A ‘good shepherd’ for the poor

First slide
First slide
First slide
Previous Next

In February 1947, Richmond Bishop Peter L. Ireton founded Catholic Charities of Northern Virginia. It started modestly, with a small staff and an annual budget of nearly $26,000. The early program offered services for unwed mothers, foster care and adoption services, along with some financial aid.

In 1959, the ministry was incorporated in Northern Virginia as a separate entity to better serve a growing population. Catholic Charities continued to grow, working to keep up with an increased demand for services.

In 1974, the Arlington Diocese was created, and the ministry was renamed Catholic Charities of the Arlington Diocese with a director and eventually an executive director.

When Bishop Paul S. Loverde was installed as the third bishop of the Arlington Diocese in 1999, he inherited a large agency with programs that included Children's Services, the St. Martin de Porres Senior Center, Christ House Shelter, Immigration and Refugee Services, prison ministry and other programs designed to serve a growing population.

In 2007, the downturn in the U.S. economy put strains on all nonprofit agencies including Catholic Charities. Bishop Loverde acted to meet the challenge.

Under the bishop's guidance, Christ House men's shelter in Alexandria was renovated in 2007 to better serve its clients. A new Western Regional Office in Leesburg was created.

In 2009, the St. Margaret of Cortona Transitional Housing office was established and the diocesan Office of Migration and Refugee Services was merged with Arlington Catholic Charities. In direct response to the economic downturn, a service called Christians Are Networking began to give workers displaced by economic conditions a chance to find employment.

"Catholic Charities has grown steadily under Bishop Loverde's leadership," said Rick Kaplar, chairman of the board of Catholic Charities. "He understands the critical needs out there, and he knows we must respond."

In 2010, Bishop Loverde named Art Bennett as president and CEO.

In 2014, the bishop blessed a 5,000-square-foot warehouse in Manassas that stores dry goods and perishable food. The warehouse is the hub of the St. Lucy Project, an ambitious program designed to efficiently deliver food to parishes who, in turn, distribute the food to pantries they support.

"Bishop Loverde has often called Catholic Charities the heart of the church," said Bennett. "The heart is the locus of motivation, passion and compassion, but also is our connection with others, especially those most in need. These words and his actions - deep interest in our programs and initiatives - show that solidarity and dignity with the marginalized and disadvantaged are central to our faith and to his leadership in our diocese."

From its humble beginnings, Arlington Catholic Charities has grown to an agency that provides needed services to tens of thousands of people within the boundaries of the Arlington Diocese.

With a strong past and a promising future, Arlington Catholic Charities is poised to improve the future for many.

"He may regard himself as 'only a common man who has been touched by God," said Bob Smith, board member of Catholic Charities, "but his compassionate guidance and leadership has made a true difference to those among us, particularly to those less fortunate. We are truly blessed to have him as our good shepherd."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015