Our History

Catholic Social Welfare in America

Catholic Charities in America can trace its origins to the early 1700s when French Ursuline Sisters first opened an orphanage in New Orleans.

By the early 20th century, the Diocese of Harrisburg founded two institutions to care for children in need: Sylvan Heights in Harrisburg for young girls (1901) and Paradise School for Boys in Abbottstown (1911).

Before the professional social service system we have today, the government turned to religious as well as secular groups care for the orphaned, poor and marginalized. It wasn’t until the Great Depression that the role and spending of government increased and we starting building the social service system we know today.

Faith-based agencies, such as Catholic Charities, Lutheran Services and Jewish Family Services became nondenominational social service providers who were affiliated with religious organizations.


Development of the Catholic Charities Corporation

The first meeting of the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Harrisburg was held at the Bishop’s residence on December 4, 1944. Monsignor Tighe was appointed by Bishop Leech as Director.

The purpose of this new corporation was “to coordinate, standardize and develop Catholic Charities and charitable enterprises throughout the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg.”

Specifically, Catholic Charities was charged to:

  • Engage in relief work among the needy; to secure employment for the unemployed; to assume care guidance and control of destitute, dependent, neglected or delinquent children;
  • Receive children by surrender, from parents, guardians or custodians and from court;
  • Conduct investigations of conditions and develop remedies for evils found to exist.

In 1968, the Catholic Charities Corporation became Catholic Social Services and the scope of the agency was expanded. According to Father Bridy, “the agency is undergoing a period of transition from a child-centered agency to a family-oriented one, with emphasis on preventive casework and counseling.”


Managed Care and Faith-Based Initiatives

In more recent years, the agency has experienced tremendous growth, as well as increased oversight by funding agencies and government entities. Changes included:

  • Counseling Offices became licensed Outpatient Psychiatric Programs
  • Immigration and Refugee Services expanded and contracted due to local needs and funding sources
  • Managed care companies helped oversee government funding of our day treatment, outpatient and partial hospitalization programs, as well as Evergreen House for those recovering from addiction.
  • Funding from the Real Alternative charity helped stabilize our Lourdeshouse program for pregnant women.
  • Our Adoption Services group contracted with SWAN (Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network), making government dollars available for special needs adoptions.

Today, Catholic Charities is challenged to provide a range of services with the oversight and control of governmental and managed care organizations. We are also challenged to preserve our Catholic foundations as we strive to meet the needs of all who come before us, regardless of their religious beliefs.



Imagine your dream student - someone who is bright, inquisitive, kind to others, and comes to class eager to learn. Well, that is Koffi. He first came to my ESL class in May of 2014. He had only been in the United States for about 6 months at that time.

For many people, those first 6 months can be overwhelming and hectic, but Koffi’s spirit is indomitable. He came to class every night ready to learn and in a short time he found a job. Even after a long day of working hard, Koffi would come into class with a smile on his face. He greeted his fellow students with a smile and was ready to learn.

After being in the country for a little over a year, Koffi decided he would like to become a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). He took the initiative and researched his options before deciding on the program at HACC.
Koffi continued with his English studies right up to the time his CNA class started at HACC. I was sorry to see him leave, but so happy for him.

In June of this year Koffi graduated from the CNA Program at HACC. We are all so proud of Koffi. He has been such a positive influence on all of us, staff and students alike. It is impossible to look at Koffi’s smiling face and not want to smile right back, he is that full of kindness and hope. I am so glad he was my student and I feel certain that he will do even more amazing things in the future.

- ESL Instructor

Tiffany starts her story by openly stating that the first 39 years of her life were a waste. She spent all of her time drinking, which was her way of coping with the many let downs in her life.

Fearing for her life, a friend convinced Tiffany to check herself into a 30-day detox program. Upon completion she entered the Evergreen House program. While this was not her first choice, Tiffany ended up residing at Evergreen House for seven and one-half months.

Tiffany credits Evergreen’s staff and their patience with her eventual success in the program. Evergreen’s staff understood what she was going through and eventually became like her family. The Evergreen House program provided the structure and support she needed to maintain her sobriety.

Tiffany credits Evergreen House for a second chance at life and she is determined to have a positive impact on others.

- anonymous

A 19 year old woman left an abusive relationship with the infant’s birth father and was interested in making an adoption plan for her 9 week old baby. She was unemployed, close to being homeless, did not have a car or driver’s license and she felt that her daughter deserved two parents who were ready and equipped financially and emotionally for parenthood. Emma’s birth mother was placing Emma’s needs before her own feelings. But she had bonded with Emma and knew it would be extremely difficult.

Emma’s birth father was informed of the adoption plan and initially opposed it. But he realized that adoption was the best plan for their infant. Catholic Charities worked with the birth parents to choose the adoptive family.

Catholic Charities was able to provide grief counseling to Emma’s birth mother upon finalization of the adoption. As part of the openness agreement, the birth parents receive pictures and letters four times a year.

- Anonymous

A single father and his two pre-teen daughters resided at the Interfaith Shelter after separating from his wife and gaining custody of his daughters. Unfortunately, he lost his job and could not afford his housing expenses.
The family relocated to the Steelton-Highspire to be closer to extended relatives, in the hopes of obtaining employment. Due to a lease violation, they were only allowed to stay for a limited time frame.
With no other options they sought shelter at Interfaith. This father worked diligently to seek employment and accepted a position at a local gas station making minimum wage so that they could save for housing. The family was accepted in the Brethren Housing Association’s Fast Track Program, which provides temporary rental assistance and housing to homeless families who demonstrate self-sufficiency and stable income.
After leaving the shelter, he found permanent employment at a casino in the Pocono’s.

- Anonymous
Council on Accrediation Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations United Way

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