Catholic charity in Oregon dates back to the first orphanage founded in 1838 by Father Francis Blanchet and the Sisters of Notre Dame du Namours. This partnership began a legacy of serving Oregon's poor and vulnerable, beginning with Oregon's youngest residents. In 1913, Oregon child labor laws were enacted as a result of the investigative work of Father Edwin O'Hara, teamed with other community leaders. This led to the establishment of the Catholic Children's Bureau in 1917. In 1932, Father Lucien Lauerman evaluated Catholic social welfare work in the Archdiocese of Portland and presented his report to a group assembled by Archbishop Edward Howard on September 12, 1933. The result was the establishment of the first Catholic Charities office, where Father Lauerman employed four staff members who represented Catholic social service institutions in all court cases and acted as case managers for children.
Over the years, Catholic Charities has sought to respond to the ever emerging needs of the poor and vulnerable throughout western Oregon consistent with the call of Jesus and the teachings of the Church.
Subsequently, several initiatives have followed in steady succession to meet these needs.
Catholic Community Services of Salem was established to advocate for children in foster care.
Catholic Charities become involved in the reception and resettlement of refugees after the end of World War II. Subsequently, Catholic Charities has aided refugees all different parts of the world.
Catholic Charities founded the Catholic Youth Organization sports program.
Catholic Charities of Lane County was established, and later renamed Catholic Community Services of Lane County in 1984.
Camp Howard, a 160 acre wooded campsite, is founded near Sandy to conduct summer sports and camp programs for grade school and junior high children.
Catholic Family Services and Catholic Services for Children were formed, and later combined into Catholic Community Services of Portland in 1989.
Archbishop William Levada commissioned a study to evaluate Catholic social services within the Archdiocese.
Archbishop Levada and a newly appointed Board of Directors established a restructured Archdiocesan Catholic Charities organization with Dennis B. Keenan, MSW, as its Executive Director. This office, while supporting parish outreach activities, also conducted needs assessment and program planning efforts, and provided leadership to member agencies in the areas of fiscal and personnel management, fundraising, public relations and accreditation.
Catholic Community Services of Southern Oregon was established to respond to the needs of families hard hit by the downturn in the timber industry and influx of immigrant workers. It was renamed Catholic Charities of Southern Oregon in 2006.
Catholic Charities initiated Ministry to the Elderly to support parish-based services for the elderly.
Catholic Community Services of Portland merged with Catholic Charities.
Project Rachel was initiated in an effort to provide emotional and spiritual healing to persons previously involved in abortions.
Immigration Legal Services program was established, with a branch office in Medford opened in 1999.
Catholic Charities Caritas Housing Initiatives completes its first low-income housing project.
Following in the tradition of serving homeless women and children, Catholic Charities opens its Housing Transitions Program.
The first record of Catholic Charities service statistics shows Catholic Charities served 1,323 individuals in 1952. By 2000, that number had risen to over 100,000 annually. Today, Catholic Charities operates 25 programs, has four Member Agencies and 20 grantee agencies serving people of all ages, races and beliefs.