Richard A. Sokerka
Thanks to missionaries, the seeds of our Catholic faith have been planted all over the world. In the case of Dr. Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), it was the Maryknoll Sisters, who made a difference in her faith life. Raised in Hong Kong, which has a Catholic population of only 3 percent, Woo points to the teaching and example of the Maryknoll Sisters as her inspiration to venture to America. Earning degrees in economics and strategic management at Purdue University, she likewise attended daily Mass. She met her husband, an American from Delaware, through her local Catholic Church where both were serving on the parish council. They married in 1979, and have two grown sons.
An immigrant to the United States, Dr. Woo initially came for a university education, but later served as dean of the Mendozza Business School at the University of Notre Dame, ranked as the best business school in the nation. Her personal and business background prepared her to lead CRS, the global humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States that works to transform the lives of vulnerable people in more than 100 countries.
Her new book, “Working for a Better World,” published by Our Sunday Visitor, is an account of her own life, as well as the critical work she oversees at Catholic Relief Services in helping more than 100 million people worldwide in neglected, devastated and often dangerous locales.
“I felt an invitation (at CRS) to continue the journey begun by the Maryknoll Sisters so long ago. These women were sent from America out into the world and they had found me in Hong Kong. Because of what they taught me, I not only came to America myself, but also now I’m guiding an organization that tries to do what they did — live the faith in all its manifestations around the world, in solidarity with every member of God’s family.”
As the president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), she also knows the plight of the poor and refugee, the traumatized and oppressed.
“Sharing what we have and what we can do not only helps those who desperately need it, but it allows God to transform us at the same time,” says Woo. “Living a life of faith calls for a lot of work, literally.”
Forbes Magazine has called CRS’ work “the best kept secret of the Catholic Church,” though CRS’ assistance knows no faith or geographic boundaries.
And in talking the talk and walking the walk, Woo has designated that all proceeds from the sale of the book benefit the work of Catholic Relief Services.