop. He would be replaced on an interim b asis by Thomas A. Stefan until the board was able to conduct a search for a permanent replacement. In early 2005 Rev. Larry Snyder became president and CEO.
Catholic Charities USA continued to fulfill its mission during the 20 00s. In addition to the regular work of its many agencies, it also re sponded to disasters, such as the hurricane that leveled the city of New Orleans in 2005. It also pursued its role as legislative advocate . It championed the need for greater availability of healthcare. It a lso fought to fend off privatization efforts and preserve Social Secu rity, a program that it had been instrumental in establishing seven d ecades earlier. Although Catholic Charities USA had changed names and undergone a pair of revisions it remained just as viable a force in American society.