WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Stephen Carattini is the new chief executive officer of Catholic Social Services.
Catholic Social Services has hired a man of deep faith as its new chief executive officer. He is Stephen Carattini, a New Yorker who spent 35 days walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain last summer trying to discern God's will.
Carattini, a successful executive with a broad range of experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors, replaces Dr. Christopher Leung who retired earlier this year after 31 years with CSS.
Carattini, 51, comes to CSS from Catholic Charities in Denver, a multi-function social service provider that operates about 30 ministries or programs and employs about 360 people.
He had been chief operating officer for that agency since 2007 and had served as interim CEO for one year. He was also president of Archdiocesan Housing Inc., an affordable housing corporation.
Carattini was corporate vice-president for Eagle Logistics Inc., a large international transportation company, before he moved to the non-profit sector with Catholic Charities in Houston as director for immigration, refugee and community outreach services.
CSS is Canada's largest multi-function social service agency, with more than 1,250 staff, 2,000 volunteers and 134 programs. It annually serves more than 60,000 people of all faiths and cultures living in central and northeast Alberta.
Born in New York City, Carattini was raised in Europe and the Middle East and completed his high school in Tehran, Iran, where his father worked as a contractor. Carattini's senior year in school coincided with the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
He is multilingual and holds a master's degree in theology from St. Thomas University in Houston and a bachelor of science in international relations from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
He and his wife Michelle have two children: Morgan, 27, who lives and works in New York City, and Joey, 19, who studies engineering in Colorado.
"We are empty-nesters so it's just my wife and I (who are moving to Edmonton)," Carattini said in a Dec. 3 interview. "She is coming up on Friday (Dec. 7) so she will experience the cold for the first time."
Having met with the executive team of CSS and having had extensive conversations with the board of directors, Carattini is confident in the organization and staff. "If I had any apprehensions, it would be really about my abilities to be a good steward and to follow in the footsteps of Msgr. Bill (Irwin) and Dr. Leung," he said.
Asked about his plans for CSS, Carattini said his first task is to listen and to learn. To that end, he will attempt to meet every one of CSS's staff members in the next six months.
He plans no major changes to CSS, at least in the foreseeable future. "The organization is very well run so this gives me the opportunity and the time and the space to learn about the organization," he said.
"Our shared task as an organization is to continue to provide our services with compassion, with confidence and with courage so that we can continue to serve our brothers and sisters in need with dignity and respect and love."
Carattini says faith plays a huge role in his life. That's why he left the private sector 10 years ago.
"I wanted to contribute whatever skills and knowledge and experience I had in the service of God and his Church. I wanted to work where I could bring my business experience with my faith into the workplace."
He thinks he made the right move. "The heart of what we do (both at Catholic Charities in Denver and Edmonton) is to bear witness to the love of Jesus Christ through our acts of love and charity to the poor and those in need," he explained.
Carattini says CSS' ministry is not just to those in need but also to those who have in abundance; namely to persuade those who have to give. "As Catholics, our salvation depends on our generosity and so we are also ministering to those who might be able to share in their abundance."
For a long time, Carattini had wanted to walk the 800-km/35-day Camino de Santiago in Spain. He finally had the time last summer.
"I began my walk on June 15 and I finished on July 20," he said. "It was something that had been in my heart for years and I felt it was an opportunity to draw closer to God and to be able to discern his will in my life."