By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor
Lisa DeJaco Crutcher left her job of more than 16 years at the law firm of Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs on the last day of March, a Friday. Wasting no time, on Monday, April 3, she took the helm at Catholic Charities of Louisville as the agency’s chief executive officer.
She succeeds Steven Bogus, who served at Catholic Charities for 22 years, including the last 19 years as executive director. Bogus has accepted a position as the vice president of development for the national Catholic Charities USA in Alexandria, Va.
Bogus said in a statement issued last month that he’s grateful to have had the opportunity to “live out my baptismal call to service through the mission and ministry of Catholic Charities.”
DeJaco Crutcher, who uses both her maiden name and her married name (respectively), feels much the same way as she steps into her new role.
During an interview at The Record office last week, she said she’s guided in her new position by Pope Francis’ vision of the church as a field hospital. It’s an image the pope has used repeatedly to illustrate the need for the church to meet people where they are, suffering on the margins of society.
“Catholic Charities is a field hospital,” she said. “We are in the field. We are doing the works of mercy.”
The metaphor doesn’t stop there, she said, adding that Catholic Charities is also a “teaching hospital,” helping lead Catholics to the works of mercy, too.
“Catholic Charities is — or should be — a way for Catholics in the pews to connect to the service aspect of the faith,” she said. “Its purpose is not just to serve, but to give Catholics in the archdiocese an opportunity to serve.”
With that in mind, she said she hopes to develop greater collaboration between Catholic Charities and the 110 parishes in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
A large part of that effort, she said, will require Catholic Charities to “raise its profile” and help people better understand its range and diversity of services.
“There’s a whole gamut of how involved you can be,” she noted. “I’d like for people who are Catholic to think first of Catholic Charities” when they want to offer assistance.
In an announcement about DeJaco Crutcher’s appointment to Catholic Charities, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz said she “brings to this position the perfect combination of professional and volunteer experience, a high degree of competence and a passion for the mission of Catholic Charities.”
One might wonder how DeJaco Crutcher’s role as a partner in her former firm’s litigation department primed her for charity work. Several of her interests prepared the way, she said.
She has served actively on multiple non-profit boards, currently serving on the boards of Dare to Care, Volunteers of America Midstates and the Louisville Free Public Library Foundation. These memberships, she said, are her way of trying to “do some good in the community.” She has also served on the board of Americana Community Center, which serves refugees — one of Catholic Charities’ areas of service.
Along the way, DeJaco Crutcher has also focused on her faith formation. She completed the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Discipleship Program about nine years ago and is currently enrolled in a master’s program at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology.
Long before these programs, though, DeJaco Crutcher took her faith formation seriously. Growing up, her family didn’t attend church, she said, though her grandparents on both sides of the family were devout Catholics. At age 14, she asked one of her grandmothers to help her become Catholic. She entered RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) at St. Barnabas Church and received the sacraments of initiation as a teenager.
DeJaco Crutcher was an active member of Holy Spirit Church in the past and currently attends St. Agnes Church with her husband, Marc Crutcher, and two children — Virginia, 4, and Keenan, 5.
“It’s always mattered to me,” she said of her faith.
“In the last two years, I’ve been thinking there’s something I’m supposed to be doing with my time and my skills,” she said. “I didn’t know what that would look like.”
She started reaching out to people who had left corporate jobs for non-profit management to find out how they made the change. In the meantime, she “stayed open to possibilities” and prayed for guidance, she said.
When the Catholic Charities position opened, she felt like “divine sign posts” had led her there.
“It was remarkable to me how many things lined up,” she said, noting that she had been peripherally involved in several of Catholic Charities programs over the years. “A friend said I was training for this for many years. I really feel like God wants me to be doing this.”
DeJaco Crutcher is a graduate of Furman University in South Carolina and the University of Virginia School of Law.