Day 1: First things First

As Julie Andrews reminded us in The Sound of Music, “let’s start at the beginning, a very good place to start.”

There was a story in The Plain Dealer a few weeks ago featuring the year 1912 in Cleveland, Ohio.  You can read it here.  That year turned out to be a milestone moment in Northeast Ohio’s history – buildings were erected, organizations formed, and several nonprofits were incorporated in 1912 – including Cleveland Catholic Charities.

However, the real story starts a few years earlier…

Charity has been at the heart of the Catholic Church since the start.  It was no different in 1847 when the Diocese of Cleveland was established in the northern Ohio territory with 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 established St. Vincent Charity Hospital in 1865.

Several more Catholic-run orphanages begin formed throughout the mid-to-late 1800’s – and needs only continued to increase.  In October 1909, Bishop John P. Farrelly (Bishop of Cleveland from 1909 – 1921) appointed 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 board’s recommendation – this was the first Annual Appeal.   And 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 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

So there you have it, 18-facilities in 1912 headed by a relatively young priest at the start of his career.  One has to wonder if Bishop Farrely, Fr. LeBlond, or any of the board members could have imagined what their dream would grow into today.  In 2011, over a quarter of a million people were served by Catholic Charities in some way or another.  The services covered nearly ever demographic throughout the eight-county Dioceses (Ashland, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Summit, and Wayne).

Over the next 100 days, we will share a sampling of the stories shared with us over our 100 year history.  We are humbled by the trust entrusted to us by our community, blessed to have had such longevity, and honored to continue to mission Christ asked us to carry out two-thousand years ago.

We hope you come along for the journey over these next several weeks as we reminisce, and look forward to the next century to come.

Cleveland Catholic Charities


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