Charity has always been at the heart of the Catholic Church. It was no different in 1847 when the Diocese of Cleveland was established in the northern Ohio territory with The Most Reverend Bishop Louis A. Rappe serving as Bishop of Cleveland (1847 – 1870). Bishop Rappe went on to found an orphanage for girls (1851) and an orphanage for boys (1848). He also introduced several orders of priests and nuns and was instrumental in establishing St. Vincent Charity Hospital in 1865.
Several more Catholic-run orphanages formed throughout the mid-to-late 1800′s – while needs continued to increase. In October 1909, Bishop John P. Farrelly (Bishop of Cleveland from 1909 – 1921) appointed a panel to study welfare needs of diocese and funding sources.
In October 1911 that board recommended a home for orphans be established in cooperation with Cleveland Humane Society and Juvenile Court. The also recommended:
- appointment of director to oversee welfare facilities of diocese
- pastors on the Board assess themselves to pay $1.50 for each family in their parish to support the welfare facilities
Bishop Farrelly addressed a letter to all parishes to adopt the board’s recommendation – this was the first Annual Appeal. In 1911/1912 – The Catholic Charities Bureau of the St. Vincent DePaul Society formed for the purpose of providing coordinated formal social services. Bishop Farrelly appointed 28-year-old Fr. Charles H. LeBlond as Diocesan Director of Catholic Charities Bureau.
Finally, in March 1912 – Fr. LeBlond opened the first Catholic Charities office at East 9th and Prospect. The Catholic facilities at the time included:
- 4 orphanages
- 1 infant home (St. Ann’s)
- 9 Catholic hospitals
- St. Anthony’s home for working boys
- Catherine Horstmann home for working girls
- St. Mary’s home for dependent women
- Good Shepherd Home for the Aged
One has to wonder if Bishop Farrelly, Fr. LeBlond, or any of the board members could have imagined what their dream would grow into today. In 2012, nearly half a million people were served by Catholic Charities in some way. The services covered nearly ever demographic throughout the eight-county Dioceses (Ashland, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Summit, and Wayne).
Catholic Charities celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 2012 in a variety of ways, including:
- Bishop Lennon celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. John the Evangelist’s Cathedral.
- Community open houses were held at various Catholic Charities sites.
- More than 500 attended the 100th Anniversary Celebration where the Inaugural Class of the Hall of Hope was inducted and keynote speaker, the Honorable Senator George Voinovich (retired), spoke about the great service Catholic Charities has brought to Northeast Ohio.
- And, sharing 100 stories over 100 days about lives touched by the work of Catholic Charities through the blog clecatholicchar100.wordpress.com. On this blog, you can explore testimonials that span 100 years of service as well as learn more about the history of our organization in it’s first century.