COLORADO SPRINGS–Mark Rohlena, formerly the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, was named director of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Domestic Social Development.
“It is with mixed emotions that I leave Catholic Charities, our extended family, and our Colorado community, but after much discernment my family and I believe this is where we are called to serve,” Rohlena said. He and his family intend to relocate to Washington, D.C., and Rohlena will assume his new position in August. He replaces Kathy Saile, who resigned in December 2013.
“Mark Rohlena has a proven track record as a leader and manger in putting the Church’s social teaching into action,” said Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, USCCB General Secretary, in a June 16 press release. “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. He is well-formed in the faith, and especially Catholic social teaching, which has inspired his strong commitment to service, leaving a successful career at a large law firm to advocate for those most in need.”
“Mark has done an outstanding job as CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, and he is someone who has left his mark on the organization during his tenure,” said Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs. “We are going to miss him, but we wish him well and know he will do amazing work in his new position with the USCCB.”
As head of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, Rohlena oversaw the organization’s annual budget of more than $3 million and 50 employees. Services include poverty reduction programs, parish social ministry, family immigration services, adoption services and disaster relief.
A Seattle-area native, Rohlena attended Christendom College in Front Royal, Va. He then enrolled in the Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Mich. After obtaining his law degree, he went to work for the firm of Holland & Hart in Denver, where he specialized in ethics. While living in Denver, he began volunteering for Catholic Charities in the archdiocese, working in legal aid and other initiatives to alleviate poverty. He was a founding member of the Lighthouse Women’s Center, a licensed medical center that provides pregnancy counseling.
“Over time, it just became clear that’s where my passion was,” Rohlena told The Colorado Catholic Herald in January 2011 after he was named president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado.
Rohlena said that he appreciated the opportunity to be a voice for the poor on the national level.
“The Church has been and must continue to be among the strongest voices in the public square on behalf of the poor, sick, the weak and the suffering,” Rohlena said. “It is a wonderful opportunity to be part of that legacy, to join the work of urging federal policymakers to 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.”
“When I heard the news that Mark would be leaving Colorado to take a job with the Bishops’ Conference in Washington D.C., a remark made by Saint John Paul II came to my mind: ‘The distinctive mark of the Christian, today more than ever, must be love for the poor, the weak, the suffering,’”said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, the legislative arm of Colorado’s bishops.
“Mark embodies this ‘distinctive mark’ and that can be witnessed clearly in his extraordinary advocacy on behalf of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado and the people they serve,” she continued. “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. 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.”