Our History: A Mission of Hope

The story of Catholic Charities begins in 1903 with John J. Williams, Archbishop of Boston. After witnessing the appalling social conditions of Boston's immigrant and predominantly Catholic population, the Archbishop envisioned an agency that would provide assistance and hope to families in need. Catholic Charities is building a just and compassionate society rooted in the dignity of all people.

The Challenges of Change

During the first half of the twentieth century, the agency began primarily as an adoption/foster care agency, then continued to expand and evolve in order to provide direct assistance to poverty-stricken families, the elderly, single pregnant women, and newly-arrived immigrants. Between 1916 and 1920, branch offices opened in Brockton, Lawrence, Lynn, Salem, Somerville, and Lowell to assist needy Catholics and to reach out to include non-Catholic immigrants.

During the Great Depression, Catholic Charities joined with local social service agencies of all faiths to form the Community Federation of Boston, directly assisting hundreds of thousands of needy individuals. Catholic Charities supplied food and clothing to thousands of families daily and continued to find homes for orphans and children in need. As the Depression ended, Catholic Charities shifted its emphasis from direct assistance to adoption, foster care, marital counseling, alcohol abuse treatment, and immigration and refugee services.

Becoming incorporated in 1945, The Catholic Charitable Bureau of the Archdiocese of Boston then expanded again, opening a branch office in Haverhill and beginning the process of professionalism in the staff.

During the latter half of the 20th century, Catholic Charities started to reach a wider community. The agency continued its expansion throughout the 1960s and 1970s, with the establishment of a Central Office in 1972, housing the agency's fiscal, administrative, development, and public relations functions.

Today, Catholic Charities maintains the same strong commitment that has guided it for more than 100 years and remains focused on its mission: building a just and compassionate society rooted in the dignity of all people.


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Catholic Charities is building a just and compassionate society rooted in the dignity of all people
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