New USCCB social development director aims to fight poverty
The U.S. bishops have named Mark Rohlena, head of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, to direct the Office of Domestic Social Development for the U.S. bishops’ conference.
“Mark Rohlena has a proven track record as a leader and manager in putting the Church’s social teaching into action,” Monsignor Ronny Jenkins, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said June 17. “Mark has a heart for the poor and vulnerable and a critical understanding of the way public policy impacts the Church’s ground-level, charitable work.”
Rohlena welcomed the “wonderful opportunity” to be part of the Catholic Church’s legacy of service to those in need. He said he will join those who advocate that federal policymakers “recognize that each and every one of our neighbors is filled with dignity – worthy to be encountered, loved and cared-for.”
“It is a unique way to witness to the love of Christ, which, as Pope Francis reminds us, lies at the heart of our charitable work,” he added.
“The Church has been and must continue to be among the strongest voices in the public square on behalf of the poor, the sick, the weak and the suffering.”
As part of his new position, Rohlena will place a special emphasis on national poverty reduction efforts, the U.S. bishops’ conference says.
He is currently the president and CEO of the Colorado Springs-based Catholic Charities of Central Colorado. The agency works in 10 Colorado counties in poverty reduction, parish social ministry, family immigration services, adoption services, and disaster relief. It has played a leading role in helping those affected by devastating forest fires.
The Catholic Charities agency has a budget of $3 million and 50 employees. About 1,600 volunteers per month assist in its work.
Rohlena began programs to help young adults address homelessness. He has served on the boards of the Catholic Housing Corporation and Partners in Housing of Colorado Springs. He was a founding board member of Denver’s Lighthouse Women’s Care Center.
He previously served as the senior ethics and conflict attorney for the Denver-based Holland and Hart, LLP. He has a law degree from Ave Maria School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from Christendom College.
Msgr. Jenkins said that Rohlena is “well-formed in the faith, and especially Catholic social teaching, which has inspired his strong commitment to service.”
Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, praised Rohlena’s “extraordinary advocacy” on behalf of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado and its clients.
“Mark took his love for the poor, the weak and suffering to the public square and often spoke on behalf of those who could not speak for themselves,” Kraska said June 16. “The bishops’ conference and the Church are fortunate to have Mark work on their behalf. Mark has touched the lives of many people in Colorado and he will be missed.”
Rohlena will start his new position in August. The previous director of the Office of Domestic Social Development, Kathy Saile, left her position to become associate director for government affairs at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C.
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