Even before the founding of the Diocese of Rochester, Catholic parishes, hospitals, orphanages and volunteer groups were working to care for orphans, senior citizens and the poor in this area.
Through the leadership of Bishop Thomas F. Hickey, the diocese’s second bishop, these entities began working together in 1910. A Rochester-based governing body founded in 1912 as the Catholic Charities Guild evolved into today’s Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester.
Following decades of centralization and inspired by the Second Vatican Council’s call to subsidiarity, diocesan Catholic Charities decentralized in the 1980s through the creation of regional offices, specialty subsidiaries and affiliates designed to provide services and advocacy in all 12 diocesan counties. Together, these agencies help thousands of people each year through hundreds of specialized programs. The central office, meanwhile, provides strategic planning, coordination and advocacy on life issues.
Catholic Family Center is the largest of the regional Catholic Charities agencies. Founded to help the poor, immigrants, unemployed, former prisoners and unmarried mothers of Rochester, in 1988 it became the vehicle for delivering services throughout Monroe County. Today, It provides chemical-dependency and mental-health services, assistance to senior citizens, housing for the homeless, refugee resettlement and employment counseling, as well as public-policy advocacy, all in an effort to address barriers that prevent people from becoming self-sufficient.
The first two newly formed regional Charities agencies were the Southern Tier Office of Social Ministry in Elmira (1980) and Finger Lakes Office of Social Ministry in Geneva (1982), each serving five counties.
Currently known as Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes, the Geneva-based agency continues to cover four of the region’s five counties; Catholic Charities of Wayne County was created as a separate agency in 2004. CCFL provides emergency assistance; operates SSI-assistance programs; offers TANF case management; parenting, child- and foster-care programs including supervised visitation; a community lunch program; and social-justice advocacy.
CCWC provides case management for troubled adolescents; childhood counseling and intervention; a College Bound program helping young people achieve academic goals; a food pantry and reduced-price food market; and a clothing center. It also manages La Casa, which offers transitional housing for migrant workers as well as financial assistance, especially for those facing eviction due to delinquent rent. In 2016, the agency received a large federal grant to provide services to persons ages 18 to 24.
In the Southern Tier, Charities’ network was further decentralized in 2003 with the formation of four subsidiaries: Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler, Steuben, Tompkins/Tioga and the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.
Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler focuses on building caring communities by reducing poverty, promoting healthy individual and family life, collaborating with faith communities and advocating for justice and peace. It specializes in residential, mental-health and parish services; community support; and public-policy advocacy.
Catholic Charities of Steuben provides substance-abuse and anti-poverty services including short-term financial assistance, food pantries, prescription assistance and nutritional education. It also incorporates Kinship Family and Youth Services, which joined Catholic Charities in 2000 and helps strengthen families and bring hope to children.
Catholic Charities of Tompkins/Tioga operates the Samaritan Center, offering free clothing, linens and personal-care items and provides referrals, financial help and assistance with enrolling for food stamps and Child Health Plus/Family Health Plus. The agency also offers mentoring programs, employment counseling, immigrant support, nutritional education and outreach, and family empowerment services.
Food Bank of the Southern Tier, headquartered in Elmira, was established in 1981. It distributes food and other grocery items to people in need through a network of more than 165 member agencies including food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and other relief agencies in six surrounding counties. More than 10 million pounds of food are distributed each year.
Catholic Charities of Livingston County was established in 1995. It offers a food pantry; disability-advocacy services; counseling for young mothers and mothers-to-be; emergency housing for the homeless; in-home services for the elderly and disabled; resources for those suddenly facing poverty; a youth mentoring service; employment counseling; and justice-and-peace advocacy.
Catholic Charities Community Services was created in 1992. It is committed to enhancing and strengthening the independence, inclusion and individuality of people with disabilities and traumatic brain injuries; of adults seeking alternatives to nursing-home care; and of those living with such chronic illnesses as HIV/AIDS.
An affiliate agency of Catholic Charities, Camp Stella Maris was founded in Livingston County in 1926 to provide Christ-centered, supportive camping experiences that foster spiritual, physical and emotional growth for a diverse group of campers of all ages and faiths. It offers year-round youth and family camps, plus retreats, afterschool care and leadership training for teenagers.
Another Charities affiliate, Providence Housing Development Corp., founded in 1994, strengthens families and communities by creating and providing access to quality, affordable housing enriched by supportive services. It develops, finances and manages affordable housing for seniors, families and those with special needs.