Newspaper Archive of
Catholic Northwest Progress
Seattle, Washington
February 15, 1963     Catholic Northwest Progress
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February 15, 1963
 

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Friday, Feb. e 1963 Second Catho;c lwesf Progress--3 From Small Beginnings... The little blonde boy sat in the waiting room of Catholic Children's Services and impatiently dangled his legs. In a matter of moments, a young woman came through the office door with a smile the little boy jumped up and said "Hi!" For the boy, a good friend had arrived to look out for him and for the young woman, one of 20 caseworkers at Catholic Children's Services, another busy day of counseling, advising, listening, urging, driving, telephon- ing and consoling had begun. Father Muehe Director Catholic Children's Services is entering its 25th year of service in the Seattle Arch- diocese. Seattle headquarters at 410 Marion St. consists of a vast maze of conference rooms and offices, the largest of which be- longs to Rev. Dennis Muehe, Archdiocesan Director of Catholic Charities since 1960. His desk, strewn with papers and memo- randa, denotes the never-ending task that is his. With over 1,000 children cared for by Catholic Children's Services last year alone, Father Muehe has little time off. In another office is Miss Irene Weber, casework director and "pioneer emeritus" of Catholic Children's Services. A graduate of the University of Washington, Miss Weber did most of her undergraduate work at Clark College i,n Dubuque, Iowa, before moving to Seattle with her family. After taking post- graduate studies at the Catholic University of America ("I've never had time to finish my thesis!") the vivacious Miss Weber be- came one of the three original caseworkers to begin work at Catholic Children's Services when it opened in 1937. 'Pro Ecclesia' Medal Winner For her zealous work as a Catholic lay- woman Miss Weber was just named a reci- pient of the "Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice" medal in recognition of her service both to CCS and the Seattle Archdiocese. The history of child care in the Seattle Diocese started in 1860 when the Sisters of Providence established St. Vincent's and St. Genevieve's Homes for the care of orphans at Vancouver. Before the turn of the century the Sisters of the Good Shepherd had opened an institu- tion for orphan-care in Seattle and in 1903 the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart founded Sacred Heart Orphanage for the care of orphan girls in Seattle. At the close of World War I, a group of Catholic women under the leadership of Mrs. Charles Peabody answered the call of the Most Reverend Edward J. O'Dea, Bishop of Seattle, for a program of care for infants and unmarried mothers including an adop- tion service. Known first as the Seattle Council of Catholic Women, the group included Mes- dames John B. Agen, Nrdoff Beck, Clarence B. Blethen, Michael Donahoe, J. S. G. Graham, John,N. Jackson, Mary Kutzschawn, Frank McDermott and Miss Katherine Meloy. In later years, the group called them- selves the Catholic Women's Child Welfare League and later incorporated under the title Association for Catholic Childhood as it is known today. With any actual child-care taken out of the hands of the first ambitious ladies, all other casework services were carried on by non-denominational agencies until 1937. Catholic Charities Formed In that year the Most Reverend Bishop Gerald Shaughnessy, S.M. organized Catholic Charities, the parent agency to CCS, which was designed to coordinate the administra- tion of the different diocesan charities. The Bishop also asked that an official Catholic Children's agency be formed and, aided by the findings of the Child Welfare League of America which had suggested just such a move, Bishop Shaughnessy opened the offices of Catholic Children's Services Octo- ber 1, 1937, in the Railway Exchange Build- ing with Miss Weber and Miss Betty Agnew helping Miss Helen Farrell, then the case- worker for the Catholic Welfare League. The Rev. William J. Welsh, on leave from the Diocese of Scranton, was named director and Elizabeth Lloyd was hired as the case- MISS IRENE WEBER Casework Director, First Member of the Staff of Catholic Children's Services Providence Academy in Vancouver was originally the first orphanage in the State of Washington established by the S!sters of Charity of _,lovidence