SAN DIEGO — Catholic Charities’ downtown offices were flooded Jan. 23, just another casualty of the series of storm systems that hit San Diego that week.
The organization’s new executive director took a break from surveying the damage to give a telephone interview to The Southern Cross about his recent appointment as head of the agency.
Taking over the top leadership post, which had been held by Sister RayMonda DuVall for three decades until her retirement, Dr. Robert Moser said one of his predecessor’s oft-repeated sayings was, “There’s always something.”
It’s a perspective that he adopted while working alongside his longtime boss and one that is likely to prove useful not only when dealing with such unexpected problems as the recent flood, but also in ensuring that the agency remains “responsive and relevant” in the face of new and ongoing challenges.
“Probably the biggest challenge,” he said, “is not knowing in what direction the country is going to go, in terms of services and public funding for the work that we do, and trying to anticipate that and respond to it in a way that meets the needs of the community.”
But amidst all the changes and challenges, the mission of Catholic Charities has been and remains a constant.
“It’s to be a witness to the Gospel values of mercy and justice, and to advocate for a just society, and to enhance the quality of life for those who live in our diocese,” explained Moser, who officially became the agency’s first lay executive director on Jan. 1.
Catholic Charities currently offers more than 30 programs in San Diego and Imperial counties and counts children, seniors, the homeless, immigrants and refugees among its constituencies.
Born and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Moser moved to San Diego in 1980 and joined the staff of Catholic Charities in early 1985 as manager of its refugee health program.
A product of Catholic education, he credits his first-grade teacher, a religious sister, and her living example of humility and service with inspiring him to pursue a career at Catholic Charities.
The agency’s mission is “unique, in the sense that you’re doing God’s work, as opposed to necessarily working for an organization … where the values and the objectives are different than the values underlying the Gospel,” he said. “Being part of a life of service is the underlying, motivating, continuing force that keeps me going.”
He was serving as deputy director of Catholic Charities, a post he had held since 1998, when he was appointed executive director after a national search for Sister DuVall’s replacement.
“I’m honored that the bishop, and the board, and the search committee chose me,” he said. “It’s humbling in that the responsibility and the legacy that goes with this agency is one that you don’t take lightly.”
Moser recognizes that he has large shoes to fill as he takes a position previously held by a woman he considered “a mentor,” “a dynamo and somebody that you can’t help but respect and wish to emulate.”
Among other things, Moser said, his new job will require him to build and strengthen partnerships and relationships with diocesan parishes and other community organizations.
“I think there’s a lot more that we can do as an agency, so that the average Catholic in the pew knows who we are and feels comfortable coming to us for services,” he admitted.
The organization is developing a strategic plan this year to reflect on its current strengths and weaknesses, identify additional programs that might be worthwhile or necessary, and chart a path toward the agency’s 100th anniversary in 2019 and beyond.