Founded in 1919 and opened on February 6, 1920, Fr. Maurice O’Connor (St. Joan of Arc Church) served as the first director of Catholic Charities (CC) of the diocese of Indianapolis. Catholic Charities has provided services for Indianapolis residents for over 100 years.

In early 1920, the Indianapolis Star reported that the “Catholic House is Opened” and that post-World War I conditions in large part drove the creation of the organization. The local community center, originally located at 124 W. Georgia Street, was the former boy’s school building for St. John parish. To establish the center, the diocese raised $20,000 (around $300,000 in 2020) and put $6,000 ($90,000 in 2020) toward renovation costs. When it opened, the center provided a day nursery and a second-floor reading room for community members to “stop in and rest.” From its earliest days, the Daughters of Isabella (an auxiliary for the Knights of Columbus) and the Catholic Women’s Association planned to expand to serve more members of the community.

Relief, court, and social workers (all women) served among the first staff members, coinciding with the settlement house movement proliferating across the nation. Catholic Charities moved into 623 E. North Street in 1950 because of a devastating fire at its original location in May 1949. Professional marriage counseling, psychological testing, school counseling, and family life education services joined the multidimensional service organization in the 1960s. At this time, the Indiana University School of Social Work began placing graduate students at CC.

After Vatican II, Charities staff advocated for social action and served as advocates for persons in need. Agency staff helped to start the Hispanic Center and assisted in the formation of Indianapolis Big Brothers in the 1970s (Big Brothers Sisters as of 2002) and added many more services in the 1980s. Catholic Charities moved to the Catholic Center, in the former Cathedral High School building at 1400 N. Meridian Street, in 1982.

True to its goal of providing humanitarian activities and aid for residents of the Indianapolis area, CC expanded. As of 2020, it provided services across the state. By no means an exhaustive list, Catholic Charities provided a broad range of services, including but not limited to food assistance, shelter, clothing, mental health support, elder care, immigration legal services, refugee services, transportation, education, and pregnancy and adoption.

In 2020 Catholic Charities celebrated its 100th year, and in 2019 it served 75,000 people. The organization had offices in Indianapolis, Bloomington, Bedford, Terre Haute, Tell City, and New Albany (St. Elizabeth’s home).

Revised February 2021

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