Catholic Charities USA re-creates the past for one fleeting moment

The first gathering of Catholics providing social services Sept. 25-28, 1910, at The Catholic University of America in Washington. (Courtesy of The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives)

Catholic Charities USA is observing its 100th anniversary this week. About 1,000 people connected to Catholic Charities programs around the country are gathered in Washington to celebrate the past and plan for the future.

Reducing poverty is the big issue on the agenda. The national network is in the middle of a campaign to cut poverty in half by 2020. Last week the agency reported that more than 9.1 million people sought services at its agencies in 2009 -– a 7.5 percent jump from 2008.

The celebration began Sept. 25 with Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It continues through Sept. 28 with panel discussions and visits to Capitol Hill to lobby on behalf of people living on the margins.

This year’s gathering falls on the exact dates of the first national meeting of Catholic charitable workers in the nation’s capital in 1910.

The 100th anniversary gathering Sept. 25. (Courtesy of Catholic Charities USA)

That first confab was commemorated with a photo as clergy and lay leaders who made up what became the National Conference of Catholic Charities posed on the steps of McMahon Hall on the campus of  The Catholic University of America.

After the centennial Mass, it happened again.

The hundreds who came to Washington for the centennial convention recreated that historic photo as they also gathered at McMahon Hall. Trying to fit the crowd on the steps proved to be a challenge. They spilled onto the driveway in front of the building.

While it took quite some time to get everyone in position for the photographer, Catholic Charities USA now has a comparable photo for the history books.

Catholic Charities was kind enough to share the most recent photo with Catholic News Service. Earlier, CNS obtained the photo of that first gathering from the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives and we offer them both here for your enjoyment.

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