Catholic Charities’ new logo is unique and unifying

One of the billboards introducing Kansas City and St. Joseph to the new Catholic Charities logo. (photo courtesy of Kevin Murphy)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — An organization’s brand, its logo, whether complex or quite simple, is the recognizable mark that people quickly identify the organization by. Changing the brand often helps distinguish that organization from its fellows, especially in a large, multi-state organization like Catholic Charities USA. There are 164 Catholic Charities across the nation, and most of them use the same logo as Catholic Charities USA, the cross and steeple.

Kevin Murphy, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications for Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph explained that the cross and steeple logo did not capture the unique history of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, its rich history nor the fact that Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph is the charitable arm of the diocese.

The agency recently launched a new brand, a new way of identifying what it is, what it does and whom it serves. The charity has changed over the years. It was founded by Father Bernard Donnelly in 1879 as Mount St. Bernard’s Orphanage. During the 1930s — the Great Depression — the orphanage evolved into the Catholic Welfare Bureau, followed by Catholic and Community Services and finally, in the late 1960s, it became Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph. It was then that the charity adopted the cross and steeple logo of Catholic Charities USA, which it used until now.

There were several other reasons why it was decided to rebrand. Catholic Charites KCSJ is its own stand-alone 501c3. Although the agency pays annual dues to the national Catholic Charities and engages in educational events, it is autonomous, managed under the guidance of the presiding bishop, Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr.

Of the 20 top Catholic Charities by annual revenues, 90 percent have created their own brand and used it as a growth platform. And Catholic Charities KCSJ wanted to further distinguish itself from the three other Missouri Catholic Charities and the four agencies in the neighboring state of Kansas.

In addition, there are more than 32,000 charitable organizations in Missouri, according to the Missouri Attorney General’s office. In fact, in Kansas City and St. Joseph alone, there are 8,000 (according to the Midwest Center for Non-Profit Leadership and the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce). A new brand would make Catholic Charities stand out in the crowd.
Murphy said Chris Ice, Catholic Charities’ CEO, shared with Murphy that “he wanted to rebrand during the interview process and was narrowing down his choices on logos when he hired me.” Murphy asked Ice to wait until he joined the agency in order to use the strategic blueprint process, a creative way of devising ways to overcome challenges to reach desired goals.

Ice agreed, and when Murphy began working at Catholic Charities, the two men began the process of envisioning.

During that process they found that there are more than 1.55 million people living within the boundaries of the diocese, and of those who seek help from Catholic Charities, 55 percent live in Jackson County (Kansas City) and 45 percent live in Buchanan County (St. Joseph). It became important for the charity to connect with people in need outside the two major cities.

When Murphy and Ice were confident that it was time for the art work, they “hired Geoff Hastings to fulfill what we envisioned together.” Hastings, Principal and Creative Director of Tangent Creative – Strategic Communication Design, in Des Moines, Iowa, “has a heart for Catholic Charities,” Murphy added. In Hasting’s design, the Kansas City skyline on the left and the St. Joseph skyline on the right meet in the center at the familiar “KC Gold-dome,” the cupula of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Kansas City. The skylines are in black and white, while the cupula is brick red with a golden dome. Under the logo is the agency’s mission: “To Serve & To Lift.”

Murphy said, “The new logo speaks of unity.”  The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph was created in 1956 by the Holy See. The St. Joseph skyline features a rural homestead, reminding viewers of the 27-county reach of this diocese; the St. Joseph Union Pacific, “swing bridge,” the St. Joseph Cathedral; the Pony Express, the Wyeth-Tootle Mansion, and the downtown city scape, while the KC skyline highlights One Kansas City Place, the city’s tallest building; the Liberty Memorial, the Bond Bridge, the Channel 5 TV Tower, the Bryant Building and the Sheraton Kansas City Hotel. The Cathedral’s golden dome, familiar to local residents and to the many visitors to Kansas City, unites the two cityscapes. The word Cathedral, Murphy noted, comes from the Latin cathedra, meaning “seat.”  Thus, “the Cathedral is the Bishop’s seat,” he said, “an architectural reminder of his authority in the Church, his apostolic lineage and the primary place he leads worship.”

The words underneath the picture succinctly describes the agency’s purpose, a purpose that is distinctly Catholic, but accessible to people of all faiths: “To Serve & To Lift.” Murphy explained, “We first serve our clients immediate needs, relieving their anxieties and removing their burdens, while simultaneously seeking to lift them to the dignity of self-reliance. The “&” sign indicates a continual act. We serve and lift clients simultaneously.”

The entrance to the agency, The Welcome Center, is a unique concept, Murphy said. Through casual conversation, agency staff learns a client’s immediate needs, and helps relieve their burden by taking care of those needs. The client is then channeled to specific services — mom’s empowerment; employment; housing — best suited to their needs.  Through service and case management, following the teachings of the Catholic Church, the agency “commits to the integral development of the human person, of reminding them of their infinite dignity, of being made in the image and likeness of God and striving toward self-reliance.”

Catholic Charities has been serving those in need since 1879, but with the rebranding have come some new ideas, such as going mobile — taking the Welcome Center concept to the diocese’s 27 counties. Murphy said the agency would like to partner with more rural parishes in the future.


  1. August 17, 2018 at 10:13 am #

    Too much wording for one to read whilst driving. A simple “We Serve You Because You Are” takes denominationalism out of the equation, and helps ensure the safety of a distracted moterist.


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September 26, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph