Catholic Charities founded Christ House in Old Town Alexandria in September 1973 to serve people seeking the most basic needs: shelter and a meal. Through five decades it has also provided emergency financial assistance, a food pantry, job training, clothing closet and more. Today it also offers 14 homeless men a residential workforce development program along with spiritual, educational, and other support.
“If, as Pope Francis says, the church is the field hospital,” says Catholic Charities President/CEO Stephen Carattini, “Christ House is the emergency room.”
This “emergency room” is possible because of generous parishioners and others who offer financial gifts, pray, or roll up their sleeves to volunteer.
“Christ House is a beacon of hope in Alexandria, a sign of Christ’s presence and love for men, women, and children in great need,” says Fr. Edward Hathaway, rector of the nearby Basilica of Saint Mary. “The outreach, involvement, and financial support from Basilica parishioners - and from those in surrounding parishes - has been a constant since its establishment 50 years ago.”
The Basilica’s signature annual Irish Hooley, hosted by the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), supports Christ House programs. So does its Youth Apostolate Family Summer Program, when children and families pray, collect and pack meals and snacks for youngsters who are food insecure. The parish also gathers and delivers food packages after Thanksgiving Day Mass.
Another 40 diocesan parishes participate in providing the Evening Meal 365 days a year.
Catholic Charities Christ House has evolved but many things remain constant, says Carattini. “Today we remain a place of refuge, a place of respite where people can come,” he says. “They not only receive the food, shelter, and clothing they require, but the love they deserve."