Catholic Charities welcomes new director
By Peggy Moraczewski
Sara Ramirez is the new executive director of Catholic Charities of Central Texas (CCCTX). After only a few months on the job, Ramirez envisions a bright future for this faith-based organization. Her goal is for Catholic Charities to become the automatic default for parishes, and the entire community, in times of need.
“If in 18 months people throughout the Diocese of Austin do not think to contact Catholic Charities when they need help, shame on me,” she said.
Ramirez is a native Texan who grew up in Borger, an hour north of Amarillo, and hoped to become a child psychologist someday. It seems her dream to help children facing challenges grew to include helping anyone in need. Ramirez shared her favorite Scripture verse, “‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).
“God is represented in all of us,” Ramirez said.
Beyond her friendly and outgoing exterior lies a wealth of knowledge and a vision for the future of CCCTX. After nine years with Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, culminating with her most recent position as Vice President of Advancement, Ramirez has a firm grasp of overall operations of Catholic Charities, including client assistance, volunteer management and fundraising. Her motto is to “Strive for Excellence” and she clearly feels blessed to begin her tenure at Catholic Charities of Central Texas alongside a passionate staff who wants to help people.
With contagious enthusiasm and humble intelligence, Ramirez is excited to share her plans for CCCTX. She sees the organization as the social services arm of the Austin Diocese, and she is grateful for both the spiritual and financial support currently provided by the Diocese of Austin.
“Catholic Charities is a financially stable organization with diverse funding coming from federal and state grants, individual donations, corporate contributions and donations from foundations,” she said. This firm base allows CCCTX to grow and change.
“We are asking everyone who comes through our doors to make changes in their lives, so we also have to be willing to make changes and not become stagnant, or we will not be able to meet the needs of the community,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez’ 15-month, five point plan includes reinforcing the infrastructure of CCCTX with strategic additions to the Governing Board. With many strong universities located within the Diocese of Austin, she would love to see university representation on the board. Secondly, she would like to implement an Advancement Model, which advances the mission of CCCTX with forethought for the future and plans to be responsive to the needs of our community. The third step is to put in place a Performance and Quality Improvement System by reviewing current policies, procedures and care provided.
For instance, “Are we following up with people after six months to ensure they are continuing on a successful path?” Ramirez asked.
Point four involves strengthening the Social Work team, in numbers, as well as expertise. Although it is not a requirement that an employee be Catholic, they must be aligned with the social and moral mission of the Catholic Church. The goal is for “everyone to see our Catholic values being carried out,” Ramirez said. Her personal journey led her to Catholicism and Catholic Charities played a role in her conversion.
Ramirez grew up attending the Methodist Church. Her husband, Ray, is a “cradle Catholic” she met while they were students at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. They married shortly after graduation. Ray fulfilled a commitment to the Marines, serving in Iraq, while Sara obtained a master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Texas-Arlington. Five years after marrying Ray and four years into her career at Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, she said, with a smile on her face, “I decided God might be trying to tell me something.” She enrolled in RCIA classes and never looked back.
The final point in the plan is to implement a Parish Relations Model, with which CCCTX will focus on building strong relationships at every parish in the Austin Diocese. For her part, she plans to travel to meet all of the pastors in the parishes to better understand the needs within their individual communities.
“We want to know what is happening within each parish community, find out their needs and find out how CCCTX can help close the gap,” she said.
The mission statement of Catholic Charities of Central Texas is “People of faith serving anyone in need by strengthening families and promoting respect for human dignity and life.” The mission is carried out by providing Disaster Relief, General Case Management, Information and Referrals, the Gabriel Project Life Center and Immigration Legal Services.
“I want people in need to think of Catholic Charities immediately. If we cannot help them, we will assist them until we find an organization that can,” Ramirez said.
For assistance or more information, contact CCCTX at www.ccctx.org or call (512) 651-6100.