Retired Catholic Charities CEO grounded in church’s social teachings

| August 14, 2012 | 0 Comments
Paul Martodam

Leading With Faith winner Paul Martodam. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit


From the nominator“Paul is a virtuous and valuable member of each community he shares his talents and passion with. He brings a true and loving dedication to end poverty in our community that is spread throughout the Twin Cities.” — Kathleen Kelly

In his words

My faith is grounded in works of charity. It goes back to the seventh grade. It was in a religion class and I got in a bit of a tiff with the pastor over buying a bell for the church. I was watching people on farms and in the community becoming overwhelmed with poverty and I felt we should be doing more with that.

So, Father said, ‘Paul, if you want to make those kinds of decisions, you have to be a priest.’ So I went on to the seminary with not quite the right intentions, but I ended up eventually with Catholic Charities. And, that’s where I found the fit with my faith and my passion for people who are poor.

Our faith tells us, the Gospels tell us, Jesus tells us that the care of the poor and the most vulnerable among us is to be our top priority. That’s been a perfect fit for me over the years. I’ve been just abundantly blessed to serve at Catholic Charities for over 35 years and to carry out that mission to help those that need us most in the most difficult times in their lives.

One of the fundamental principals of Catholic social teaching is the dignity of the human person. We were created in the image of God. So, the dignity and respect that we hold for one another is a reflection of our respect for God. I have taught that consistently, wherever I have been at Catholic Charities, and insisted that that’s how we run the organization. It makes an incredible difference.

Typically when I come new into a place within the Catholic Charities organization, people talk about major culture change within a year. The culture change is in how we treat one another and how we show that respect not only for the people we serve, but for each other as employees working, and as volunteers working, for Catholic Charities. That’s been a fundamental principle that I just insist on. Time and again it has made a difference for people.

The social teachings of the church have been the primary formation for me and I can think of so many people — leaders in Catholic Charities and Catholic universities and bishops — who have taught around those principals. But those principals of Catholic social teaching have been the guiding force for me.

Applying those principals on a day-to-day basis — with people we serve and how the organization is run, how we make decisions, how we treat one another, the benefits we provide — [these] are all a reflection of that body of Catholic social teaching. I’d have to say that it’s that body of Catholic social teaching that inspires me.

[Regarding achievements], I think the most recent is the achievement of . . . Higher Ground, [a new Catholic Charities facility to help the homeless with housing and supportive services. Read more at ].

The reason that I’m so proud of this facility is that I think you could travel the country and you won’t find a place like this that just reflects, in how it’s built and how it’s put together, the dignity of the people we serve. That was our fundamental principle going into this project. We weren’t satisfied with the level of dignity with which we were providing shelter to people in tremendous need. I’m particularly proud of this project.


Age: 62

Title: Retired CEO of Catholic Charities, Twin Cities

Parish: St. John Neumann, Eagan

Spouse: Linda

Children: Christopher, Jenae, David, Jessica, Joanna

Activities: On the parish council and extraordinary minister of holy Communion at St. John Neumann; volunteers with housing programs at Catholic Charities, reading

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Category: Leading With Faith