May 20, 2016

Compassion will guide Bethuram as executive director of Catholic Charities

By John Shaughnessy

David BethuramShortly after he was appointed as the new executive director of Catholic Charities for the archdiocese on May 12, David Bethuram shared two stories that show his deep commitment to people who are vulnerable and in need—and the impact they have had on him.

The first story comes from his 19 years of experience as the executive director of Catholic Charities Indianapolis, a story involving a mother and her children who were staying at Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis as they waited for a kidney transplant for her 11-year-old son.

“The mother was the donor,” Bethuram recalled. “Catholic Charities made sure the family was able to stay in our housing until the surgery occurred and everyone was healthy enough to move to more permanent housing. It’s a good example of how we believe something can always be done, no matter how difficult the challenge.”

He also recalled the story of a 78-year-old woman who was a participant at A Caring Place, the Catholic Charities Indianapolis program that provides adult day care services.

“She was being helped by her son and her daughter, but they both had to work. Before she entered A Caring Place, she was confused and dealing with heart problems. We were able to regulate her medication, and she began to socialize. She became a real bright star during her time there. She was excited, and her son and daughter were thrilled to have their mom back.”

For Bethuram, those stories represent the personal touch he wants Catholic Charities to continue after his appointment by Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin.

In making the appointment, the archbishop said, “David’s long and wide-ranging service to the Catholic Church in central and southern Indiana makes him uniquely qualified to oversee the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities ministry to the most vulnerable of God’s family.

“David understands the many challenges facing our brothers and sisters throughout the archdiocese, and is prepared to carry on Christ’s work for all people, regardless of whether or not they are Catholic.”

In his new role, Bethuram will oversee the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities agencies in Indianapolis, New Albany, Terre Haute, Bloomington and Tell City.

Catholic Charities helps more than 140,000 people each year across the archdiocese. The agencies serve children, families, immigrants, refugees and senior citizens. They also provide programs that include counseling, crisis services, adoption programs and disaster relief.

“What drives me every day is knowing that what we’re doing is making a big difference in the lives of families, children and individuals,” Bethuram said. “It’s easy to get discouraged, but when you have a true mission that is guided by the Holy Spirit and you have caring, competent individuals to deliver those services, you can’t help but be a person of hope.”

Providing people with the opportunity to hope is just as important as the programs and services, he said.

“There are two important things I’ve learned about working with people who come to Catholic Charities for help,” said the 59-year-old grandfather. “First, we need to listen, to let them tell their story, so we can better serve their needs.

“The second is that the people who come to us want to give back. Many times, former clients or program participants come back to volunteer in one of our programs. That says a lot about how they were treated as a client or as a program participant. They were treated with respect and dignity.”

Bethuram views that caring approach as the hallmark of the nearly 200 Catholic Charities employees across the archdiocese.

“The people who come to work at Catholic Charities have one thing in common,” said Bethuram, who also praised Catholic Charities’ volunteers and council members. “Not only are they highly qualified and good at what they do, they all have the heart for the mission of Catholic Charities. That mission is really engaging in a relationship with those we serve. We want them to tell us their goals, their aspirations in life, and what we can do to help them meet those goals.”

Bethuram’s appointment as the executive director of Catholic Charities will continue his long-term service to the archdiocese, service that began in 1978 when he was a religious studies teacher at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis.

He also served as pastoral associate and director of religious education at Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood. And since 1991, he has held administrative positions in the archdiocese in Family Ministries, Intercultural Ministries, Youth and Young Adult Ministries, and Catholic Charities.

“I just really appreciate the archbishop’s faith in me to continue the mission of Catholic Charities,” Bethuram said. “It means a great deal to me.”

He wants his leadership of Catholic Charities to be guided by the same approach that has marked all his years of service to the Church and his Catholic faith.

“Throughout my ministry, whether I’ve been a teacher, a director of religious education, a pastoral associate or a diocesan leader, I have always ended my correspondence with the word, ‘peace.’

“I have tried very hard to be a person of peace. And that has helped me in Catholic Charities—because people whose lives are in turmoil need to be comforted and understood. They need to feel that peace.” †

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