Catholic Charities and ShareLife: Working & Serving Together

Since 1976, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto (CCAT) and ShareLife have been working together to help care for some of the most vulnerable people living in the Archdiocese of Toronto.

Although Catholics throughout the archdiocese will be familiar with both names, many may not know that ShareLife’s primary purpose is fundraising, while Catholic Charities’ duties involves oversight of the agencies receiving those funds, as well as the distribution of those funds, in consultation with ShareLife, based on needs-based assessments. With an ongoing relationship between CCAT and our 20 member agencies, Catholic Charities also attends to administrative details, such as facilitating the sharing of services between agencies and arranging regular meetings of agencies’ executive directors, and CCAT takes on an advocacy role, voicing concerns on our members’ behalf about challenging social issues, and support for solutions to improve lives.

When Catholic Charities was established in 1913, Archbishop Neil McNeil appointed Fr. Patrick Bench superintendent of the umbrella organization, designed to oversee the affairs of existing Catholic charities in the city. Fr. Bench was given a small office on Church St., but no budget, as the agencies under the new organization already were raising their own funds.

As time passed, Fr. Bench recognized that while existing agencies were doing a good job, there were still needs to be met, and so Catholic Charities’ work expanded. In 1919 Catholic Charities joined the Federation of Community Service, which was established to pool funding for a network of agencies, regardless of religious affiliation, and the results gave various Catholic charities a strong financial boost.

This relationship was short-lived, however, as in 1927 the federation determined that Catholic agencies would receive no funding in the following year. Some cited an anti-Catholic bias, while others suggested the decision reflected the fact that Catholic Charities, caring for a significantly larger community of new arrivals to the city, received a greater share of funding than other agencies.

Archbishop McNeil responded quickly, launching the Federation of Catholic Charities, reorganizing the existing agencies to include a fundraising wing, and in three short weeks, raised $178,000, a stunning foreshadowing of what was to come. 

During the war years, Catholic Charities joined the United Community Fund, the precursor to the United Way. It was a smart move, because the fund’s size and stability allowed CCAT to expand services, improve facilities and offer better pay. 

In 1976, Catholic Charities faced a crisis of funding as it withdrew from the United Way.  How can the Church continue to sustain its good works?  This time, the answer was to create a fundraising appeal:  ShareLife.  True to its mission, ShareLife has been alongside CCAT to ensure that the most vulnerable people living in the Archdiocese of Toronto have been provided the support they need, and we continue to respond with Gospel hope.

Today, ShareLife is a familiar name in Catholic parishes throughout the archdiocese, with speakers from various member agencies of Catholic Charities often addressing parishes during the annual spring campaign. What people may not realize is that most of Catholic Charities’ funding comes from ShareLife, which also raises funds for St. Augustine’s Seminary, as well as other Catholic operations. 

CCAT staff and board members are in constant communication with the staff at ShareLife, informing them of member agency needs, and drawing up budgets to ensure funds raised and available to Catholic Charities are used in the most productive manner, assisting as many people as possible. We appreciate ShareLife’s strong stewardship and financial acumen and, given the challenges of tough times such as the pandemic, its commitment to its mission.

We remain deeply grateful for ShareLife’s annual campaign, which reaches out to parishioners and parishes, Catholic schools and businesses for support, offering a straightforward way for the people of this archdiocese to help their neighbour, ensuring funds are handled – and delivered – in a manner than ensures trust and a confidence that our neighbours are truly cared for.

Catholic Charities has been creative and resilient in the face of the challenges – and opportunities we have faced over the past 110 years. Now, with ShareLife standing alongside us, we know we can continue to serve the people of this archdiocese in faith, hope, and charity.

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