History of Catholic Charities

"Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance" - Samuel Johnson

One archbishop. One priest. One small office. No budget.

It was 1913, a year before the outbreak of World War I. Archbishop McNeil hired Fr. Patrick Bench to assist on bridging the gaps and overlaps on the assistance being given to the poor and needy. Together, the two decided to take control over the admissions of existing institutions and the allocation of the work of Catholic welfare societies. Their mission: to identify and tackle social problems such as unemployment and poverty, while encouraging others to partake in charity work. Take a look back at the contributions Catholic Charities and its member agencies have made in an effort to strengthen the community as a whole.



Catholic Charities organized and established

The Catholic Charities office was organized and established. It all began in one small office with no given budget.


St. Mary's Infants' Home opened

The Sisters of Misericorde opened The St. Mary’s Infants’ Home in a converted school house for unmarried mothers and their infants. The organization’s first-ever financial statement, produced in August of 1914, indicates total expenses of $739.32 for the year, including office and telephone charges, as well as 50 cents for “two meals for poor women” and 60 cents for women’s galoshes. Asked years later how he managed to pay for these expenses with no operating budget, Fr. Bench noted that he “begged” for donations through his weekly column in the Register, proof, he said, of the scriptural assertion “Seek and ye shall find.”

1918 & 1919

Catholic Big Brothers and Big Sisters established

The Catholic Big Brother network and the Catholic Big Sisters’ Association were established.


Federation for Community Services formed

The Federation for Community Services was formed. Many individual agencies in Toronto got together to do welfare work, regardless of their religious background.



Catholic Welfare Bureau formed

The Catholic Welfare Bureau was organized. It was formed after Archbishop Neil McNeil recruited a survey team to help him assess the needs of the community. As a result, the family and child care departments were added to help care and provide for needy families and orphan children.


Catholic Women's League hostel established

The Catholic Women’s League established a hostel for immigrant women. The hostel was included within the Catholic Charities group.


First Federation of Catholic Charities campaign launched

The first Federation of Catholic Charities campaign was launched to raise funds to support the charities of the archdiocese. The campaign was a huge success, exceeding its goal of $100,000.


Columbus Boys' Camp organized

The Columbus Boys’ Camp was organized and operated by the Knights of Columbus and the Basilian Fathers to provide a summer holiday for inner-city youngsters.



Depression era began

The beginning of the Depression era. Poverty became a major issue, affecting a great number of Catholics in Toronto.


Catholic Settlement House founded

To help meet the needs of the poor, the Redemptorists of St. Patrick’s Parish founded the Catholic Settlement House.


Day nursery added to Catholic Settlement House

A day nursery was added to the Catholic Settlement House. It was run by the Felician Sisters.


1941 & 1942

Campaign goals exceeded even during WWII

Despite personal heartache and tragedy brought on by WWII, the Federation of Catholic Charities was able to meet and exceed its campaign goal again. The success was brought on by improved economic conditions. Many people were able to find employment through war work.


United Welfare Fund established

The United Welfare Fund was established with the participation of Catholic and Jewish agencies in joint community fund raising. The organization went through several name changes over the next 30 years. Eventually it became known as The United Way.


Name changed to Council of Catholic Charities

The Federation of Catholic Charities changed its name to Council of Catholic Charities. [Council of Catholic Charities director] Msgr. Fullerton was asked to serve as vice-chair of the three-person Ontario Hospital Services Commission. In this role, his recommendations contributed to legislation that led to the eventual creation of OHIP, Ontario’s public health insurance plan, relieving Ontarians of the burden of worrying how to cover medical bills. [Need to verify date]



Catholic Immigration Bureau organized

A Catholic Immigration Bureau was organized.


Family department of Catholic Welfare Bureau became Catholic Family Services

The family department from the Catholic Welfare Bureau became Catholic Family Services.


Msgr. Mulvihill became director of Catholic Family Services

Monsignor Claude Mulvihill became the director of Catholic Family Services. He helped establish an immigration committee within the organization, to support the various emerging ethnic centres.



Good Shepherd Refuge opened

The Good Shepherd Refuge opened and became a member of Catholic Charities.


Expansion of programs

Significant expansion of other programs were being made to continue to help meet the needs of the community. Programs that were expanded included a parish visitation program and foster daycare.


Sancta Maria House became a member

Sancta Maria House, an agency that provided residence for young girls with special needs, became a member of Catholic Charities.



ShareLife formed

The United Way and Catholic Charities go their separate ways, after numerous attempts to convince United Way to not admit Planned Parenthood Association of Toronto into its organization fell short. Sharelife was formed in place of the United Way to raise funds.


Silent Voice became a member

Under Father Paul Lennon’s leadership, Silent Voice was admitted as a member of Catholic Charities. The late 1970s marked the beginning of extension of services in pastoral zones outside of Toronto.


Number of member agencies reached 24

The Natural Family Planning Association and Pelletier Homes for Youth were also admitted as members of Catholic Charities. The number of member agencies rose from 13 to 24 in less than 5 years.



Name changed to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto

The Council of Catholic Charities changed its name to the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto. The new name still remains as of today.


Parish social ministry incorporated to help the elderly

A parish social ministry was incorporated within Catholic Charities, especially with regards to the elderly. Volunteers and parish outreach workers helped develop support services for the elderly in the community.

1984 - 1988

Four more agencies joined

Four more agencies were admitted as members to Catholic Charities. Those member agencies were the Society of Sharing (1984), Le Centre des Pionniers (1987), Mary Centre (1988) and Rose of Sharon (1988). By 1988, the organization's 75th anniversary, its budget had reached $4.1-million, more than three times the goal set only 12 years earlier.

Early 1980s

Catholic Agencies committee formed

A Catholic Agencies committee was formed to serve as a communication link among the various boards of agencies and Catholic Charities.



Loyola Arrupe Centre joined

Loyola Arrupe Centre for Seniors joined Catholic Charities.


FertilityCare Toronto joined

FertilityCare Toronto (formerly Marguerite Bourgeoys Family Centre - FertilityCare Programme) joined Catholic Charities.


Vita Manor joined

Vita Manor also joined Catholic Charities. They served young parents and their young children.



Catholic Charities continues to serve people from all walks of life

Along with Sharelife, Catholic Charities today works and collaborates with 26 member agencies. Together, they continue to respond, serve and adapt to the physical, social, and emotional, and economic needs of the community. Regardless of ethno-cultural and religious backgrounds, Catholic Charities and its member agencies continues to serve people from all walks of life. With a budget of $9-million, Catholic Charities assists its member agencies in serving more 200,000 people annually.