Sean Cal­la­han to head Catholic Re­lief Ser­vices

28-year vet­eran named pres­i­dent of or­ga­ni­za­tion

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Jonathan Pitts

Sean Cal­la­han, the vet­eran Catholic Re­lief Ser­vices ex­ec­u­tive who was named Fri­day to head the Bal­ti­more-based or­ga­ni­za­tion, takes over amid a his­toric global hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis: the dis­place­ment of a record 60 mil­lion refugees world­wide.

Cal­la­han, who is set to be­come pres­i­dent and CEO of the in­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion Jan. 1, sees an op­por­tu­nity .

He says Catholic Re­lief Ser­vices could help Amer­i­cans bet­ter un­der­stand the po­lar­iz­ing sub­ject of refugees while work­ing to im­prove the con­di­tions that are driv­ing them from their home­lands.

“Many Amer­i­cans seem to feel that dis­placed peo­ple sim­ply want to come to the U.S.,” Cal­la­han said Fri­day. “But if we pro­vide those peo­ple with bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties to stay at home — with good liveli­hoods, with ed­u­ca­tion and with health op­por­tu­ni­ties — they do tend to stay in their own coun­tries.

“We need to ed­u­cate the Amer­i­can peo­ple about our in­ten­tions. We want

peo­ple to have the op­por­tu­nity not to mi­grate here.”

Catholic Re­lief Ser­vices, the global hu­man­i­tar­ian arm of the Ro­man Catholic com­mu­nity in the United States, serves 107 mil­lion peo­ple in 101 coun­tries around the world. Its op­er­at­ing ex­pen­di­tures are to reach al­most $900 mil­lion in fis­cal year 2016, the largest out­lay in its his­tory.

Cal­la­han, 56, suc­ceeds Car­olyn Y. Woo, the for­mer busi­ness school dean who has headed the or­ga­ni­za­tion for five years.

A 28-year vet­eran of Catholic Re­lief Ser­vices, Cal­la­han has led its pro­grams in Nicaragua and East Asia, where he worked with Mother Teresa, the No­bel peace lau­re­ate who was can­on­ized by Pope Fran­cis this month as a saint. He served eight years as ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent for over­seas oper­a­tions, and the last four as chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer.

Arch­bishop Paul S. Coak­ley of Ok­la­homa City, who chairs the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s board of di­rec­tors, called Cal­la­han “an ex­tra­or­di­nary man, a leader.”

“Ev­ery­one rec­og­nizes his in­tegrity, his ca­pa­bil­ity and his faith,” Coak­ley said. “He is em­i­nently qual­i­fied.”

Cal­la­han was cho­sen af­ter a six-month na­tion­wide search. Coak­ley said the board hired an out­side firm to lo­cate out­side can­di­dates, but the three fi­nal­ists sub­mit­ted by the search com­mit­tee all came from within the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Given the unique­ness of CRS and its oper­a­tions, there re­ally isn’t an op­por­tu­nity for lead­ers from else­where in the Catholic world to have the same kind of prepa­ra­tion or train­ing one can get within CRS,” Coak­ley said.

“Sean has been [chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer] for 41⁄2 years. He knows the in­ter­na­tional re­lief and devel­op­ment world bet­ter than any­body. Twenty-eight years’ ex­pe­ri­ence is not some­thing you can repli­cate eas­ily.”

Bishop Richard Malone of Buf­falo, N.Y., headed the search com­mit­tee.

“Sean’s ex­pe­ri­ence, faith and em­pa­thy make him ideal to lead CRS in its im­por­tant, life­sav­ing and life-af­firm­ing mis­sion,” he said.

“We looked all across the na­tion and found that the best per­son for the job was Sean, al­ready work­ing for us.”

Cal­la­han spoke Fri­day from Mon­treal, where he is at­tend­ing an in­ter­na­tional donor con­fer­ence for the Global Fund to Com­bat AIDS, Tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and Malaria.

Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau opened the con­fer­ence Fri­day; other at­ten­dees in­clude U.N. Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon, Bill and Melinda Gates, and singer Bono of the rock group U2.

