At top is the new logo for Montreal’s Collective Community Services, which has dropped Catholic from its name. The name change has irritated the archdiocese and Bishop Thomas Dowd says it will create something to replace the agency.

‘Catholic’ is removed from Montreal social agency’s name

By  Alan Hustak, Catholic Register Special
  • January 15, 2015

MONTREAL - Montreal’s Catholic Community Services is no longer Catholic.

In a move that has irritated the Archdiocese of Montreal, CCS is dropping the word Catholic from its corporate name and instead will be called Collective Community Services. The social agency works with seniors, runs community development programs for youth and operates summer camps for inner-city children.

The name was changed to conform to CCS’s contractual obligations with its main provider of funds, Centraide (Quebec’s United Way) and to clarify its mission statement, said Fred Jansen, the agency’s director general

“CCS is no longer about religion, it is about shared values,” said Jansen. “We are a little less Catholic and more inclusive than we used to be. The word ‘Catholic’ scares people away — just as the Young Men’s Christian Association is now just the ‘Y’. We believe we should leave religion outside the door like the law requires.”

However, Centraide’s head of public affairs, Annick Gagnon, said the organization did not ask CCS to drop the word Catholic.

“We have had a long association with CCS,” she said. “As long as it does charitable work within our guidelines, there is no reason why it can’t call itself Catholic. We would only have a problem if it promoted religion as a condition of helping its clients. Then we would have a problem.”

As a result of the name change, the archdiocese is prepared to set up a parallel agency that will clearly identify itself as Catholic.

“The key thing is what do we do now?” said Bishop Thomas Dowd, director of the Office for English Pastoral Services. “If CCS chooses to move in that direction, we want it to benefit from its relationship with Centraide, but we want to make sure the Catholic Church remains an active and identifiable presence in the life of charitable works for English-speaking Catholics in the city.

“We will have to create something new, and we will.”

Richard McConomy, a former board president at both CCS and Centraide, said the decision to change the name is misguided. He is prepared to join with the bishop to spearhead an alternative agency, he said.

“The moment you take the word Catholic off the table, you are saying that English-speaking Catholics are no longer a force in Montreal, that the institutions that they built as an English-speaking Catholic community mean nothing. I know we may be under pressure, but these guys are heading down on the wrong track.”

The Federation of Catholic Charities has a convoluted history. It began in 1930 as a relief agency for English-speaking Catholics. In the 1970s, when the government moved to take over health and welfare agencies in the province and assumed responsibility for faith-based organizations, the original charter was amended to allow for the merger of several charitable organizations into the Red Feather organization. Catholic Community Services was started as a spin off and became part of Centraide in 1975. It depends on Centraide for the bulk of its operating budget. Today, CCS is but one of several tenants housed in the Catholic Community Centre. It rents its premises from the Foundation of Catholic Charities. 

The latest CCS action plan is to concentrate on education programs for inner-city children and families at risk.

“We are running child development programs and education workshops for new immigrants, and at the same time extending children’s programs into schools,” said Jansen.

Because those programs must, under Quebec law, be secular and not religious in nature, he said CCS had to divorce itself from its Catholic identity in order to qualify for public funding from Centraide.

“We are not alone,” said Jansen. “We are developing partnerships with other organizations to reach common goals. We participate in neighbourhood roundtables and forums and actively support specific projects that we think will benefit the community in the long run. We will make sure there is a CCS presence wherever we can make an impact.”

CCS board president Tom Boushel said, as a result of the change, “Pleasant things have happened. The non-Catholic community has reached out to us and is eager to co-operate with us. The non-religious community was waiting for this to happen.”

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