Well-known San Antonio institutions Seton Home and St. PJ’s Children’s Home will be consolidated under Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of San Antonio as of July 1. Once the merger is complete, the estimated budget for the entire entity will be $40 million, making it one of the largest nonprofit community organizations in the South Texas area.

With the departure late last year of Margaret Bamford, CEO of Seton Home, and James Castro, CEO of St. PJ’s, the appointment of new leadership provided the opportunity to reevaluate the overall operations of the three entities, said Jose Antonio Fernandez, president and CEO of Catholic Charities.

“Like other charitable organizations in the current economic climate, raising donations is a struggle,” Fernandez said. “This streamlining, cost cutting move will consolidate the top administration of the three entities.”

The merger will result in a savings of approximately $2 million a year, he said, money that will be invested back into the community. “We currently have lowered hundreds of thousands of dollars of administration expenses for St. PJ’s and put that money into the emergency shelter. The money saved in administration at all three entities will be allocated to strengthening programs at the three entities.”

Private rooms with built in kitchens are provided for every young mother in the program. Photo by Scott Ball.
Private rooms with kitchenettes are provided for every young mother at Seton Home. Photo by Scott Ball.

The organizations will remain independent nonprofits, maintain separate budgets and fundraising efforts, but will share administration under the Catholic Charities umbrella.

“Their goals remain the same: To help families and children in need. The difference is that now it will be easier for all of us to share best practices, networking, support services, referrals and resources so that we can provide better quality care to the community,” Fernandez said. Previously, each entity handled their own resources separately, including volunteers and in-kind donations. Under the new administrative structure, all three will have a greater pool of resources to draw from and information will be shared quicker and easier.

Overhead for Catholic Charities in 2017 is projected to be 8%, however, this figure will increase to approximately 15% with the addition of Seton Home and St PJ’s.

Catholic Charities President and CEO Jose Antonio Fernandez
Catholic Charities President and CEO Jose Antonio Fernandez

Catholic Charities’ ability to keep overhead costs low is due, in large part, to the 5,000-plus active volunteers, Fernandez stressed, “We want to be the entity where people go for help and where people go to help.”

Established in 1941 by Archbishop Robert Emmet Lucey as the Catholic Welfare Bureau, Catholic Charities now works to empower individuals and families in the 19 counties that make up the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Originally, the organization primarily offered financial assistance, but as needs grew, the scope of the programs expanded. There are now more than 40 bilingual programs for the community that are open to everyone. The current focus is to provide support and help to anyone who needs it so that they can have the personal, social and educational skills necessary to succeed in life.

Named after Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint, Seton Home opened on Alamo Street in 1981 to care for pregnant teens. By 1987, the home had outgrown that space and the Archdiocese granted it a 3-acre tract of land on Mission Road. This space has expanded to 8 acres and includes 3 residential cottages, an education center, sports court, chapel, state licensed child development center and administrative offices.

While many of the minors at Seton Home are removed from their homes by Child Protective Services because of abuse, neglect or sexual assault, it is the only residential facility in the region accepting private placement for parenting or pregnant minors. Due to a lack of similar services in other areas, Seton Home accepts young girls not only from the 19 counties under the Archdiocese of San Antonio, but from across Texas as well. The residential program currently has a capacity to house 24 pregnant and parenting teens and their children. The girls’ ages range from 12-17 and their children range in age from newborns to 6 years old. In addition to providing the girls a safe place to live, they work to complete their high school education, attend therapy sessions, receive medical and dental care and gain life and parenting skills in an effort to empower them to take control of their lives.

The Pregnant-2-Parenting Outreach Program of Seton Home provides professional counseling, assistance with necessities such as diapers, baby clothes and food, parental mentoring, educational assistance, career planning and other services and programs to reach the needs of individuals and families. These services are offered free of charge to anyone who is pregnant or parenting a child under 12 months old.

Seton Home Development Coordinator Rebecca Vance stands for a photo on the Seton Home campus. Photo by Scott Ball.
Seton Home Development Coordinator Rebecca Vance. Photo by Scott Ball.

Development Coordinator Rebecca Vance pointed out the important role of volunteers at Seton Home in the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), a nationwide network of volunteers aged 55 and above. “We have several members of RSVP who volunteer to spend time with the children and their mothers. For many of the girls, these seniors are some of the first positive role models they have had. They become a part of their lives and have a lasting impact on the girls as well as their children.”

St. PJ’s began in 1891 when the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word opened St. Joseph’s Orphanage for Girls and St. John’s Orphanage for Boys on the grounds of the Santa Rosa Infirmary. Following a fire that destroyed St. John’s orphanage in 1912, it was rebuilt as St. Peter-St. John’s Orphanage and is now licensed as a short-term emergency shelter for 53 domestic children and youth from newborns through 17 years of age and 82 international children and youth from birth to 17 years of age who are victims of abuse, neglect and sex trafficking. The shelters are licensed by the State of Texas and are contracted through the Texas Department of Family Protective Services. The shelter is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Balloons are released by children outside of St. PJ's Children's Home.  Courtesy photo.
Colorful balloons are released by children outside of St. PJ’s Children’s Home. Courtesy photo.

In addition to short-term and long-term on-site care, St PJ’s offers community services through Project Ayuda-Housing Support Services and Community Counseling.

Project Ayuda has two support programs: Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing. Homeless Prevention assists low-income individuals and families facing eviction with partial rental payment if approved. The Rapid Re-Housing program assists homeless individuals who were formerly in, or aged out of, foster care. These clients receive assistance with move-in fees and rent.

St. PJ’s Counseling Center offers mental health evaluations and counseling services to children, adolescents, adults and families in the San Antonio community. The center specializes in healing the psychological and emotional trauma related to abuse, neglect, family violence, grief, loss, relationship problems and mental health disorders including depression, anxiety, anger management issues and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Referrals for services come from many sources including the United Way, Texas Department of Family & Protective Services, school counselors, health and social service agencies, juvenile probation, other professionals, former clients, victim services providers and managed care institutions.

“Seton Home, Catholic Charities, and St. PJ’s are in the midst of some exciting transformations,” said Communications Director Jordan McMorrough. “Seton Home and St. PJ’s have impressive foundations and long histories of helping children and families in need. These changes taking place are strengthening the partnership of these agencies and the resulting care for children in need.

“Both St. PJ’s and Seton Home are thriving entities because of the hard work of its employees and staff and the very generous support of the San Antonio community. That generosity helps to provide a safe refuge for children to heal from trauma.”


Top image: Seton Home employee Angela Hudspeth holds an infant in the nursery as she rocks back and forth.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Kathy Hamilton

Kathy Hamilton is a reformed foreign journalist who, along with her son, is rediscovering her hometown.