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Vicki Kaufmann - First female director of Catholic Charities agency in the Diocese of Lansing
Q: How was your faith the foundation of your role as director of a Catholic Charities agency?
A: I have worked within Catholic organizations my whole professional life. My career started when I became a nun and was a member of a religious community for 20 years. When I left my order, I began work at the Lansing office of Catholic Charities as a family counselor.
To me, Catholic Charities represents an extension of the Catholic community and Catholic beliefs, reaching out to bring to reality the Beatitudes. As a director, I was conscious that my staff and I had the duty to faithfully embody the Catholic beliefs on marriage, the family, social justice and other issues. I felt that the agency was an “arm” of the diocese and the local Church, and we were their representatives in the local community we served.
Q: Is there a person who inspired you along the way?
A: I have been blessed with both female and male mentors in my life, but if I had to choose, I would say my parents have been the ones who have inspired me the most by their Catholic faith and a philosophy of giving back to the communities where they lived. My siblings and I learned so much from both of them. They modeled a love of learning and the arts, a reverence for life, a respect for our fellow human beings, the need to help the less fortunate, and to give of our talents and resources back to our communities to help make this world a better place. Most of all, they taught us that family is the foundation of true love.
Q: Tell us a defining moment in your ministry.
A: Being the founding director of the Livingston County branch of Catholic Charities, my board and I were responsible for the fiscal stability of the agency. I can remember the first time that I was given the opportunity by a pastor to speak in front of his parish during the weekend Masses in order to share what Catholic Charities was all about, and to raise funds to support our services. I felt humbled and proud that our agency could be of service to those in physical need of financial help, the isolated elderly in need of social support, persons who were grieving a loss, and those in emotional pain who needed professional counseling services.
Q: What would you tell your younger self about not giving up on achieving your goals?
A: I am currently retired. I’ve had many “careers” such as: teacher, director of a family retreat center, parish outreach coordinator, family counselor, certified family life educator, social services administrator/executive, professional fundraiser, and director for a speakers’ bureau at an international relief agency. Looking back over the years of my professional life, I’ve realized that I was a pioneer in initiating many new services and programs.
When I was a graduate student, studying to be a family counselor, I chose as my motto: “Traveler, there are no paths, paths are made by walking.” I’m not sure where I read that quote, but it stuck with me. It provided a framework to challenge myself to venture into “new territories,” to initiate new ministries for my religious community, and for the Diocese of Lansing and the Archdiocese of Miami. I felt that if what I was doing was meant to be, and others believed in my abilities and talents, that God would bless my work. I would tell my younger self, “With God at your side, you can do all things. Do not be afraid!”
There are five Catholic Charities agencies in the Diocese of Lansing, and Vicki led the Livingston County agency. Three of the five agencies are led by women.