in 1860. St. Vincent s and St. Genevieve s orphan- ages cared for as many as 80 boys and girls be- *forethe entire building was converted into a boarding school. : worker for the House of the Good Shepherd. In 1938 Bishop Thomas E. Gill, V.G., then Father Gill, entered Catholic Charities as as- sistant director under Father Walsh In a matter of months. Father Welsh re- turned to his home diocese leaving Father Gill as director of Catholic Charities, a posi- tion he would hold 22 years. In announcing the appointment of Bishop Gill as vicar gen- eral in 1960, the Most Reverend Archbishop Thomas A. Connolly paid tribute to the many years of devoted, dedicated service Bishop Gill had rendered. In the words of Arch- bishop Connolly Bishop GiJl was the "heart and soul of Catholic Charities. Bishop Gill 'The Sporkplug' "He was the sparkplug," Miss VJeber said. "I used to tease him and say I raised him in this business, but he was the driving force for all of us. "I couldn't count the number of thnes he'd drive over to Yakima in his beat-up Studebaker, coming back to Seattle at all hours of the night after an evening of meet- ings there. Summer or winter, he'd drive through those mountains. There was no stop- ping him." With Catholic ChUdren's Services already organized in Tacoma at the time of his ap- pointment, Father Gill established offices in Bellingham, Everett, Mount Vernon and Van- couver. "As if his own duties weren't enough," Miss Weber added, "Father Gill often spent hours explaining why the Church needed an agency for dependent children. Many people couldn't see why state agencies wouldn't suf- fice for the Catholic children. "Father would explain that the Church is parental in her concern for her family. That the Catholic Church wants to keep even her smallest members within the family, in the care of adoptive parents or guardians ro that, in a life which is already difficult enough for the child, there would be a feel- ing of love and warmth and unity." From Bishop Gill, who now serves as an ex officio member of all the bOards of Catho- lic Charities agencies, comes only a grateful word refusing the accolades. "It was a rewarding position, but it wasn't crushing," he emphasized. "We had a lot of good people and a lot of good help. There were times when you felt the best thi.ng t do was to turn the key in the door and run, but there were a million times when help came from nowhere just when it was most needed." Two of the many notable workers who have served CCS throughout the years are  Sister M. Bernard, C.S.C., who worked at the agency as a caseworker before entering the Sisterhood. The sister of Tom Kobayashi, president of the Particular Council of Seattle, St. Vincent de Paul Society. Sister Bernard is now head of the department of sociology and political science at St. Mary's College, Notre Dame, Ind. Another caseworker who left to go into Caritas, an order of religious social workers in New Oreans, was Mary Hronek. Mrs. Taylor "lndispensible' ScJal Worker Although not a social worker, Mrs. Fanny Taylor (mother of Rev. John H. Taylor, S.J.) was an unforgettable figure in the history of CCS. "She was our secretary, bookkeeper, re- ceptionist, telephone operator, package-wrap- per, maU distributor and often time baby- sitter," Bishop Gill recalled. Originally employed by the Catholic Wel- fare League, Mrs. Taylor continued with CCS as the latter evolved from the many separate childcare efforts in the diocese. By the end of 1939 the books showed that 262 children had been cared for through CCS. At that time the agency gave casework serv- ic to Sacred Heart Orphange and St. Paul's Infants Home, both located in what is now Sacred Heart Villa. In 1940 CCS offices were moved to the new Chancery building at 907 Terry Ave., and in 1952 with more space necessary, Cath- olic Charities moved into its present offices. Through the ensuing years, CCS tried to place as many children as possible in adop- tive or foster homes. In 1951, as a result of a community study to assess the exact needs of the children residing in them the orphan- age and infant's home were closed and most of the children returned to their own or foster family homes. Children's Homes Established Those youngsters unable to adapt to family life were placed in the two group homes now known as St. Paul's Children's Homes. Owned and operated by the agency the two homes are run by Mr. and Mrs. Fred (Continued on Page 6)