Catholic Charities celebrates anniversary Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kat Wagner, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Sep. 23, 2010 -- 12:00 AM
A Supportive Living Program client and a Catholic Charities, Diocese of Madison, staff member pose for a photo together at the 15th anniversary celebration August 27 at the Bishop O’Connor Center in Madison. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)

MADISON -- At a small gathering at the Bishop O’Connor Center recently, clients and support team members from Catholic Charities, Diocese of Madison’s Supportive Living Program gathered to celebrate an anniversary.

For 15 years, the charitable arm of the Diocese of Madison has offered the Supportive Living Program, which provides support for Dane County individuals with disabilities to live as independently as possible in their own homes and to have maximum choice and control over their lives. Through the program, clients develop daily living skills, enhance their participation in the community, and are enabled to live in the least restrictive settings possible.

But 15 years is a small anniversary for an organization that, nationwide, has been serving the needs of people since 1910.

Celebrating a centennial

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Madison, is affiliated with Catholic Charities USA, the national umbrella organization for all local Catholic Charities agencies and affiliates nationwide.

The non-profit organization is considered one of the nation’s largest social service networks. It serves over nine million people each year, encouraging professional social work practice, providing opportunities for training and networking, and acting as a national voice on poverty issues.

The organization celebrates 100 years at its convention September 25 to 28 in Washington, D.C. More than 1,000 service professionals are expected to attend the four-day celebration.

Highlights of the event are expected to include a main liturgy at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception celebrated by Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; an opening keynote address by Fr. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, followed by a panel discussion; a day on Capitol Hill advocating for transformative legislation; and a Centennial Gala Concert.

As well, Sunday, Sept. 26, is Catholic Charities Sunday nationwide, an opportunity for parishes to honor Catholic Charities for its long-standing efforts and to deepen the commitment, as Catholics, to serve those in need and build a more just and compassionate society.

History of charity

Catholic Charities was founded in 1910 on the campus of Catholic University of America as the National Conference of Catholic Charities (NCCC), founded to promote the creation of diocesan Catholic charities bureaus, “to bring about a sense of solidarity” among those in charitable ministries, and “to be the attorney for the poor.” It was renamed Catholic Charities USA in 1986.

Since its founding, the organization has evolved to become one of the largest faith-based social welfare networks in the United States with 1,700 agencies and affiliates and about 337,000 staff, volunteers, and board members.

The ministries Catholic Charities provides has moved beyond its humble beginnings of simple charity to become a voice for people in need, Fr. Larry Snyder, Catholic Charities USA’s current president, said in an interview with Catholic News Service.

“It’s not simply enough to respond to human need,” he explained. “We have to ask why and then we have to advocate for people who have no voice to speak for themselves so we can look at systems and we can say, ‘Is this really benefiting people in need or do we need to make some changes?’”

The basis for working to assist today’s social service consumers — Catholic Charities’ preferred way of identifying the people being served — remains rooted in the Gospel.

“The first thing we have to do is to assure that our agencies are in fact living out Catholic identity,” Father Snyder explained. “If we’re going to witness this, we have to be convinced of this. That says we do our work in a different way.”

Serving locally

In the counties of southwestern Wisconsin, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Madison has been serving individuals since the diocese was formed in 1946. The Supportive Living Program is just one of the ways Catholic Charities has been supporting the community at large: their many programs help families, youth, seniors, those in rural communities, people with disabilities, and people struggling with addictions.

In 2009 the organization served 64,334 people, regardless of religious, ethnic, racial, or social background, through its 28 programs and services. Guided by Catholic social teaching, Catholic Charities continues to provide compassionate, caring service designed to help those in need.

“This all has to do with human dignity,” Bishop Robert C. Morlino, bishop of Madison, said at the anniversary celebration August 27 for the Supportive Living Program. “I have to do a lot of teaching on it . . . but you are the real teachers, because you just do it. You’re all about raising human potential to the top level of which that potential is capable as given by God.”

The program, he said, is all about “love in action”: “There is a service taking place here of giving and receiving reciprocally,” the bishop said. “I’m proud of you as the bishop, for making that concrete and real.”

More information about Catholic Charities Madison is available on their Web site at More information about Catholic Charities USA programs can be found online at

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