A brief history of the Foundation of Catholic Community Services, part 1

Setting the scene

In the wake of the stock market crash of 1929, Catholic charities were re-organized with the blessing of the Church. Prior to this point, social welfare had largely been provided by each individual parish, but the support was limited to financial aid as priests and their lay associates were not trained in social work. It was becoming increasingly apparent that the parish-based system had neither the resources nor the expertise required to serve the ever-increasing number of poor and marginalized people with their diverse needs.

The Catholic Community Council commissioned a study, conducted by Charlotte Whitton. Her report, published in 1930 concluded that “the welfare of the English-speaking Catholics of Montreal must ultimately be solved by the English-speaking Catholics themselves”. With the publication of this report began the formation of the Federation of Catholic Charities – the organization that would eventually be known as the Foundation of Catholic Community Services.

The Federation is founded

The Federation’s first campaign for funds took place in December of 1930, and the organization hired its first Executive Director on the first of April, 1931. An application for charter was made to the Quebec government, and the first Annual General Meeting of members was held on the 19th of April, 1932. The Federation was granted Letters Patent on the 23rd of May, 1932, becoming an incorporated legal entity. The newly incorporated Federation quickly became the organization responsible for conducting the annual fundraising campaign and for the financial help and budgeting of its numerous constituent associations, which included the Catholic Community Council, St. Patrick’s Orphanage, Care of the Aged, the Catholic Welfare Bureau, the Catholic Social Service Guild, and the Catholic Men’s Hostel, among others.

Continued growth

The number of agencies under the Federation continued to grow, and soon the Federation and its member organizations were serving all segments of the community. As the scope of its services increased, so too did the need for space. In 1947, the Federation bought the building that was to become the Catholic Centre. The building had originally been built as a family home in 1889; Saint Martha’s Home, one of the institutions funded by the Federation, had been renting the building since 1933. Shortly after the building was purchased, plans were drawn up for an extension that was completed in 1948; another major addition was added in 1963. The number of agencies being supported by the Federation continued to grow until in 1964, 34 agencies were members.

It is worth noting that at this point, the Federation had always been funded through its annual fundraising campaign. In 1964, the goal for the campaign was to raise $775,000 – an amount roughly equivalent to $6.5 million in today’s dollars. These funds were raised mainly through personal donations through a door-to-door appeal to English-speaking Catholic households, with corporate and industrial donations making up another large portion. Over the next decade, changes in the legislative and social fabric of the city were to have major impacts on the funding of the Federation.

(to be continued next issue)