Catholic Charities began with the establishment of the Catholic Church in America. John Carroll, the first Bishop of Baltimore, which was the first diocese in the New World, declared in 1792 that one-third of all parish revenues should go to “the relief of the poor.”
In the mid-1800s, services focused on caring for orphaned immigrant children.Our first program, St.Vincent’s Orphanage, opened in 1856. Over the next century, numerous homes for such children were established by the Archdiocese, as Baltimore became the point of entry for more 19th century immigrants than any other U.S. city outside of New York.
In 1923, the Archdiocese incorporated all of the children’s orphanages under a new “Bureau of Catholic Charities”” and the care of disadvantaged people became the specialized mission of Catholic Charities that continues today. Over the next century, the orphanage focus changed as the need for treating neglected and abused children and those with emotional disabilities became greater. As a result, St.Vincent’s Center and Villa Maria opened in Dulaney Valley in the 1960s.
Catholic Charities became innovators in developing programs for people with developmental disabilities through the establishment of the Francis X. Gallagher Center in the 1970s. Also located in Dulaney Valley, both the residential and day programs have grown and now have multiple locations.
In the following decade, the Agency expanded to include programs for poor, homeless, and unemployed people. Our Daily Bread, a daily hot meal program, opened its doors in 1981 and has never missed a day of service since. Our Daily Bread has become Catholic Charities’ most well-known program, involving thousands of volunteers from around the region. These kind individuals take poverty to heart and respond by providing and serving the vast majority of the more than a quarter million meals each year. As the necessity arose, additional programs opened to serve the related needs of the homeless men (Christopher Place Employment Academy) and women (My Sister’s Place).
Continuing its tremendous growth of services in the 1980s, Catholic Charities began evolving into one of Baltimore’s largest providers of services for seniors. The first of many affordable, independent living apartment communities for seniors, Basilica Place, opened in 1980. The Agency also transformed the Jenkins Memorial Home into what is today the Jenkins Senior Living Community, a beautiful campus that includes two independent senior living apartment buildings (St. Joachim House and DePaul House), St. Ann Adult Day Services, Caritas House Assisted Living, and St. Elizabeth Rehabilitation and Nursing Center.
In June 2007, Catholic Charities undertook its most ambitious effort to date with the development of a new multipurpose facility, Our Daily Bread Employment Center. It is Baltimore’s comprehensive resource center for people who need not only food, but assistance and guidance to achieve long-term employment, housing, and self sufficiency. In 2008, My Sister’s Place Women’s Center opened to serve the needs of homeless women and their children.
Our logo includes the loaves and fishes icon to indicate that we nourish bodies and spirits, helping to improve peoples lives in ways they can accept. Sometimes, they are only ready for a hot meal, sometimes for transitional shelter, and sometimes they are ready for job training, returning to self-sufficiency, and being reunited with their families.
Catholic Charities programs and services have evolved in tandem with the needs and challenges faced by the most vulnerable people in the Baltimore region. The Agency is deeply committed to cherishing the Divine within every person—those who need our help as well as those who help others. With compassion and respect, Catholic Charities of Baltimore provides meaningful opportunities for self sufficiency and better lives for children and families, seniors, people with developmental disabilities, and those impacted by poverty. We touch the lives of more than 160,000 people and serve over 300,000 meals to hungry men, women, and children every year.