Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Catholic Charities Head to Step Down, Takes Leave From Priesthood

The CEO of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis will leave the organization at the end of June -- in part to decide whether to remain a priest.

"I've been working in [the church] since just before I was 20," said the Rev. John Estrem, 48. "Both professionally and personally, it just became apparent that I need to stand outside of it for a while, to do some discernment about the path for my life."

The charity offers housing, shelter, meals and a wide range of other services to about 40,000 people a year with a $35 million annual budget.

Estrem said he has asked Archbishop John Nienstedt, who appoints the Catholic Charities CEO, for a year away from priestly duties. In addition to time for contemplation, Estrem said, in a month he will probably take a job with a smaller nonprofit that "works helping people in need, which has been my passion."

Estrem has been CEO of Catholic Charities since 2005 and will leave June 30. A native of the Twin Cities, he was rector of the Cathedral of St. Paul for 10 years and served several other parishes.

Nienstedt has launched a national search to replace Estrem. For the first time, whoever is chosen will not be a priest, Estrem said.

Most other Catholic Charities organizations are run by lay people, he said, "because the job has become much more one of running a corporation."

The archbishop appointed former board chairman Robert Spinner as interim CEO. Spinner , 66, was president of Abbott Northwestern Hospital for 10 years and later president of Allina Hospitals and Clinics, retiring in 2001.

Spinner said he expects a new CEO to be named by the end of 2009.


Cathy_of_Alex said...

Prayers for all concerned.

james lohman said...

we needmore priests not less priests

Unknown said...

I was a parishioner at the Cathedral when he was rector. I am sure that the politics of the archdiocese at the moment are not what he would prefer. But I understand that not everything is about politics. The man may just be suffering from burnout. He's right, CC is like a large corporation and large corporations are under a great deal of stress right now, with the recession. And we simply don't have enough priests to fulfill both the spiritual needs and the material needs of the church, as in the days of old. It probably is time for talented lay people to assume more of those management. roles, as long as they have values that reflect the church. Hopefully he will return to his vocation after a period of rest and this won't result in some new scandal.

Unknown said...

Fr. Estrem was quoted in the Pioneer Press as saying: "I believe it is essential for me to step back and reflect on the next phase of my career."

If he thinks that being a priest is a "career", rather than a vocation and ministry, perhaps it is best that he go into some other kind of work.

Margaret said...

Well, the flip side of his not being in step with current Church politics is that he IS in step with the "progressive" wing of the Democratic Party which is currently in power in the country and state. I would not be surprised to see him offered opportunities as a political appointee in some Democratic administration, at the State or Federal level. Opportunities that might not be available to him easily as a priest. Then again, we can take him at his word that he needs a rest and he has no plans other than spiritual discernment.