HARTFORD – One life ends and another begins. That is the story of the former SS. Cyril and Methodius School just south of Downtown Hartford.
The parish school closed this past year because of declining enrollment. But it wasn’t empty long. Officials with Catholic Charities quickly identified it as an ideal location for several of the agency’s programs and services.
So the entire building was repurposed for that use. A celebration and rededication were held May 12, with Archbishop Leonard P. Blair presiding, to bless and rededicate the building as the largest property occupied by Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Hartford.
The agency operates out of 35 sites throughout the archdiocese.
SS. Cyril and Methodius School was constructed by the primarily Polish immigrant church in 1922. It will continue to be used by the parish on weekends for religious education classes and its Polish language school.
“I’m proud that this bears the name of Catholic Charities,” Archbishop Blair said. “We strive to meet the needs of today. We know that all of these [buildings] were built because people were conscious of their need to love one another.”
He noted that Catholic Charities works with many other partners to best serve the needs of all people. The agency’s goal is to promote dignity, self-sufficiency and the human potential of those in need.
“When the school closed, I looked at the building. It seemed very adequate for Catholic Charities’ needs,” said Marek Kukulka, its chief executive officer.
He was able to bring offices from three different locations to the same site, which saves money and makes them easier to manage. Mr. Kukulka also liked the idea of finding a new use for the building, which needs some work but is structurally solid.
That work will include technology upgrades and repairs, new heat and air conditioning systems and new windows, he said.
“It’s a very good collaboration with the parish,” he added. “We will be investing in the building.”
Catholic Charities also operates a school readiness program out of the lower level of a former convent next to the school.
“If we are able to locate some additional funds, we would like to take over the whole [convent] building,” Mr. Kukulka said. He referred to his agency as “the social arm of the Catholic church.”
Three major programs were relocated to the former school:
• Comprehensive Youth Services;
• Migration, Refugee and Immigration Services;
• Southside Family Center.
Comprehensive Youth Services seeks to help children achieve their fullest potential. It is the lead agency for the community school model at the Thirman L. Milner School in Hartford, which includes an after-school academy that provides academic support and enrichment, arts, culture, sports, recreation, health and social skills.
Summer programs aim to reduce learning loss. Parent engagement and education programs are provided in partnership with the school’s family resource center. Another service is geared to support pregnant and parenting teenagers at Hartford Public High School.
FREE (Fostering Responsibility, Education and Employment) serves youth who are remanded to the state Department of Children and Families by the juvenile courts. It assists those ages 14-19 with transitioning home after an out-of-home placement.
Migration, Refugee and Immigration Services helps families and individuals who come to Hartford from all over the world, including from Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe. It is the largest resettlement agency in Connecticut and staff members speak 25 different languages.
Family centers operated by Catholic Charities offer a culturally competent and comprehensive approach to family development. There are four service locations in Hartford and individual locations in New Haven and Waterbury.
Other programs located within the halls of its new home include English for speakers of other languages, parenting, fatherhood, employment and life skills. Catholic Charities works in partnership with the Hartford Public Schools to provide programs for the city’s youth.