Dear Friends of Catholic Charities,
This year I will be blessed to celebrate my 20-year anniversary as the executive director for Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. As I reflect upon my experiences over these last two decades, I can’t help getting a little nostalgic. Catholic Charities has been my life’s work since 1985 when I started my career in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
I took my first job with Catholic Charities right out of college working in a group home with children who were wards of the state and had been removed from their own homes due to reasons of serious abuse and neglect. I honestly took the job not knowing what to expect, but I quickly became impassioned by the plight of these “forgotten kids” and how painful their lives had become through no fault of their own. I saw in them such incredible courage to overcome the unjust obstacles in their lives and I was perpetually inspired by their optimism, strength and willingness to forge a brighter future. To this day it was the hardest job I ever had — and the most rewarding.
For the first time, I also became aware of the tremendous giving spirit of people who supported the work we did with these children. Strangers, with no connection whatsoever to our kids, would devote their time, talents and treasure to helping us provide for them. It was something that made a huge impact on me for the rest of my life. The compassion and generosity shown by so many wonderful, selfless people reinforced my determination to serve these “least of our brothers and sisters” to the best of my ability.
When I was appointed executive director by Bishop Daniel Ryan in 1999, I once again didn’t know what to expect. I believed I had the experience and education to do the job, but I honestly didn’t have a very complete picture of what the position entailed. Boy, was I in for a few surprises! The challenges of operating a not for profit, faith-based organization are never-ending and diverse. Over the years, there have been many constants that have allowed me to satisfy the requirements of this position.
First and foremost, there has been my faith. It has been an honor to work for my church and to help fulfill our “option for the poor” mandate and to bring tangible action to Christ’s instruction to “love one another.” Next has been the love and understanding of my family and friends who have supported my efforts and accepted the sacrifices that are made in order to meet the demands of the job. One definite constant has been the hard work and dedication of so many Catholic Charities colleagues who I have worked side by side with over the years. Whether they were staff members, board members or volunteers, these compassionate, gifted people have enriched my journey in so many ways and their loyalty and trust has truly sustained me.
The last constant has been the never-ending generosity of our Catholic Charities donors. Annually, through good times and struggles, thousands of people across our diocese send their hard-earned dollars to Catholic Charities to ensure that our critical Mission of Love will always be there for people in need. Without this support, it would be impossible to keep this promise. Thank you so much for whatever role you have played or will play in making Catholic Charities a source of pride and hope for all of us.
Steven E. Roach, M.S.
Diocese of Springfield in Illinois