Archbishop O'Brien begins plans for the office
Cooperative Parish Sharing and the Office of Urban Affairs is formed
The OUA was charged with giving new emphasis to its mission to educate for social justice and advocate specific proposals for improvement of the society, especially the poor.
A new plan proposed an emphasis on enablement of parish leaders to organize social mission by the parish community, and integrated existing elderly services programs into the core operation.
By this time the OUA had developed community organizing networks in the cities of the Archdiocese: United Connecticut Action for Neighborhoods (UCAN), Naugatuck Valley Project (NVP) and Elm City Congregations Organized (ECCO) and seen the expansion of parish social ministry in parishes throughout the Archdiocese, with training, spirituality development, and the convening of the social justice community.
The OUA began preparation for the CenterEdge Project, which was a major effort to change the way most suburban and rural people in Connecticut viewed themselves and their own self-interest in relation to urban poor people.
The OUA published the report, Connecticut Metropatterns: A Regional Agenda for Community and Prosperity.
The office was renamed and given a new mission statement that established ambitious priorities for the future. With the endorsement of Archbishop Mansell, the Board of Directors announced the office’s new name: The Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry (OCSJM) and new mission statement:
The Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry of the Archdiocese of Hartford advances Catholic social teaching by educating and preparing parishes to work for social justice.
The Story of the Last 45 Years
In 1968, then-Archbishop Henry J. O’Brien, put in motion plans for an office and a program that did not have an official name, but did have a clear mandate. He envisioned a new Archdiocesan effort that would unify parishes, work in the inner cities, provide training for the priests and religious working in urban parishes, and, with the help of all the other parishes in the Archdiocese, develop resources that would make it possible to improve living conditions for people in those urban communities.
To bring the idea to fruition, Archbishop O’Brien called on the leadership of Father Timothy A. Meehan, working closely with Auxiliary Bishop Joseph F. Donnelly who became the first Chairman of the Board of Directors. Together they launched an effort that was to have far reaching impact not only here in Connecticut, but also across the United States. With the approval of Archbishop O’Brien, Father Meehan created the first program of this new enterprise, Cooperative Parish Sharing, on October 16, 1968.
After a meeting in November, 1969, forty-eight priests of the Archdiocese created the Priests’ Social Action Committee. They met again in January, 1970 to continue the “intense discussion of their ideas and experiences of the urban crisis,” and decided to publish their recommendations in a document called “The Servant Church…and Other Questions for Thoughtful Christians.” Their goal was to create “sharing and discussion among all the clergy, religious and laity … [to develop] an established policy for the Church’s role in alleviating the critical problems that face society in the social issues of our time.”
An Office is Born
With the initiation of Cooperative Parish Sharing, and the development of a legislative alert program that enrolled many of the parishes outside the inner cities, the work of the Office of Urban Affairs was underway.