Cardinal Cupich, Monsignor Boland Address Historic 100th Meeting of Chicago Catholic Charities Board
Wednesday, October 04, 2017 by Communications

The nation’s largest Catholic Charities convened its 100th meeting of its 700 member Board of Advisors on October 2. Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of Chicago, Monsignor Michael M. Boland, President and CEO of the agency, and Len Wiatr, Chairman of the Board, addressed the audience, offering a message of hope for the future and for all those served by the agency. 

Each year nearly 1 million people count on the agency, which serves immigrants, refugees, children, women, families, veterans, and seniors. With an operating budget of $203 million, the agency has 154 locations across Cook and Lake counties. 

In his remarks, Cardinal Cupich reminded the Board of the great responsibility it has to support the least among us.
“There is no greater connection to the mission of the Church than Catholic Charities,” said Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago. “Catholic Charities is Chicago’s Good Samaritan,” Cardinal Cupich said.

“Catholic Charities is the Church’s field hospital in our most desperate and under-resourced communities; a shining light in areas that can feel covered in darkness,” said Monsignor Boland. “Today 3,000 staff, 15,000 volunteers and more than 400 community partners, including parishes, help us fulfill our mission of providing compassionate care to anyone in need. Where Catholic Charities is, we know there is hope.”

Board Chairman Len Wiatr reflected that at “the first meeting of the Board of Advisors on April 10, 2017, it was noted that one of the first orders of business would be to compile a list of all husbands, sons and brothers fighting in the war so the agency could care for the women and children left behind.” He continued that today, “that legacy continues and Catholic Charities serves anyone in need with compassion… and with a full 92 cents of every dollar going directly to programs to support those most in need.”

The agency commissioned 34 people to its Board of Advisors at the historic meeting. In addition, several awards were presented to members of the Catholic Charities Board of Advisors, community, and staff for outstanding service and commitment to the agency’s mission. 

Dorothy and Ed Wehmer – Recipients of the Compassion in Action Award, the Wehmers are long-time supporters of Catholic Charities, including serving as past Chaircouple of the agency’s largest fundraiser, the St. Nicholas Ball. The Wehmers also contribute greatly to the agency’s annual Christmas Toy Drive.

James Hellige – Recognized for his nearly 30 years of supporting Catholic Charities, James Hellige received the Dennis F. Kelly award. Hellige is a true ambassador for the agency, educating the legal community on the value of including Catholic Charities in estate planning.

Loyola University – A trusted and valued community partner, Loyola University received this year’s St. Thomas More Award for the decades the University has provided support through research, interns, and the hundreds of university graduates who have served as Catholic Charities staff and board members. University President Dr. Jo Anne Rooney accepted the award. 

Father John Nicola – As this year’s recipient of the Caritas Christi Urget Nos Award, Father John Nicola was recognized for his more than 60 years as an educator and a member of the Catholic Charities Legacy of Hope society. Father Nicola also has been a strong supporter of the agency’s 100th anniversary. 

Alzenia Melton – For 44 years Alzenia Melton has been the face of compassion at Catholic Charities. As a supervisor in the agency’s emergency assistant department, Alzenia daily has greeted individuals and families turning to Catholic Charities in their most desperate times. She is always known for having a listening ear, shoulder to lean on and an open heart and for her decades of service she received the Mission of Charity award.  

Ralph Metz – Receiving this year’s Volunteer of the Year award, Ralph Metz has faithfully volunteered his time at the Catholic Charities evening supper program for the homeless for 20 years. Ralph knows supper guests by their names and takes time to visit with each person, providing compassionate care and treating each guest with dignity and respect every week. 

Catholic Charities was founded just days after the country entered World War I, at a time when women were left caring for their families alone and children were left orphaned following the flu epidemic. Cardinal Mundelein called together a group of prominent businessmen, including Charles Comiskey, Marshall Field III, Dennis F. Kelly, and Edward Hines, to be the fundraising arm of the Church. This initiative quickly evolved to provide direct social services to those most in need. 

The agency that began at the once gritty intersection of Des Plaines and Randolph has grown to 154 locations across the Archdiocese, in the most vulnerable and under-served communities.

Catholic Charities services span a wide range, including housing, food, emergency assistance, counseling, veterans’ needs, senior services and support, child development, immigration and refugee support, youth mentoring, and more.

The agency is a pioneer in social services, leading the way in providing a holistic approach to both individuals and families in need. It led the way in many innovative social service programs and partnerships. It was the first to partner with Cook County to treat a DUI offense as a medical condition; with the VA and HUD to open the first permanent supportive housing for veterans, the St. Leo Campus; and with the federal government to develop the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) food centers in food desert communities, the first of its kind in the nation. 

Commenting on the agency’s future, Monsignor Boland added, “There is a tremendous need for agencies such as Catholic Charities, who are nimble and efficient, and also provide compassionate care. At all times our staff treats each person who comes to us with respect and dignity, with an ultimate goal of helping them become as self-sufficient as possible. This year we celebrate ‘A Century of Hope’ and reaffirm our commitment to the next century of providing help and hope to all of those need us most.”

For more information about Catholic Charities 100th Anniversary, including historic photos and stories, visit
Return | Print