Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge is a network of agencies which has evolved from a number of different programs, all of which stem from a shared mission: to help those in need. Catholic Charities has its roots in the Catholic Family Life Bureau (est. 1962), Catholic Social Services (est. 1964), and the Office of Social Responsibility (est. 1968). 

Originally, the primary focus was on maternity and adoption counseling, emergency aid to the very poor and the preparation of engaged couples for the sacrament of marriage. In 1974, as a result of a study of the Social Apostolate of the diocese commissioned by Bishop Robert E. Tracy, the three departments were joined together to form the Catholic Community Life Office, which was designed to coordinate the diocese’s service to people in need. 

 

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Vietnamese children are shown experiencing Santa Claus for the first time in 1976.  It was the first Christmas in the United States for these tiny members of seven different Vietnamese families who were resettled in the Baton Rouge area. 

 

In the late 1970s, the Catholic Community Life Office became a major provider of refugee resettlement for those fleeing Vietnam. Through the years, the office has attended to the needs of those escaping persecution from a variety of countries, such as Cuba, the Balkans, Sudan, Somalia and other European and African nations. Assisting legal immigrants achieve citizenship is an ongoing commitment. 

Prison ministry was started in 1977 by a volunteer, Doucette Pascal. Initially the program served the needs of elderly inmates eligible for parole, as well as addressed the literacy needs of those in parish prisons. By 1992, a full-time director was hired and service was expanded, including offering emergency assistance to those recently released from prison; coordinating services for families and loved ones of prisoners; and advocating for criminal justice reform. 

The organization received a name change on Jan. 1, 1985 when the Catholic Community Life Office became Catholic Community Services of Baton Rouge. The new name symbolized new programs and staff, new agency developments and a renewed commitment to service of individuals and families in need. It was decided that a facility was </span id=”6″>needed to accommodate the growing services. Construction began in 1999, and the building was dedicated on March 3, 2000. 

Disaster relief is also a component of the services offered. The agency responded to Hurricanes Katrina, Isaac and Gustav and the 2016 flood, and has become a leading provider for survivor families in South Louisiana. Catholic Community Services was able to develop a case management policy that has become a model for organizations across the country. Caseworkers went out into the field and were stationed in temporary trailer sites to help evacuees develop and implement their long-term recovery plans. 

On March 26, 2007, it was announced that Catholic Community Services would change its name to Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge. By changing the name to Catholic Charities, the agency was able to join nearly 200 agencies nationwide which enables recognition among the Catholic community and local and national non-profit and faith-based agencies. On any given day, Catholic Charities serves the needs of individuals and families, working with church and community for justice, peace and compassion in society. 

Jones is the associate archivist for the Diocese of Baton Rouge.