As pres­i­dent of Catholic Re­lief Ser­vices, Cal­la­han said, he plans to build on what the or­ga­ni­za­tion calls three ar­eas of “im­mense need and par­tic­u­lar strength” — emer­gency re­sponse, agri­cul­ture and health. He also plans to con­tinue di­ver­si­fy­ing its fundrais­ing strate­gies and ex­pand­ing the use of tech­nol­ogy in devel­op­ment work.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion “has shown it has a lot of the right tech­niques and strate­gies we need to move for­ward,” he said.

“I know the dif­fer­ent ar­eas where we need to go, and I’m ex­cited about work­ing with a ter­rific team to help bring the agency to the next level.”

In fis­cal year 2015, Catholic Re­lief Ser­vices re­sponded to emer­gen­cies in 46 coun­tries, in­clud­ing in the Mid­dle East, where 1 mil­lion peo­ple af­fected by the war in Syria have re­ceived help. A food as­sis­tance pro­gram helped stave off hunger for mil­lions this year when drought struck Ethiopia.

The agri­cul­ture pro­grams in­cluded train­ing for some 1.2 mil­lion staff, part­ners and farm­ers in the past two years. The health pro­grams sup­ported malaria pre­ven­tion and treat­ment to more than 13 mil­lion peo­ple in 10 coun­tries.

Cal­la­han said Catholic Re­lief Ser­vices has emerged as a leader in the field of in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies for devel­op­ment. He spoke of ex­pand­ing the use of mo­bile de­vices in ru­ral ar­eas to spread health in­for­ma­tion, di­ag­nose med­i­cal prob­lems and help farm­ers max­i­mize their prof­its.

“It’s about us­ing the tech­nol­ogy and cov­er­age avail­able now to re­duce bar­ri­ers to devel­op­ment, whether it’s pro­vid­ing ex­per­tise or help­ing lo­cals build their own ca­pac­i­ties,” he said.

Such ef­forts can give peo­ple in trou­bled coun­tries in­cen­tive to stay where they are, he said, and pre­vent their join­ing the global refugee ex­o­dus.

But it’s un­likely to end all dis­place­ment. For that rea­son, he said, Catholic Re­lief Ser­vices must cor­rect some of the “mis­in­for­ma­tion” sur­round­ing refugees.

“It’s an in­for­ma­tional ef­fort, and we need to ex­plain,” he said. “Why do peo­ple mi­grate? In many cases, they’re mov­ing for bet­ter se­cu­rity and op­por­tu­nity. We need to pro­vide Amer­i­cans the op­por­tu­nity to hear and to un­der­stand why they’re com­ing [and], to more ef­fec­tively in­te­grate them into so­ci­ety, to be more wel­com­ing neigh­bors.”

Cal­la­han is also pres­i­dent of Car­i­tas North Amer­ica, serves on the board of trus­tees for Catholic Char­i­ties USA, and has served on the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee and rep­re­sen­ta­tive coun­cil of Car­i­tas In­ter­na­tion­alis. Car­i­tas In­ter­na­tion­alis is the Vat­i­can-based con­fed­er­a­tion of 165 Catholic re­lief, devel­op­ment and so­cial ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions op­er­at­ing in more than 200 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries.

Cal­la­han holds a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in Span­ish and a mas­ter’s de­gree in law and diplomacy from Tufts Uni­ver­sity. He and his wife, Piyali, have two chil­dren, Sa­hana and Ryan.

He is a parish­ioner of the Church of the Res­ur­rec­tion in El­li­cott City.

Coak­ley said Cal­la­han is ide­ally po­si­tioned to build on the foun­da­tion es­tab­lished by Woo.

“We are grate­ful to Car­olyn for giv­ing the agency a firm strate­gic foot­ing that has helped it thrive in some dif­fi­cult and tur­bu­lent times,” Coak­ley said.

Woo, who joined Catholic Re­lief Ser­vices from the Men­doza School of Busi­ness at Notre Dame, made it clear at the begin­ning of her term that she would leave af­ter five years.

Cal­la­han

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