An orphanage that provided a home for thousands of Oklahoma children heralded the beginning of Catholic Charities in Oklahoma City.
So said Tim O'Connor, the agency's longtime executive director, as Catholic Charities prepares to mark its centennial with a Mass and a visit from a cardinal.
O'Connor said Catholic Charities, an affiliate of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, will conclude its yearlong centennial commemoration with Mass on Sunday at Our Lady's Cathedral in Oklahoma City, and a visit from Cardinal Roger Mahoney on Wednesday. O'Connor said Mahoney, archbishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, is set to speak to students at Bishop McGuinness High School on Wednesday before presiding at a Hispanic Mass at St. Eugene Catholic Church later in the day.
He said Catholic Charities in Oklahoma City has its roots in the St. Joseph Children's Home which opened in 1912, providing thousands of Oklahoma children a home with the opportunity for education and support.
“We realize there's a legacy of service and sacrifice by the Catholic Church that has been established here in Oklahoma City,” O'Connor said.
“We certainly don't dominate in terms of numbers in the community, but it (Catholic Charities) well represents the Catholic Church to God's people in the community.”
O'Connor said he and other Catholic Charities leaders, staff and volunteers are pleased that the organization has grown to become a major private provider of social services to children, families and individuals in Oklahoma. He said the agency works alongside public and private organizations to help meet the basic needs of those who have the least. O'Connor said Catholic Charities also advocates at the local and state levels for public policy that promotes the common good on behalf of those whose voices are not heard.
Some notable facts about Catholic Charities' history include:
Catholic Charities' first office was at 218 NW 5 in Oklahoma City, east of St. Joseph Cathedral.
Catholic Charities returned to that site almost 70 years later to assist in the aftermath of the 1995 Murrah Building bombing, offering counseling and disaster assistance to those affected.
Since the 1990s, Catholic Charities' disaster relief program has helped families put their lives back together after a disaster.
Catholic Charities was instrumental in the resettlement of Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s.
Catholic Charities' adoption services have joined together thousands of Oklahoma families.
The Rev. Don Wolfe, pastor of St. Benedict Catholic Church in Shawnee, served as president of the Catholic Charities board from 1996 to 2000. He said the planned centennial activities are important for the organization's leaders and the community-at-large.
“It's a great opportunity for us to sit and reflect on the connection we have between what we believe — our faith — and how we serve,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe, who is now a Catholic Charities board member, said working to help the poor and disadvantaged will continue to be a challenge, but one that the agency is committed to meeting head on as it marks its 100th anniversary.
“We can stop and look back at the decisions that were made, giving us a chance to look at what those formed us into and then on to what lies ahead,” he said.