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Catholic Charities kicks off celebration of 100th anniversary

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Catholic Charities kicked off its yearlong centennial celebration by reaffirming its goal to be “Hope for All Seasons.”

In celebration of Catholic Charities 100 anniversary, key stakeholders gather at Pearl at the Webb for a celebratory lunch. Pictured are Msgr. David LiPuma, pastor of OLV National Shrine & Basilica; Deacon Steve Schumer, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Buffalo, Dr. Adam Sumlin, 2023 Appeal chair; longtime volunteer David Rogers, and Chief Development Officer Clara Moran. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

“Hope is one of the theological virtues – faith, hope, charity – and hope is more than a wish or a desire. Hope is confident optimism based on faith,” explained Deacon Steve Schumer, CEO of Catholic Charities of Buffalo. “Our hope that we will one day join Jesus in the future resurrection is based on our faith. Charity is how we put faith and hope into action – by loving each other just as Christ loved us. That is Catholic Charities’ goal.”

The celebration of the 100-year mark took place at Pearl at the Webb in downtown Buffalo on Nov. 2. Catholic Charities staff and supporters were on hand to honor those who have changed Western New York for the better through service to the community.

David Rogers, the founder of Life Storage, has been volunteering for over 50 years. He started in the late 1960s, collecting money door to door with his father.

“I remember quarters and dimes,” he said. “I think we collected 400 bucks from the parish total.”

He continued as a donor and parish worker until 20 years ago. That’s when he and his wife, Joan, met with Sister Joan Sherry, RSM, down at the Commodore Perry housing complex.

“My wife and I had the opportunity to do some stuff with Sister Joan and that got us involved in a big way,” Rogers explained. His wife taught sewing to the Perry residents. Together, they donated turkeys and hams for the holidays. Eventually, Rogers become parish chairperson at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Harris Hill. “It just grew,” he said.

Through his foundation, Rogers is involved with a few local charities.

“This one delivers so much, and it has so many volunteers. I just love the idea that so many people give time, money and energy. Then I see what it does on the other end – the hope. It’s not always a success, but it’s the next step. So many people Catholic Charities has helped that way. That’s why I keep coming back.”

When he found a woman living in one of his storage units, Rogers called a Catholic Charities case worker who talked to the woman for two hours, hearing her story, understanding her fears, and learning of her needs.

Longtime Catholic charities volunteer David Rogers tells of how helping other makes him feel good. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

“The macro picture is very rewarding and important, but you don’t really get the feel until you get into the micro level. That’s where the whole concept of hope comes in,” he said.

Catholic Charities started out as 16 separate institutions operated the Sisters of the Mount Carmel Guild serving the very young to the elderly solely by donations. Bishop William Turner was concerned for the sisters and organized the homes for the aged, child care homes, protective homes, nurseries and field offices under one umbrella organization.

Catholic Charities quickly expanded into Niagara County, then Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Genesee Counties with the goal of covering all eight counties of the diocese. In that first year, Catholic Charities of Buffalo served 12,500 people. Last year they served 134,000 people.

 “Our Central Intake office in downtown Buffalo is one of the most unique long-standing and vital services of Catholic Charities,” said Deacon Schumer. “Since 1941, we have provided basic assistance, assessment and connection to resources. This is often a person’s first contact with Catholic Charities. Significantly, for more than 70 years, this help has been available at 525 Washington St., right next to the Electric Tower.”

Last year the office underwent a renovation for safety and better service. Deacon Schumer estimates a half million people have walked though those doors since they first opened.

One hundred years of memories were on display at Pearl at the Webb during a luncheon to celebrate the 100 years of Catholic Charities of Buffalo. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

“When people are hungry, when they are vulnerable, when they are lonely or in need Catholic Charities has been there with hope. For 100 years, we have been there for our neighbors in need. Beyond this century mark, we will continue to be a beacon of hope,” he said.

Four events will be held over the next 12 months to bring awareness to Catholic Charities and encourage service and action. The kickoff celebration will be followed by a Community in Kind collection this spring. A Day of Service will be held next summer. The centennial will close with a 100th anniversary Mass and gala on Oct. 29, 2023.

Visit ccwny.org/centennial for more details.

Listen to the story on WNYCatholic Audio

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