year marks Catholic Charities’ 75th year
of outstanding service to the communities of South
Florida. What started in 1931 with four Miami-area
pastors and lay members of the Society of St.
Vincent de Paul is today the largest nongovernmental
provider of services to the needy in South Florida.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami,
with over 600 staff and an annual budget of over
$38 million, has far exceeded the expectations
of its Great Depression era founders.
On March 8, 1931, the Associated Catholic Charities
was formally established in Miami and named the
Catholic Welfare Bureau. From the beginning, the
agency’s focus was to collaborate with other
social service agencies to address the needs of
Miami’s growing population, which by
1940 had grown to almost two million. The needs
identified at that time included: family problems,
out-of-wedlock pregnancies, juvenile delinquency,
immigrants threatened with deportation, and children
needing foster care.
1958, The Most Rev. Coleman F. Carroll was installed
as the first bishop of the newly
established Diocese of Miami. Bishop Carroll soon
named Fr. Bryan O. Walsh as Director of Catholic
Charities. Fr. Walsh saw the future of the Church’s
work in social development as depending on the
forging of a partnership with other voluntary
and public social service agencies. The agency
had a staff of eleven at the time, and a budget
of about $100,000.
Answering the needs.
In 1959, Centro Hispano Catolico, housed
in the Gesu Parish School building became the
multiple social services for newly arrived Cuban
refugees. The Diocese also began to concern itself
with unaccompanied Cuban children. Fr. Walsh helped
establish a coordinated effort called the Cuban
Children’s Program, with the help of 110
Catholic Charities’ agencies in 35 states.
They provided temporary foster care in family
and group homes throughout the U.S. “Operation
Pedro Pan,” as it was nicknamed, was the
largest airlift of unaccompanied children in the
history of the United States. Over 14,000 unaccompanied
children were sponsored into the USA.
By 1964, the Catholic Welfare Bureau was the
second largest child welfare and care agency in
the United States. In 1966, the agency’s
name was changed from Catholic Welfare Bureau
to Catholic Service Bureau.
The first half of the 1970’s were a boom
time for opening new programs. St. Luke’s
Methadone Clinic opened in 1970, followed by a
child care center at St. Luke’s, providing
services especially designed for children whose
parents were substance abusers. Other programs
included: Genesis in South Dade, a residential
program for drug addicts; Ozanam, a half-way home
for ex-offenders; Bethesda Manor, a half-way house
for alcoholics; the Miami Bridge, a home for runaway
teenagers; St. Vincent Outreach, a non-residential
program especially for unwed mothers.
order to serve the need for quality day care services
for low income parents, several day care centers
throughout Miami-Dade County were opened. In 1968,
Good Shepherd Child Care Center opened in South
Dade. In the mid-70’s Centro Mater and Centro
Hispano, which were only informally affiliated
with the Bureau, were incorporated under the umbrella
of the agency. In 1975, Notre Dame in Little Haiti
opened, followed by Sagrada Familia Child Care
Center in Little Havana in 1979. More childcare
centers opened in the ’90s with Centro Mater
West in Hialeah, in ’96, and South Dade
Child Care Center in ’97.
The period of 1975 to 1985 saw the expansion
of Broward County services which expanded to a
staff of over 100 and a budget of $2.5 million.
In 1985, the first adult day care center was opened,
a novel idea at the time. The Genesis residence
for persons with AIDS was opened in Miami in 1988.
It provided a comprehensive care program to thirty
homeless persons with AIDS. At the height of the
AIDS epidemic in the United States, Genesis was
the only shelter in Miami-Dade County to assist
homeless persons afflicted with AIDS.
In 1995, Monsignor Walsh stepped down as Executive
Director of the Catholic Service Bureau and Monsignor
Thomas Wenski was named to take his place. In
1996 the agency was renamed Catholic Charities
of the Archdiocese of Miami, Inc. Richard Turcotte,
Ph. D. was chosen as new Chief Executive Officer
in 1998, overseeing all the programs and services
of Catholic Charities. Dr. Turcotte revamped the
organizational structure, and set about to modernize
the agency. He added a grants and development
office to search and apply for new funding to
help stabilize the budget of approximately $14
million. Catholic Charities assumed administration
of the Pierre Toussaint Haitian Catholic Center
in 1999. The Center is the oldest and most comprehensive
social service center caring for the needs of
the Haitian community in South Florida.
Charities services were expanded to Monroe County
when two outreach offices were opened in the summer
of 2000 at St. Peter Church in Big Pine Key, and
at the former St. Bede’s Parish in Key West.
Teresa House in Key West opened in 2000 to house
and assist homeless families in two transitional
apartments. Additional family transition shelters
were opened at Providence Place in Oakland Park,
Angelica House in Pompano Beach, and New Life
In 2006, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese
of Miami served over 17,000 residents in the three
counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe with
twenty-two diverse programs to meet the needs
of today’s families. Catholic Charities
maintains its steadfast commitment of the past
75 years to bring service and care with professionalism,
dignity, and compassion, and to advocate on behalf
of those in need.