Dedication: Mary Hannick - Catholic Courier

Dedication: Mary Hannick

This booklet is dedicated to Mary Hannick, an icon in the Rochester community, and a treasure to the church and the social-work community.

Miss Hannick was born one year before the establishment of Catholic Charities in 1910 and has served the agency in one way or another for her entire adult life.

As she would say, Miss Hannick became connected with Catholic Charities through one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal "alphabet soup" programs, when one of her placements was working at Charles Settlement House. Miss Hannick liked the work of the agency and its director, Elsie Strebler, liked her, so she stayed on. Miss Hannick also tells the story of how the pope then intervened in her career. When Strebler left her job in 1937 to get married, Miss Hannick was interested in the job but then-diocesan Catholic Charities Director Father Walter Foery was not interested in her for the position. However, the pope intervened by appointing Father Foery to be bishop of Syracuse, and his successor at Rochester Catholic Charities, Msgr. Gerry Lambert, was delighted to hire Miss Hannick as director of Charles Settlement House.

Miss Hannick left this position in 1944 to work for Kodak and then went to Europe with the Red Cross during the war. When she returned in 1947, she planned to return to Kodak, but Msgr. Lambert asked her to lunch and told her in no uncertain terms to resign from Kodak. She did so and became the executive director of Genesee Settlement House, where she served for 25 years from 1947-71.

During the last 40 years, she has done anything but "retire." She has served on numerous community boards, including Catholic Family Center, where she still serves. In 1993, the agency named its new residential drug-treatment facility for women and children in Newark after her: Hannick Hall. She has received many local, state and national awards, including the Free Spirit Award from the national Freedom Forum.

Yet it is not for the length of her outstanding achievements nor her widespread recognition that Catholic Charities has chosen to dedicate this special publication to her.

Rather Catholic Charities has chosen to do so because of her embodiment of the organization’s mission. Her vision of social work includes three basic principles that are the foundation of the work of Catholic Charities:

  • Her belief that the heart of social work is "walking with" rather than "treating," and thereby empowering people to better their own lives

  • Her belief that the neighborhood is a basic building block of society and that the true social worker should be in, of and for the neighborhood

  • Her belief in the truest sense of community organization that neighbors should be empowered to address and improve local conditions

These themes underlie the evolution of Catholic Charities and also are reflected in her annual closing peroration to social-work students at Nazareth College:

You who are young, it is you

who must make the dreams of the world come true.

You who are young have a world to build,

the future will be what you have filled.

So learn and practice, plan and do,

and maybe, someday, because of you

out of the mist and the darkness,

a dream will come true.

Because of you, because of you.

(Author unknown)

For those interested, DVDs of a June 9, 2010, interview with Miss Hannick are available through the diocesan archives and diocesan Catholic Charities office.

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