Posts Tagged ‘Ken Hackett’


Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

This morning along with a crowd estimated in excess of 110,000, I saw the Holy Father up close and personal. My reason for being in Rome this morning I will share with you momentarily, but for the first time in a long time I had that sense of “chills” of being in the presence of the Pope. It is a sense I first had when as a layman I was introduced to Pope Paul VI but left me after repeated time spent with Blessed Pope John Paul II, on the road during three papal visits to the United States and and many, many other occasions with he and Pope Benedict. Perhaps I “overdosed” on Popes in my life but over time while holding the deepest respect for them and the office they held, awe gave way to “ho hum” perhaps.

Well “awe” returned with a vengeance this morning. First, when I arrived at my place reserved for all bishops and looked out over the sea of people in front of me. I have been in the square when it has been full but I have never been there when the square was full and there were thousands shoulder to shoulder down the Via Conciliatione, the Main Street leading up to the square. I had heard last night there were 92,000 requests for tickets for today’s audience, in mid-October, folks, when schools are finally reopened in Europe and everyone is supposed to be back to work but in front of me was this wave of humanity, all waiting for a glimpse of one man.

Looking out at the sea of people. Photo by yours truly.

Looking out at the sea of people. Photo by yours truly.

It’s too facile to say that all new popes draw big crowds. They do. But not this big. Ask the shopkeeper near the Vatican and he shouts “bella”or ask the cab driver trying to make his way through the area and he says “bruta.” Ask any person and they say they have never seen anything like it.

The audience is supposed to start at ten o’clock but precisely at 940am a roar goes up and out he comes on the jeep, smiling, waving, stopping for wheelchairs and babies. And they drive everywhere throughout the square and then, as I suspected, out into the deep of the Conciliatione where there were no barriers holding people back. They came to see him so he was not going to disappoint them.

Pope Francis greeting the people. Photo kindness of Msgr. Robert Morris.

Pope Francis greeting the people. Photo kindness of Patty Morris.

For forty minutes he drove throughout and outside of the square, keeping we bishops waiting and everyone else at the “front of the line.” I have a feeling that he does it on purpose. Those who have the smallest or no connection with how to get tickets for one of the 90,000 chairs get just as much of his time and attention as those of us in the “orchestra” who hold jobs that ensure proximity or know someone who can land the best seat.

He walks up the incline plane from the car to the platform not like a 75 year old with one lung but like a younger man delighted to be there.

Pope Francis. Photo taken by yours truly.

Pope Francis. Photo taken by yours truly.

The formal part of the audience took, you guessed it, the same forty minutes it took him to drive through the crowd.

Pope Francis. Photo kindness of Msgr. Robert Morris

Pope Francis. Photo kindness of Patty Morris.

He spoke of the centrality of Mary in the life of the Church in Italian – an Italian spoken so slowly that even I understood most of it.

He dropped his text and spoke extemporaneously three times this morning, each time drawing laughter from the Italian speakers and scattered applause. He does not attempt any other language but Spanish and after one Our Father and the blessing it is over. You can read his written text by clicking here or by watching a summary video below.


We bishops were first to greet him and have our picture taken with him. It’s a shame that others wait so long because this morning Cardinal Meisner of Germany and forty-one of we other “red caps” were there.

I thanked him for all he has done so far after first telling him I was from St. Petersburg, Florida, in the United States and smiling he said to me in perfect English, “Please pray for me, I have only just begun and I need prayers.”

Meeting Pope Francis. His reply to me, "Please pray for me, I have only just begun and I need prayers." Photo kindness of Msgr. Robert Morris.

Meeting Pope Francis. His reply to me, “Please pray for me, I have only just begun and I need prayers.” Photo kindness of Patty Morris.

I didn’t want to take any more time and my knees were shaking anyway. I left the upper platform looking at the recent brides and grooms in their wedding attire waiting to meet him and get a picture. One couple yelled out to me by name so someone was there from St. Petersburg. I know Monsignor Morris and his brother and sister-in-law were there in the crowd somewhere as well as Father Craig Morley and a pilgrimage group but finding other people in that Mass of humanity was like looking for a needle in the proverbial haystack. I have shared whatever free time they have the last two and a half days with our two seminarians, Ryan Boyle and Alex Padilla, but they had class this morning. Rome is beautiful right now.

