Father Hehir to head Catholic Charities

The Archdiocese of Boston announced Sept. 26 that Father J. Bryan Hehir would replace Dr. Joseph Doolin as president of Catholic Charities. Father Hehir will also serve as the Cabinet Secretary for Social Services of the archdiocese.

Dr. Doolin announced his retirement in June and agreed to stay on as head of Catholic Charities until Jan. 1. Dr. Doolin was the first lay person to head Catholic Charities in Boston.

"I am excited and exhilarated to know that, upon my departure, Catholic Charities will be led by a person of such strong commitment to serving those in our communities in need," Dr. Doolin said. "Personally, I feel both gratified and flattered that this agency, which has been my life for so long, will continue to be steered by such competent hands."

"Our Board looks forward to working with Father Hehir," said Neal Finnegan, chair of the Board of Trustees of Catholic Charities. "It is hard to imagine a better choice. Father Hehir is renowned for his ability to represent Catholic values, and he is deeply committed to a 'just and compassionate society rooted in the dignity of all people.' He has first-hand experience with Catholic Charities organizations all across the country, and knows and understands the needs of the poor here in his home state."

Father Hehir will leave his position as president/CEO of Catholic Charities USA based in Virginia, where he has served since January 2002.

Thomas Mullen, chair of Catholic Charities USA Board of Trustees and secretary for Catholic Charities Health and Human Services of Cleveland, responded to Father Hehir’s decision to accept the position in Boston.

Mullen said, “Father Hehir took office two days before Sept. 11, 2001, and made sure that Catholic Charities responded effectively to the incredible tragedy that hit this nation. Since that time, he has guided this organization in the face of a challenging economic situation and a difficult time in the Church. His wisdom, insight and leadership have helped position Catholic Charities USA well for any challenges that lay ahead. While we are sorry that he will be leaving us, we fully appreciate the fact that he is needed in Boston as the archdiocese works through a difficult period in its history.”

Father Hehir said that it was “an honor and a privilege” to lead Catholic Charities USA even for what he called a brief period of time. Father Hehir completed his second year of what was supposed to be a three-year term leading the organization.

"My tenure has been abbreviated, but I recognize fully the specific needs of my own archdiocese, which has obviously gone through a traumatic period and requires the best service all of us can provide in this time of rebuilding pastoral trust and public credibility," he said. "I am grateful to Archbishop O'Malley for the opportunity to assist in this process of healing and rebuilding, and I look forward to offering whatever personal and public resources I have to work with colleagues in Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston."

Archbishop Seán O’Malley was very pleased with Father Hehir’s appointment.

"I am delighted that Father Hehir has accepted this most important post," Archbishop O'Malley said in a statement. "I know that his commitment to the social gospel of the Church will enhance the efforts of the Catholic community to serve the poor, the immigrants, and those in need."

Father Hehir was ordained a priest for Boston in 1966. During his time in the archdiocese, he served at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Acton and was pastor of St. Paul Parish in Cambridge. He has taught at St. John Seminary in Brighton and held positions with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1973 to 1992. He began teaching at the Harvard Divinity School in 1993 and served as interim dean and then dean of the faculty from 1998-2001.