By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
Thanking God for the “gift” of Catholic Charities, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption Sept. 28 to mark the 75th anniversary of the organization.
Catholic Charities of Louisville staff, volunteers and members of the Board of Trustees attended the morning Mass, which was followed by a reception in the Cathedral undercroft.
The charity, one of the more than 100 agencies and programs funded by the Catholic Services Appeal, began in 1939 with child welfare services. It is the Archdiocese of Louisville’s largest agency. Its 100 employees work with about 300 volunteers in an array of social services.
The charity offers more than a dozen programs aiding elderly people, refugees, children, mothers, families, the unemployed, people living in poverty, prisoners, victims of human trafficking and those in need of affordable housing.
Archbishop Kurtz gave thanks during his homily to those who aid in this mission. And he described what he called the “what, who, why and how” of Catholic Charities.
As for “why,” he noted its history of helping local orphanages in its first few years and its expansion in 1948 to care for refugees. And he emphasized that Catholic Charities offers a “hand-up,” not a “hand-out” to those it serves.
The archbishop also said, “The work of Catholic Charities is the work of all of us” and noted that “Catholic Charities has touched the lives of everyone.”
In a Lenten message about the poor, Pope Francis began to list all the forms of poverty “and by the time he finished, everyone of us was in the group,” whether materially poor, spiritually poor or morally poor, the archbishop said.
Catholic Charities, he said, can help all of those in poverty: The agency serves the material needs of its clients and can aid the spiritual and moral needs of those who share in its service.
He concluded by noting that Catholics share in the work of Catholic Charities because, “We are all children of God” and we serve as Jesus did, with humility, understanding that it’s “a privilege to be able to serve another.”
At Catholic Charities, opportunities to serve “another” abound.
The charity’s Case Management and Family Support program helps with pregnancies and adoptions, provides ministry in prisons and jails, cares for elderly people, responds to natural disasters and cares for victims of human trafficking.
Its housing development program creates affordable housing for senior citizens. To date, it has helped create 230 housing units, often in former church and
school buildings. Most recently, Catholic Charities helped create the Most Blessed Sacrament Senior Apartments in the parish’s former school which closed in 2005.
Sister Visitor Center, an outreach program of Catholic Charities, has provided material support to families in the Portland neighborhood since 1969.
Catholic Charities also offers legal services to immigrants and refugees and has staff attorneys for this purpose. Immigrants and refugees also benefit from the charities’ English language school.
Among Catholic Charities’ oldest and largest programs is its office of Migration and Refugee Services. The first refugees aided by Catholic Charities of Louisville arrived in 1948. The program was established in a formal way in 1975. Since then, about 15,000 refugees have been aided by the charity.
During the 75th anniversary year, Catholic Charities staff members are asking people in the community to join them in service in four ways — by volunteering, donating items for people in need, offering financial contributions and attending its fundraising events.
Sister Visitor Center will hold a fundraising event at Churchill Downs on Nov. 14 at 6 p.m. The Race to Beat Poverty includes a buffet dinner, open bar and races.
Tickets are $250. For information, visit http://cclou.org/race or contact Sister Michele Intravia at 873-2566, ext., 112, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Catholic Charities and its work, visit its website at cclou.org.