History

Catholic Charities can trace its beginning to a meeting of the New London branch of the Connecticut Council of Catholic Women in May of 1921. Mrs. Frank L. McGuire, president of the Council's New London branch presided over the meeting in which Rev. Matthew Judge, Diocesan Director of Catholic Charities discussed the need for a Diocesan Bureau of Social Services in eastern Connecticut. At that time, eastern Connecticut was part of the Diocese of Hartford.

The following month, during a meeting at St. Mary's Church in New London, the Diocesan Bureau of Social Services was formally organized with Mr. Thomas Foran serving as president. Rev. Timothy M. Crowley, pastor of St. Mary's church offered space in a building at 42 Jay St. which became the first Bureau office under the direction of Miss Jane Clark, District Secretary. In its first year of existence, the Diocesan Bureau served thirty-five children, five families and had a total expenditure of $1,470.68.

During the early years of its existence, the Bureau served a dual role of assisting families and individuals confronted with social problems and of providing a center for the development of cultural life in the New London Area. The Agency sponsored many social events and receptions which provided financial support for the Agency's operations. Speakers included prominent leaders such as Dorothy Day, Padraic Colum, and Maisie Ward. The Catholic Center Library was established as an off-shoot of this activity.

Catholic Charities' board members were instrumental in establishing the Council of Social Agencies which evolved into the Community Chest and then the United Way. Mr. Charles L. Smiddy, a long time board member and president of the Bureau of Social Services served as the first president of the Council of Social Agencies.

Over the years, the services offered by the Agency, expanded to include a soup kitchen for homeless men, a settlement project for immigrants, a vacation house for girls, counseling for members of the armed forces and pregnancy and adoption services. Other Diocesan Bureaus of Social Services were opened in Norwich, Middletown and Willimantic. Then in 1953, with the establishment of the Diocese of Norwich, all the Bureaus came under the authority of the Bishop of Norwich. In 1954, the Bureaus were incorporated as a single non-profit organization in the State of Connecticut, with the corporate address in Norwich. However, the four offices still operated independently at that time.

Keeping with the times, the agency recognizes that a responsible approach to providing for those in need requires qualities of caring and competence. To achieve these qualities, the Board of Directors established standards of excellence for the Agency services and initiated an aggressive campaign to secure the resources necessary to fulfill it's mission.

Pursuing the Board's standards of excellence, Catholic Charities embarked on a mission to obtain accreditation for its services from the Council on Accreditation of Services for Families and Children, Inc. Also recognizing that collaboration is essential in today's service environment, the Agency established strategic alliances with the Archdiocese of Hartford, the Diocese of Bridgeport and other Catholic and community service agencies.

 

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