Our History

Catholic Charities Hawai‘i takes great pride in our long history here in the Hawaiian Islands.

1859
Catholic Women’s Aid Society assists immigrant plantation workers adjusting to life in Hawai‘i and providing food, clothing, and medical aid.

1921
Laymen form the Columbus Welfare Association (CWA) to promote activities for the general welfare of the Catholic community.

1940s
Bishop James J. Sweeney reorganizes CWA into Catholic Charities and appoints Rev. Hubert Winthagen SS.CC. as the organization’s first diocesan director. Recognizing the strong need for social services due to the devastating impact of WWII on families and children, Bishop Sweeney invites three Maryknoll Sisters from New York, including Sr. Victoria Francis MM, a pioneer in modern social work, to Honolulu. They provide services for orphanages on Maui and O‘ahu, place children in foster or adoptive homes, and offer family counseling.

1947
Catholic Charities is officially chartered and named Catholic Social Service (CSS) to reflect the specialized social service casework of the agency.

Late 1940s
The Maryknoll Sisters saw the struggles of the plantation workers and became strong advocates for the workers’ rights. Sister Victoria Francis becomes the voice behind the sugar workers and participates in the successful settlement of the 1946 sugar workers’ strike. The Family Life Movement, which helped strengthen families in the community, is established by CSS.

1950s and 1960s
CSS shifts its emphasis from foster care placement to preventive family counseling in 1958 and expands to general counseling services in 1961. This leads to a re-organization in 1963 into three units: the Family Counseling Unit, the Unwed Parents and Adoption Unit, and the Fiscal-Clerical Unit.

1965
CSS joins the Community Action Program to provide services for low-income families under the Economic Opportunity Act. The program was known as the Kalihi Family Service Unit after moving to Kalihi Valley Homes. Fr. Edwin J. Duffy was appointed director of CSS. His immediate attention focuses on the urgency to raise funds for a new building for the agency. Under the Honorary Chairmanship of Governor John A. Burns and of State Senator Mitsuyuki Kido, $275,000 is raised for the new building, which opens in the fall.

1970s and 1980s
CSS grows rapidly in response to the needs of the community. Programs are developed to provide professional and paraprofessional services to the elderly, immigrants and refugees, women experiencing unplanned pregnancies, troubled youth in foster care, families experiencing problems of child abuse and neglect, and a variety of advocacy services. Additionally, residential programs are offered to the elderly and individuals in need of supportive living assistance. Programs are expanded to Hawai‘i Island and Maui.

1985
Catholic Social Service returns to its former name, Catholic Charities, and organizes into four affiliate agencies: Community Services, Elderly Services, Family Services, and Immigrant Services. Community Services and Immigrant Services later combines into one affiliate agency in 1999.

1990s and 2000
Catholic Charities adds more specialized programs that provide services for medically fragile babies, homeless families, victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, prevention of child abuse and neglect, abstinence education, money management, and long-term care for disabled persons and the elderly. A central Intake, Information, and Referral Unit is established to improve client referral processes and assist with emergency needs. Catholic Charities opens an office on Kaua‘i to respond to the emergency needs of the community after Hurricane Iniki.

2001
Catholic Charities renames Catholic Charities Hawai‘i (CCH) to accurately represent the organization’s statewide and local presence. CCH responds to an influx of need for emergency assistance and referrals to programs after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

2004
CCH restructures and combines the affiliate agencies into one fully integrated organization to better serve the needs of the community. CCH also receives national accreditation by the Council on Accreditation (COA) for the entire organization.

2006
CCH acquires a permanent site (the former First Presbyterian Church) in Honolulu to house its programs and services at a convenient, one-stop location and initiates a Capital Campaign.

2007
CCH celebrates its 60th anniversary. It is one of the largest social service agencies in Hawai‘i with over 300 employees. Through more than 30 programs statewide, CCH provides help to over 40,000 children, families, seniors, and immigrants.

2008
The new campus is named the Catholic Charities Hawai‘i Clarence T. C. Ching Campus to recognize a generous gift from the Clarence T. C. Ching Foundation.

2009
CCH breaks ground for the CCH Clarence T. C. Ching Campus. Capital campaign funds reach over 60 percent completion.

2010
Catholic Charities Hawai‘i officially dedicates its new CCH Clarence T. C. Ching Campus.  

2012
Catholic Charities Hawai‘i celebrates its 65th Anniversary in partnership with Maryknoll School’s 85th anniversary and its founders, the Maryknoll Sisters' 100th international anniversary.  



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