Our History


Mary Ann Finch, Founder

Mary Ann Finch was born in Lansing, Michigan and graduated from Michigan State University where she majored in education and the dramatic arts. She subsequently completed her MA in Communications at Arizona State University. In 1973, she made her way to the Bay Area to begin a Masters Program in Christian Spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology in the Graduate Theological Union Seminary. While pursuing her degree, she studied health psychology at Saybrook University in San Francisco, movement therapy at Mills College in Oakland, and massage therapy at the Gefion School of Massage in Berkeley. She pioneered an area of study called Embodied Spirituality and taught as an adjunct professor at the Jesuit School of Theology.

In 1983, Mary Ann Finch established the non-profit Center for Growth in Wholeness in Berkeley, CA. Over the next few years, the center evolved into a professional school of massage with an emphasis on pastoral care for people suffering from HIV/AIDS during a time when many who had contracted the illness were dying alone and afraid. In 1990, Mary Ann took a sabbatical to Calcutta, India where she practiced hospice care alongside Mother Teresa at the Kalighat Home for the Dying Destitutes. At the end of her stay, she committed herself to the challenge Mother Teresa gave her, “go home and do there what you’ve done here: touch the poorest of the poor with your care.”

In 1993, Mary Anne renamed the non-profit to Care Through Touch Institute and in 1997 moved it’s headquarters to San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood, known for drug abuse, crime, poverty, and homelessness. There she designed training programs to meet the specific needs of individuals traumatized by poverty. Women, the aged and dying, and those suffering from HIV/AIDS continue to be a special focus of CTI’s work, and we have expanded services to reach many who are low income, elderly, or ill. Some refer to us as 'mothers' others call us 'friends' or simply the 'massage ladies'!

Over the years we have developed strong connections in this high-risk community through our compassionate and caring presence. During this time (35 yrs!) we have 'aged' alongside this resilient, but also fractured neighborhood. We feel both a passion and a responsibility to create a new model of compassionate care to specifically address not only the physical, but also the psychological and spiritual needs of the elderly homeless and marginally housed women and men in this community. As Mary Ann says, “I intend (and pray) that I will do this sacred work until I draw my last breath.”

Care Through Touch was my bridge to the world of the poor…
— Mary Ann Woodward

See the full CTI Story

As told by Founder and Director, Mary Ann Finch.
This heartwarming video tells the story of the origins of the Care Through Touch Institute in Founder and Director, Mary Ann Finch’s own words, including Mother Teresa’s mandate to her to serve the “untouchables” in our community.