I was on my way back to the North American College where I am staying by 1135am. I am in Rome for three days only because a man whom I deeply admire and with whom I worked for seventeen years, Kenneth Hackett, former President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, presented his papers to Pope Francis on Monday as the new Ambassador of the United States of America to the Holy See, appointed by President Obama. It was an honor to share these moments with Ken and Joan, his wife, and their two children.

I am home again tomorrow (Thursday) and back at it in the diocese where I belong. I shall not soon forget that warm, smiling, welcoming face of Francis and the energy of the crowd who love what he is doing to and for our Church.



Monday, March 19th, 2012

Former CRS president Ken Hackett. Photo courtesy of Catholic Relief Services.

The Fourth Sunday of Lent each year marks the occasion for the annual collection for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) throughout our country. Our church takes justifiable pride in this highly acclaimed and recognized organ of the Catholic Church in the United States which responds quickly and effectively to major disasters throughout the world and leads development efforts in many underdeveloped or at risk countries. While US Catholics contribute about 15 million each year to the CRS collection, the agency’s program expenses and outreach will this year for the first time exceed one billion dollars. The balance comes from agency fund-raising efforts and grants from the US government and other international agencies. CRS serves all of humankind, without favor to religion, race or sex. What makes its so highly effective are two things: its low cost administration (less than $10 for every $100 is spent on fundraising and administrative costs and when I left the Board chairmanship four years ago, the actual cost audited and accounted for was in the neighborhood of $7.00 for the one hundred given) and its partners throughout the world. What other organization has the network of Catholic Charities and parish structures for the delivery of services?

But yesterday’s major gift to Catholic Relief Services was the announcement that the University of Notre Dame had chosen its recently retired (three months ago) President and CEO, Kenneth Hackett for its prestigious “Laetare Medal” at the 2012 commencement ceremony. I would say that given the incredibly distinguished history of its recipients over the years, all Catholics I believe, this award is without parallel for its selectivity and recognition of service to the Church and to the Gospel. I was on the Search Committee, which recommended to the bishops’ only (at that time) Board of Directors that Hackett be appointed its CEO. When chosen, CRS had a program budget of about 200 million a year and, as I noted above, it now should exceed one billion in service to the poor of the world. Still, the administrative costs remain low. Much of this growth and much of its rise in prestige is due to Ken Hackett. He would rightly say that a tremendous staff at CRS backed him up and that is indeed true. But he was the right man at the right time to lead an organization in search of a mission and identity.

In his twenty plus years as CEO, Ken Hackett protected and enhanced its Catholic identity. When USAID balked at giving grants to CRS for anti-HIV retroviral medicines in nine nations in Africa and in Haiti because we did not distribute condoms (our government’s principal answer to stopping the pandemic), he never flinched from Catholic teaching and Catholic identity. And he led the agency in establishing a greater mission than disaster relief and the Thanksgiving Clothing Drive (older Catholics remember that one well) to remain and serve in countries by assisting them in self-help development work (like digging wells and providing for sanitation).

I can’t think of a more worthy recipient than Kenneth Hackett with whom I was privileged both to work side by side with and at the same time learn from about serving the poor. My commitment to and love for Pinellas Hope can be traced to two laymen who have taught me everything: Ken Hackett and Frank Murphy. Congratulations Notre Dame on an outstanding selection and congratulations Ken Hackett on winning this award, which is even more affirming than the honorary doctorate, conferred on you by the same institution a few years ago. And thanks, Notre Dame, for letting CRS woo your Dean of the Mendoza School of Business to succeed Ken Hackett as the person at the helm of the premier relief and development agency in the world.



