Catholic Charities will celebrate 75 years

By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor

catholicharities75-6.19.14-wCatholic Charities of Louisville is celebrating its 75th anniversary — three quarters of a century in which the agency studied the needs of the community and responded with a helping hand, according to its executive director, Steve Bogus.

To mark the occasion, Catholic Charities will hold a 75th anniversary Mass on Sept. 28 at 9:30 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Assumption. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz will preside. A reception, that will include a sharing of the agency’s history, will follow the liturgy.

In addition, next Thursday, June 26, the agency’s Migration and Refugee Services will hold its annual banquet and fundraiser, called “A Celebration of Spirit and Success.” The event begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 830 Phillips Lane. Tickets are $75 and available online at cclou.org/spirit or by calling 637-9786.

In the last 75 years, in the estimation of its staff, Catholic Charities has completed a circle of sorts.

The charity was established by the Archdiocese of Louisville in 1939 to aid local orphanages, which at the time were run by women religious and supported by Catholic laity from local parishes.

As the decades passed, Catholic Charities’ professional staff grew and the agency expanded its mission, using its own staff to do most of its charitable work. But in the last five years or so, its leadership says, the charity has taken a new direction: strengthening its relationship with parishes and engaging more laity in its work.

Steve Bogus, the first lay leader of Catholic Charities, said it’s essential that both the institutional church and individual Catholics work together to live the Gospel.

“It really does all come down to our baptismal call — whether we believe what Jesus says about loving one another,” he said. “We’re doing that in the name of the whole church at Catholic Charities. Our role is to be the professional arm and the facilitator, but we all have the opportunity to work together and share” in charity, he added.

For inspiration, Bogus said he continually looks to paragraph 20 of the encyclical Deus Caritas Est, issued by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

“It’s the rudimentary teaching of what we’re about,” Bogus noted. That paragraph says, in part, “Love of neighbor, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility for each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level: from the local community to the particular Church and to the

Church universal in its entirety. As a community, the Church must practice love. Love thus needs to be organized if it is to be an ordered service to the community.”

In the last three quarters of a century, Catholic Charities has organized a great deal of outreach for the community. Its staff now stands at 99 members and it has more than a dozen programs aiding the elderly, refugees, children, mothers, families, the unemployed, people living in poverty, people in prison, victims of human trafficking and those in need of affordable housing.

Its first mission, that of child welfare, has been through several changes over the years and now is most apparent in the Mother-Infant Care program and adoption services. The Queen’s Daughters, a Catholic lay organization, has worked with Catholic Charities on child welfare from the beginning and continues to do so today. It will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year.

In 1948, Catholic Charities expanded it mission and began receiving its first refugees — 213 displaced people from Europe and 46 from other parts of the United States. The agency’s Migration and Refugee Services formed in 1975, after the fall of Saigon — now called Ho Chi Minh City — in anticipation of an influx of refugees. Since then, the agency has resettled
more than 15,000 refugees from 42 countries.

In recent years, it’s developed a translation service — which also is available to businesses in the community and generates a bit of income — and legal services for refugees.

Among the agency’s newest ministries is its services to victims of human trafficking. That office also trains law enforcement and the public to recognize cases of trafficking.

Today Catholic Charities employs 99 professionals — social workers, legal professionals, translators and others who operate its programs. But, staff members are quick to point out:

The agency operates effectively because of its approximately 300 active volunteers and various school groups that help the agency throughout the year.

Deacon Lucio Caruso, director of the agency’s mission integration, said he hopes the number of active volunteers grows as Catholic Charities engages more and more with parishes and archdiocesan agencies.

“We have a lively pope,” he noted. In response to Pope Francis, who has urged the faithful to live their faith by reaching out to others, “people are saying, where can we do that? I feel like saying, ‘Oh, oh! We can help.’ Francis is making it so tangible for the entire church.”

In preparation for its 75th anniversary celebration, Catholic Charities is inviting people whose lives have been touched by the agency to share their stories and photos. In addition, Catholic Charities has established a 75th anniversary fund to benefit its programs.

The agency is encouraging donors to contribute in increments that reflect its anniversary — $7.50, $75 and $750. And special promotional gifts will be offered to donors.

For more information, visit cclou.org or call 637-9786.

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