Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York is celebrating its 100th anniversary in this New Year of 2017—and it’s an important milestone indeed.
The archdiocese will mark the opening of the centennial at a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Dolan in St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday, Jan. 29, which will also highlight the start of Catholic Charities’ annual Feeding Our Neighbors campaign.
With dedicated Catholic lay men and women, clergy and nuns caring for the poor, the sick and the orphaned from the earliest days of New York—forming the first “safety net” for the needy—these unaffiliated groups drew strength by banding together in 1917 under the umbrella of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.
Today, the 90 affiliated human services agencies of archdiocesan Catholic Charities bring help and hope to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers every year, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
Its continued success is due in no small part to the creative and savvy leadership of Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, the executive director since 2001, who has served in top Catholic Charities management posts for three decades, and to the dedicated staff of Catholic Charities and its member agencies.
With a core mission based on the Gospel instruction to put the needs of the poor and the vulnerable first, Catholic Charities and its agencies have adapted to the changing circumstances of society in these last 100 years to become one of the most respected and innovative contributors to the common good.
The Bronx-based Part of the Solution (POTS), for instance, served its first meal to homeless individuals in 1982 using a standard soup kitchen model. From that humble beginning, POTS has become a ‘one-stop shop’ helping low-income individuals and families improve their lives and work toward self-sufficiency.
A food pantry, shower facilities, mail services, legal help and immigration counseling are just some of the services added to the original mission of providing a nutritious meal to the neighborhood’s homeless. In 2016, some 25,000 people turned to POTS for help.
The foundation of Catholic Charities’ work was laid in the aftermath of the Civil War, when thousands of orphans lived on city streets. Catholic groups like the Sisters of Charity’s New York Foundling Hospital and many more stepped in to care for these abandoned children.
The Great Depression of the 1930s provided the first major test for Catholic Charities after the umbrella group was formed. Among the programs born in that era was the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), which provided summer camps, recreational activities and after-school programs to young people whose families had trouble making ends meet.
The more recent challenges include the AIDS epidemic, the explosion of crack cocaine and the homelessness crisis of the 1980s, recovery from the 9/11 terrorist attacks and relief after the devastating blow of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
We’d love to think that Sandy was the last major crisis we’ll face here in New York, but we know that’s not the way life works.
Families are still in crisis, too many mentally ill individuals are not getting the help they need, homelessness is as much of a problem as ever, immigrants need advocates and counsel, and addiction is a growing menace.
That’s why we need Catholic Charities more than ever, and why we proudly salute it for a century of caring.