Catholic Charities History

Catholic Charities is the active, hands-on, social service arm of the Catholic Church. Over the years, we have 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. We do this as an active part of faith, regardless of the faith of those that work with us or of those we serve. As you’ll see from the timeline below, several initiatives have followed in steady succession to increasingly meet the needs of our community.



Father Francis Blanchet and the Sisters of Notre Dame du Namours founded the first orphanage in Oregon.


Oregon child labor laws were enacted as a result of the investigative work of Father Edwin O’Hara and other concerned community leaders. This led to the establishment of the Catholic Children’s Bureau in 1917.


First Catholic Charities office in Portland established, where Father Lucien Lauerman employed four staff members who represented Catholic social service institutions in all court cases and acted as case managers for children — this was the result of Father Lauerman evaluating Catholic social welfare work in the Archdiocese of Portland and presenting his report to a group assembled by Archbishop Edward Howard on September 12, 1933.



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.


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, was 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. While supporting parish outreach activities, this office also conducted needs assessment and program planning efforts and provided leadership to member agencies in 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.


Project Rachel was initiated in an effort to provide emotional and spiritual healing to persons previously involved in abortions.



The Immigration Legal Services program was established.


Catholic Charities Caritas Housing Initiatives completed its first low-income housing project.


Following in the tradition of serving homeless women and children, Catholic Charities opens its Housing Transitions Program.


El Programa Hispano, a program of Catholic Charities serving the Latino community, becomes a 501(c)3 member organization of Catholic Charities and is renamed El Programa Hispano Católico.


Caritas Housing opens St. Francis Park Apartments, providing 106 new additional units of affordable housing in Southeast Portland. With this addition, over 1,700 individuals reside in Catholic Charities’ housing communities. 



Catholic Charities and its member agencies operate dozens of programs serving over 100,000 people of all ages, races, and beliefs annually.