Friday, June 24th, 2011

Photograph from Notre Dame University Website

This morning in South Bend and in Baltimore, Notre Dame University and Catholic Relief Services respectively announced that Dean Carolyn Y. Woo of the Mendoza School of Business has been chosen to become the President/Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Relief Services, our church’s worldwide disaster relief and development agency. CRS now exists in slightly over 100 countries and has program revenues approaching one billion dollars in the coming fiscal year. Dr.Woo is known to a number of people in the Diocese of St. Petersburg as this year’s main speaker at the Catholic Foundation Dinner last February. There she told an amazing story of being born on mainland China and the family moving to Hong Kong where she studied with the Maryknoll Sisters who had been expelled from China following the revolution. One of eight children, Dr. Woo chose, mostly against her father’s wishes, to pursue a college education and earned a scholarship for her freshman year at Purdue University. Eventually she earned not only a bachelor’s degree but a Masters and Ph.D. as well. Fourteen years ago Notre Dame approached Dean Woo and literally “wooed” her to coming to Notre Dame as head of the Business School. The rest is history as under her leadership the Mendoza School is currently rated first among undergraduate business schools and sixth among those who award Master’s Degrees, no small feat to be sure.

Loved on campus and admired by almost every student in the Business school as well as her faculty, she will be missed under the “Dome.” A daily Mass attendee who met her husband at Purdue where both attended daily Mass at the campus ministry center, they have two children, the oldest of whom just graduated from the Medical College of the University of Virginia and the youngest is pursuing a Master’s degree in theology at Notre Dame. Nine or ten years ago while I served both as Chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services as well as its President,  the bishops of the US voted almost unanimously to allow lay people to serve on the Board of Directors. CRS for many years did not have a board of directors but was generally run and overseen by the Archbishop of New York and had its offices there as well. In the seventies the by-laws were changed to allow bishops to serve on its board after being elected by the membership of the United States Catholic Conference. CRS always had a bishop as its Executive Director (CEO). The first lay person to serve as Executive Director was Lawrence Pezzullo in the early eighties and he reported to an all bishop Board. Finally, in about 2003, the by-laws were changed to allow for non-bishop membership and I as chair willingly ceded the title of President to the Executive Director to come more in conformity with other international agencies. Carolyn Woo was chosen among the first group of non-bishops invited and elected by the Board to serve a total of six years, ending her service, she thought, two years ago.

Eighteen years ago I was on the Search Committee which recommended Ken Hackett to succeed Pezzullo who had been asked by President Clinton to serve as Ambassador Pleni-Potentiary to Haiti following the violence and overthrow of the government in that country. For seventeen years, Ken Hackett has served the poor of the world with distinction and his special diadem will be the solid Catholic identity which he and his colleagues have imbued in the agency. I deeply admire his tenure and respect his decision to retire and turn the leadership over to whomever the Board might choose. Starting on January 1, 2012 Carolyn Woo will serve as his successor.

Catholic Relief Services is admired throughout the world because of the competence and commitment of its people, some 5000 plus strong, many as it should be nationals of the country in which they are working. It is the “go-to” agency because it has a unique delivery opportunity throughout the world through parishes and diocesan charities structures but it never, ever excludes anyone because of their religion nor does it proselytize. There have been many challenging moments in its history including working under the Marcos family in the Philippines, the Diems in Viet Nam and repressive governments in many other parts of the world. Its non-political nature has made it possible to succeed in places like Sumatra, Indonesia after the tsunami, Sri Lanka and throughout Africa. Its mission is securing the present and future of people, not governments. It makes Christ present – nothing less and in Dr. Carolyn Woo it will be led by a woman of great faith, a history of vision for organization, and a winning personality which made her one of Notre Dame’s most successful fundraisers – and saying that about any one person at Notre Dame is a “mouthful.” I enjoyed serving with her on the board, travelling with her to remote parts of the world (together we survived an 8.9 earthquake in Medan, Indonesia (she did not come looking for me by the way) and hearing the amazing story of her childhood. But I so deeply admire her love of her Catholic faith. She is making a great sacrifice to leave Notre Dame for many reasons but like heading to Lafayette, Indiana when she was eighteen, she follows Blessed Pope John Paul II’s challenge to “put out into the deep.”