In January, Michael Goar stepped into his new position of President and CEO of Catholic Charitie. Since then, he has jumped in with both feet spending time with staff across the agency and learning about our work, all while managing virtual meetings and keeping his young daughter busy at home.
Michael is uniquely prepared to lead Catholic Charities through this period of change and disruption. Michael’s professional journey has allowed him to serve in key leadership roles at foundational organizations that serve both clients and the larger community, often through challenging times. He brings a grounding in Catholic Social Teaching and a deep commitment to racial equity and social justice.
Michael’s commitment to service is partly driven by his personal story. Born in South Korea, he came to the United States after experiencing homelessness as a young child when he was adopted by a Minnesota family at age 12, an experience he describes as transformative. He now lives in Saint Paul with his wife and 5-year-old daughter, where they are always on the hunt for the best pizza in the metro.
We sat down with Michael to get to know him a little better and learn what drives him, what he hopes for our community and for Catholic Charities.
Q: What has COVID been like for you?
A: Like most Americans, COVID has impacted my world in almost every way, although we’ve been pretty lucky. Both my wife Bethany and I have kept our jobs and have been able to primarily work from home. Home schooling has had its challenging moments, but it’s been a blessing to have extra time with my family.
It has been hard to see the physical and economic impact COVID has had on our community. I’ve seen friends lose businesses, and have supported family members who are now facing the potential lingering effects of a COVID diagnosis. In my first few weeks at Catholic Charities, I’ve had an intimate look at the toll COVID is taking on those we serve. We have a lot of work to do to recover from this pandemic, and still I’m hopeful that together we can build back to better than ever.
Q: What drew you to Catholic Charities?
A: I was fortunate enough to serve in key leadership positions for several youth and education organizations, including most recently Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities. These experiences taught me how critical the basic needs for dignity, stability and growth are in everyone’s life.
I was driven to join Catholic Charities for many reasons, but there were two main motivating factors to join this work: 1.) An opportunity to make a difference for the most vulnerable among us with smart and compassionate community leaders, and 2.) I believe Catholic Charities is positioned to lead the community through the toughest issues facing us today.
Q: What does it mean to you to have a commitment to racial and social justice issues?
A: COVID has forced us to confront racial and social justice issues we had been sweeping under the rug for far too long. Working toward racial equity and social justice is deeply personal to me. I experienced racism as a young adoptee in South Minneapolis. In my personal life, I’ve seen the life-threatening impacts of racism across the country and in our own background. The death of George Floyd showed us that racial inequity is woven into our systems. In order to move forward in any meaningful way, we must confront the racism and equality issues we have been ignoring.
Q: What is your vision for Catholic Charities?
A: Through pandemics, housing crises and civil unrest, the community has relied on Catholic Charities to be a power for good for more than 150 years. To overcome the challenges of today, we must support our incredible staff, provide quality services to these in need and build partnership that foster solutions.
Q: Tell us something we might not know about you.
A: My wife and I are big foodies. After spending a few years on the East Coast, we have been searching for the Twin Cities’ best pizza. So far, our favorites are Big River Pizza and Cosetta’s. I welcome all recommendations!
I drive the development of Catholic Charities’ key stakeholder outreach strategy, manage oversight of public messaging, media relations, external web and social media development and content, and agency-wide materials.