As I considered sharing my journey for this column, it occurred to me that many of you might have no idea about the journey of Catholic Charities as an agency, your agency in fact, as Catholics within the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Catholic Charities was established in 1939 under the sixth bishop and first Archbishop of Louisville, John Alexander Floersh. The original purpose was to plan and coordinate the charitable work of professional staff and volunteers on behalf of the Archdiocese and to be a link between Catholic social work and community welfare organizations.
In those early years, services focused on child welfare and Catholic orphanages. These adoption services have transformed into a wide array of programs, including Mother-Infant Care, as our current Family Support Services department.
Less than a decade later in 1947, the Catholic Bishops of the United States, anticipating the passage of the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, authorized the organization of a National Resettlement Council. Locally, this responsibility was assigned to Catholic Charities, which resettled 259 persons from Europe and other parts of the U.S.
Catholic Charities’ Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) officially formed in 1975 in response to increased refugees from Southeast Asia.
To address the mounting hardships experienced by some residents of Louisville’s West End, the Sister Visitor Center was established by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in 1969. This program came under the agency’s direction in the 1990s and currently serves residents of the Portland, Shawnee and Russell neighborhoods as one of Louisville’s Area Community Ministries.
In 1992, Kentucky disbanded its government office for refugee resettlement and Catholic Charities accepted that role. The Kentucky Office for Refugees was established as the Kentucky State Refugee Coordinator’s office designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
That same year saw the creation of our Immigration Legal Services Department within MRS and in 1995 the agency assumed the role of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman for the KIPDA region of the state.
Language Services formed within MRS shortly after in 1998. Both Language Services and Immigration Legal Services became stand-alone departments in 2000.
By 2000, the Parish Social Ministry department was fully engaged with parishes, schools, and the broader community to assess needs and implement solutions. This included senior services and senior housing, criminal justice ministry, INSIGHTS, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, CRS Rice Bowl, and the Legislative Advocacy Network.
Two large federal grants prompted more growth in the 2000s. Common Earth Gardens began as the Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program in 2007.
In 2008, Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking opened its doors and has expanded throughout the state as the Bakhita Empowerment Initiative of today.
Our most recent addition is Common Table in 2015. This culinary arts and catering program is a social enterprise providing both training and real-world job experience to those seeking to enter the foodservice industry.
For more than 80 years Catholic Charities has built bridges of hope, mercy, and justice through service consistent with Catholic social teaching. I invite you to continue this historical journey at www.cclou.org for a more in-depth look at how our staff and volunteers accompany struggling families and individuals to greater self-sufficiency, one relationship at a time.
Bart Weigel is the director of administration for Catholic Charities of Louisville. He has served with the organization since 2006.