With ‘new’ Diocese of Dodge City
came Catholic Charities
By TIM WENZL
Bishop John B. Franz started an office for Catholic Charities in 1951, the same year the Diocese of Dodge City was established.
Father Gilbert Herrman, the director, worked out of a basement office in the chancery. He also served as director of the Propagation of Faith and locally organized the annual Thanksgiving clothing drive for Catholic Relief Service.
From the outset, Catholic Charities handled adoptions. At least five orphans from Ireland were adopted by couples in southwest Kansas early on. Because Father Herrman did not have a degree in social work, the office in Dodge City worked closely with the diocesan director of Catholic Charities in Wichita to insure the legality of the adoption procedure. In 1962, there was a change in director and a change in the name of the ministry. Father Eugene van Sloun (see Page 16) was appointed director of Catholic Social Service. He served in this capacity for two years.
Father Walter Weiss, who held a degree in social work, was named director in 1964. Catholic Social Service was then incorporated in 1965 as an agency to “engage in organized charitable welfare and social service work of any kind of nature for the promotion of the physical, mental and moral betterment of all persons who may come under the care of this society.”
The agency was located in Great Bend after a study showed that the greater number of Catholics per square miles resided in that area. In 1965 the total population in the 28-county diocese was 208,677, of whom 28,297 were Catholic. Some counties were nearly 50 percent Catholic, while others were closer to five percent.
Father Weiss served as executive director until 1971. The directors who followed were: Ann Forster, Father Gilbert Herrman, Father Lisle Pottorff, Alice Humphreys, Father Ted Skalsky, and Deborah Snapp. Paula Vink and Snapp served as program directors.
Catholic Social Service has been instrumental in the development of the following ministries: Forest Place, a home for troubled youth in Great Bend; Sommerset Place, a low to moderate income housing facility in Great Bend; Family Crisis Center in Great Bend; Emmaus House, a facility providing emergency assistance with food and shelter in Garden City, and 40 senior citizen centers and 28 nutrition sites. Except for Sommerset Place and the Family Crisis Center, these facilities and programs are now operated independent of CSS and are administered by local non-profit organizations or government bodies.
A satellite office was opened in Garden City in 1975. Initially this office worked at relocating Chinese and Vietnamese refugees who were being held in a camp at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. This office also provided pregnancy counseling, adoption services, foster home licensing, and individual/family counseling.
Throughout its history, Catholic Social Service has worked in the areas of adoption, childcare, housing, troubled youth, alcoholism, education, refugee services, children and spousal abuse and prevention, emergency assistance, pregnancy counseling, aging, foster and respite care for children with disabilities, search and reunion services for adult adoptees, birth parents and their families, family counseling, addictions and recovery (in addition to alcoholism), Teen Moms, disaster response, marriage preparation and education, Marriage for Keeps (marriage support), infant adoption awareness training (training health professionals), and post abortion counseling (Rachel’s Vineyard) and The Benefit Bank (assistance to break the cycle of poverty).
The mission of Catholic Social Service has been to reach out to those most in need within the diocese. The agency advocates social justice with the philosophy that people should have equal access to resources, services, and opportunities that are essential for the accomplishment of life-tasks.