In 1913, one year before the outbreak of World War I, Archbishop McNeil was painfully aware of the gaps and overlaps in the assistance being given to the poor and needy of the Archdiocese. By this time, several Catholic organizations in Toronto had been serving the needy for years, including St Mary's Sacred Heart Orphanage, Infant homes, Misrecordia and the House of Providence (run by the Sisters of St. Joseph), the Parish conferences and the Children's Aid Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a shelter for young women lawbreakers provided by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, St. John's Training School for boys in trouble with the law (the Christian Brothers) and the recently formed St. Elizabeth Visiting Nurses' Association.
Nonetheless, Archbishop McNeil saw a clear need for some control over admissions to existing institutions, for coordinating the work of all the Catholic welfare societies and, above all, for a central body to plan for the future and to keep the Chancery informed of what was happening. Fr. Patrick Bench was made the Superintendent of Catholic Charities, and instructed to tackle these problems. He was given a small office but no budget, as Catholic Charities was to be a coordinating and referral body. His only obligation was to make a formal annual report to the Archbishop on the work of the past year.
The Early Years
Catholic Charities moved into several new areas, taking responsibility for Catholic men and women who were on probation and developing an employment bureau for women. It was also largely responsible for the launch of the Catholic Big Brother Movement in Toronto, and later the Catholic Big Sisters Association in 1919. The Sisters of Misericordie opened a home for unmarried mothers and girls (which eventually became Rosalie Hall) during this period.
Each member agency was responsible for its own financing until 1919, when all agencies in Toronto doing social welfare work got together, regardless of religious orientation, and formed the Federation for Community Service.
Brother Barnabas took over as Superintendent of Catholic Charities in 1921, which by now had a small staff. Archbishop McNeil's next step was to call for a Social Welfare Survey - now known as a needs assessment - of the entire Archdiocese of Toronto. This led to the Catholic Welfare Bureau being set up, to take over the direct service aspect of Catholic Charities' work, including family and child care matters.
In 1927, for a variety of reasons, the Federation for Community Service announced that it would no longer support any Catholic agency or institution. Rallying from the shock, Archbishop McNeil turned to the religious and lay leaders of the archdiocese. By the fall of that year, the Federation of Catholic Charities was founded, to raise money for Catholic agencies. Within three weeks $ 178,000 had been collected.
Besides fundraising, the Federation of Catholic Charities had to coordinate the work of Catholic charitable organizations. Not surprising, the Board of the Federation of Catholic Charities had tough decisions to make during the Depression. In 1933, it could not even provide financial support for any of the children's summer camps. To help meet the needs of the poor, other agencies and projects had materialized. Columbus Boys' Camp was started in 1929, the Catholic Settlement House Day Nursery was founded in 1931, and the newly formed Rosary Guild's 825 members each provided at least two articles of new children's clothing once a year.
Impact of World War II
World War II brought about improved economic conditions and many who had been unemployed now found lucrative jobs in war work. As a result, in 1941 and 1942, the Federation of Catholic Charities once again exceeded its goals in the annual campaign for funds.
A desire to defeat the common enemy and to restore peace brought both Catholics and Jews into a closer relationship with the majority of Toronto citizens, and the United Community Fund was established in 1943. It replaced 18 former individual campaigns, and supported all charitable organizations. After several name changes, it evolved into United Way in 1973. In 1946, the Federation of Catholic Charities changed its name to become the Council of Catholic Charities. Over the next three decades, many new Catholic agencies and programs were established.
In 1976, United Way of Toronto voted to admit the Planned Parenthood Association of Toronto to its membership. Under leadership of Archbishop Pocock and after much soul-searching, the Board of Catholic Charities and its member agencies unanimously decided to withdraw from United Way. Within a few months, ShareLife was formed to raise money and Catholic Charities undertook the allocation of these funds to its member agencies.
Catholic Charities Continues to Grow
The need for services in the pastoral zones outside Toronto led to Catholic family service agencies being developed in Simcoe, York, Peel and Durham Regions between 1979 and 1981. In addition, agencies that cared for particular client groups became members of Catholic Charities, including Our Place, Silent Voice Canada, Matt Talbot House, Pelletier Homes for Youth and Natural Family Planning Association. The number of agencies rose from 13 to 24 in less than five years, and by 1982 these agencies were serving between 50,000 and 60,000 annually.
During the 80s, the Society of Sharing: Inner City Volunteers, Les Centres d'Accueil Heritage, Rose of Sharon, Rose of Durham and Mary Centre became Catholic Charities agencies, and now 28 Catholic Charities' agencies are serving over 500,000 people in need, throughout the archdiocese.
During the 90's, Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Fertility Care Programme Centres, St. Bernadette's Family Resource Centre, and Vita Centre joined the member agencies of Catholic Charities.
- 1850 — Bishop de Charbonnel invited the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Sisters of St. Joseph to come to Toronto.
- 1850-1851 — St. Vincent de Paul Society organized five parish conferences.
- 1851 — Sisters of St. Joseph assumed responsibility of "The Orphan Asylum".
- 1857 — House of Providence was established.
- 1893 — Catholic Children's Aid Society was established.
- 1908 — St. Elizabeth Visiting Nurses' Association was formed.
- 1913 — Catholic Charities' office was organized and started Catholic Big Brothers and Catholic Big Sisters.
- 1922 — Catholic Welfare Bureau was organized.
- 1927 — Federation of Catholic Charities was incorporated to raise money for Catholic agencies.
- 1943 — United Welfare Fund was established with the participation of Catholic and Jewish agencies in joint community fund raising.
- 1946 — Name of Council of Catholic Charities was adopted.
- 1976 — Catholic Charities withdrew from United Way of Toronto.
- 1977 — ShareLife was organized and Catholic Charities undertook allocation of funds to agencies.
- 1977 — To present Catholic Charities membership increased from 13 to 29 agencies.
- 1978-1981 — Catholic family service agencies were developed in Simcoe county, York, Peel and Durham Regions.
- 1980s — Groundwork begins on Catholic Charities role in promoting caring communities in parishes.
- 1981 — Legal structure of Catholic Charities Council was changed to establish Board of Directors as advisory body to the Archbishop of Toronto.
- 1987 — Parish Outreach Committee formed and focused on ministry with elderly and disabled.
- 1987 — Catholic Charities organizes 1st Volunteer Conference for the Archdiocese.
- 1988 — Mary Centre begins serving older adults with developmental disabilities.
- 1991 — Loyola Arrupe Centre for Seniors joined Catholic Charities as a non-funded associate member agency.
- 1993 — Council of priests and Catholic Charities develop proposal for social ministry in the Archdiocese with Catholic Charities asked to take major leadership role to implement proposal.
- 1994 — Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Care™ Programme Centre joined Catholic Charities as a non-funded associate member agency.
- 1994 — Parish Social Ministry Outreach Committee is formed.
- 1998 — Parish Social Ministry adopts a regional model. Vita Manor added as a non-funded associate member agency serving young parents and their young children.
- 1999 — First Parish Social Ministry Conference attended by 300 people.
- 2002 — Parish Social Ministry and Liturgical Resource Committee convene a "Joy in Service" 4th conference that is attended by 400 people.
- 2002 — Catholic Charities plays pivotal role in World Youth Day.