Catholic Charities agencies that responded to a national survey served more than 8.5 million people last year, said Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA.
Addressing journalists at CCUSA offices in Alexandria and Catholic Charities leaders across the country through phone and Web connections, Father Snyder reported a 10 percent increase in clients served by Catholic Charities nationwide in 2008.
He predicted the 2009 level of services would be even higher -- growing unemployment and other major effects of the current recession have placed increased demands since January on the 171 main diocesan Catholic Charities agencies across the country and their 1,668 branches and affiliates.
The 2008 figures only include the first three months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and near-disintegration of AIG, the Wall Street investment giant bailed out by the government, Father Snyder said. Although the recession was already pretty well entrenched before that, the Lehman and AIG events in September 2008 sealed the recession as the signature economic event of the year.