BRIDGEPORT—Catholic Charities has announced that it will name the dining hall of the new Merton Family Center for Father Charles Allen, SJ, longtime assistant to the president of Fairfield University, and friend of Merton Center.
Catholic Charities is currently conducting a campaign to financial support for the new “Father Charles H. Allen, SJ Dining Hall” at the new Thomas Merton Family Center, 1406 State Street in Bridgeport.
“As many of you know, Father Allen was the Master of Ceremonies and chief fundraiser at the Merton Center’s annual Celebrity Breakfast for over 20 years. Father Allen cared deeply about the mission of the Merton Center and we are extremely excited to honor his legacy and passion by naming the largest room in the new facility after him,” said Mike Donoghue, Catholic Charities’ executive director.
Donoghue said that to date, Catholic Charities has raised 96 percent of the overall Capital Campaign goal of $6.5 million, leaving $350,000 as the goal to cover the cost of constructing and outfitting the new dining hall, and that there is still time to make a contribution to honor Father Allen. Catholic Charities hopes to have the ribbon cutting the week after Thanksgiving and all donors will be recognized on a plaque inside the new Father Allen Dining Hall.
Earlier this year, Bishop Frank J. Caggiano blessed the project as work began on the renovation of the two-story, 13,000 square foot facility expected to formally open later this fall. He was joined by city and state officials who praised the historic role Merton Center has played in feeding the working poor, homeless and hungry in the Bridgeport region.
“Whether you are poor or an immigrant or recently incarcerated or homeless or hungry, this is a home and they are our guests because they are our brothers and sisters. Everyone who comes here is respected for who or he or she is in their uniqueness and even in their struggles,” the bishop said at the blessing in March.
The Thomas Merton Family Center will include a dining hall, kitchen, food pantry, multi-purpose room, conference room, break room, elevators, showers and 14 offices.
The Merton Center’s current program activities include: a soup kitchen/meal program serving breakfast and lunch to 325 daily; the largest day shelter in the region; and the largest food pantry in Bridgeport serving 420 families per month. The new location is making it possible to provide additional support services including primary medical care, mental health counseling, and dental care provided through a partnership with Southwest Community Health Center (SWHC), parenting classes through St. Joseph’s Parenting Center, Catholic Charities immigration legal services, and housing case management job training, ESL classes, cooking classes, and financial literacy classes provided by our partners.
Father Charles Allen was born in Jamaica Plain, Mass. two months after the start of World War II. His parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were all from Boston. He entered the Society of Jesus at the age of 17, on August 8, 1959, and was ordained on September 8, 1973.
He earned a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in philosophy from Boston College, as well as Master Degrees from the Gregorian (Rome), Brown and Columbia Universities in theology, mathematics, and educational administration respectively. His early assignments included service as a high school math teacher and administrator. Father Allen retired in September 2021, and he resides at Campion Center in Weston, Mass.
(Merton Center is celebrating its 50th year of serving the most vulnerable members of the Bridgeport community. To learn more about the Thomas Merton Center and to make a pledge/donation please visit www.CCFairfield.org/TMCCampaign. For more information contact Kathleen Pierce at 203.981.3395 or email [email protected])