Brief history of Catholic Charities Counseling & Adoption Services
Adapted from research by:
John T. Young
Catholic Social Services was founded on December 24, 1953, as a family casework agency whose mission was to "offer social services of a professional nature to the residents of the Diocese of Erie." Sr. Marie Baptiste DeGroat and Sr. Kathleen Kirsch left for Catholic University to study social work. Three years later, armed with new MSW degrees, they opened the doors at 1926 West Sixth Street in an office located in what was then St. Joseph's Home for Children.
The agency began by continuing the work already begun under the Diocesan Department of Charities. With no formal programs, the staff "did" counseling, adoptions, and distributed food vouchers for redemption at local grocery stores.
Under the guidance of Sr. Marie Baptiste, Director, Catholic Social Services became an accredited social service agency licensed by the Department of Public Welfare of the State of Pennsylvania. An advisory board was established in 1957 and a philosophy formed. The new Board met for the first time on November 18, 1957. Between 1958 and 1962, this full-service agency received 80 percent of its funding from the United Way and 20 percent from the Erie Diocese. Sister Marie Baptiste remained its Director for eleven years, until 1967, when she was elected General Superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Shortly before Sr. Marie Baptiste's election, the name of the Agency was officially changed. What had begun as "Catholic Charities" became on August 14, 1967, "Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Erie, Inc.".
The primary objective of the newly named agency was "to help families and individuals with their problems in the areas of parent-child relationships, marital relationships, and individual personality problems." Service was also given "to unmarried parents, to families seeking to adopt children, and to families requesting placement of children...." The Agency also gave "emergency financial assistance, with the approval of one's pastor, to families ineligible for assistance from other community resources."
In September, 1933, representatives of the Catholic parishes of the Shenango Valley met to "organize a group of Catholic laymen to direct the distribution of community funds given for Catholic orphans." This society of parishes called itself the “Federation of Catholic Charities”. Two months later (December, 1933), this group sent a check for $200 to St. Joseph's Home to help support the orphans from the Shenango Valley.
In March, 1934, the Shenango Valley Community Fund allowed two members of the Federation to sit on its Welfare Council, thus establishing official funding for the Federation. For the next seven years, the Federation's success and its programs continued to grow.
The Shenango Valley branch office of the Department of Charities continued its work until 1972. During that year, the Board had recognized the need for uniform structure within the Diocese. In November, 1972, the Federation's Board approved the new relationship with the official title of Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Erie, Inc..
On December 18, 1967 the Advisory Board of Catholic Social Services appointed Mr. Raymond J. Micco to succeed Sr. Marie Baptiste as the Agency's supervisor. A major consideration affecting the Agency at this time was its location within St. Joseph's Home for Children. During the summer of 1968 and continuing for the next two years, the Advisory Board devoted a major portion of its effort to discussions of how best to use St. Joseph's Home. With costs rising from $2.50 per day per child in the mid 60's to $13.63 in 1969, it was clear that something had to be done. In 1969, an independent evaluation by the United Fund indicated the Home was superfluous in Erie County. On November 1, 1970, when the Home was officially closed, Catholic Social Services moved to its present location at 329 West 10th Street.
The Agency continued to expand its formal programs. Although foreign adoptions had occurred since 1958 (primarily from Ireland, Italy and Germany but also some from China, New Foundland and Lebanon), in February, 1960, the Board approved a program to begin finding homes for Asian children. In addition, the Agency had also approved its first single parent adoption.
In addition, 1973 saw the beginning of the Agency's Emergency Pregnancy Service. This service was the result of a request by Bishop Watson who asked the Agency to respond in a positive manner to the United States Supreme Court's decision on abortion. Between 1973 and 1988, over 8000 people used the service.
The financial problems of the 70's and 80's did not deter the Agency from finding new ways to serve its mission. Between 1975 and 1976, over 163 Vietnamese orphans were placed or served in some manner. And over 300 South East Asian refugees were assisted by Catholic Social Services. By 1980, Catholic Social Services was one of eleven groups contractually related to the U.S. Catholic Conference's Refugee Resettlement Program aiding refugees from Cuba and South East Asia.
Because the Diocese covers thirteen counties in northwest, PA, trying to serve all those areas adequately from an Erie office proved difficult. In order to serve other areas more efficiently, a branch office, similar to the one in Sharon, was opened in DuBois (1969) under the direction of Sr. Kathleen Kirsch, SSJ. From there, satellite offices operated one or two days per week in St. Mary's and Bradford.
Upon Sr. Teresa’s resignation from the agency after twelve years of service, Nancy Monicatti was named as the new agency Director. Nancy had previously served as the agency’s Clinical Director. Nancy served as Director of the agency from 1989 until 2000.
Rose Marie Radomski, a long-time member of the CCCAS family, stepped in as Interim Director from 2000 to 2001 until a new, permanent Director could be found. Rose Marie was not interested in remaining in the Director position, but stayed with the agency as a counselor until 2015.
Bob McCrarey returned to CCCAS in 2001 as the new Director. Bob had previously worked for CCCAS in the early 1970’s. Bob was the Director from 2001 to 2008.
Joe Haas was hired to replace Bob as the agency’s Executive Director in 2008.
CCCAS has five main offices (with workers present more than 1x/week) and seven satellite offices along with over 30 employees.
The majority of our funding comes from program fees/reimbursements (over 80%), United Way agencies and financial support from the Erie Diocese (15%), and various grants/gifts/donations (5%).
The future for CCCAS remains positive. We continually strive to provide our communities with the services that are needed in a caring and compassionate manner that befits our Catholic beliefs. To paraphrase Cardinal Hickey, “We don’t serve people because THEY are Catholic, we do it because WE are”.