My grandma used to say to me, “Son, when a person is born, God writes a book for them. The problem is you can’t read it upfront. You have to live and see what God has planned for you.”
My journey I want to share today started almost 30 years ago, when my home city of Sarajevo was put under siege that lasted 1,410 days. Little did I know then that God was preparing me for the work I would do at Catholic Charities later, as I was asked to take care of my employees and their families, my extended family, and neighbors during the siege.
Simply put, I was doing social work without knowing it.
In 1993, I learned that there was a city, Louisville, in Kentucky, as my company worked on a worldwide donation project to benefit the Public Transportation Company in Sarajevo. Most of its fleet was already destroyed by then during military operations. Louisville was among cities in the world we asked to join the project. I did not know then that my wife would be resettled as a refugee in Louisville in 1995 and that I would join her in 1997.
In the summer of 2000, I was offered a six-month job at Catholic Charities. I accepted the offer planning to finish my MBA and look for a job in the for-profit world. But there was a different plan in place for me, and my journey with Catholic Charities has been going for more than 21 years now. I have held seven positions at the agency and, twice, two of them at the same time for a prolonged period, being involved in the creation of many projects.
When I am asked why I work for Catholic Charities I mention four reasons.
First, Catholic Charities gives me the opportunity to serve. For example, last year and until recently, I had the opportunity to work with an amazing team of Sister Visitor Center’s staff in West Louisville while we were searching for a new director for the center. We served thousands of residents without closing even for a day during the pandemic. We created a choice food pantry that resembles a grocery store.
Second, I am allowed to be creative and work with the amazing staff of the agency on assessing the needs in the community to create new programs that fulfill those needs. Being creative also means being efficient and being a good steward of the funds we are given.
Third, Catholic Charities constantly challenges me to be better, to do more with limited resources. This is somewhat related to the second reason. I have experience working in both the for- and non-profit world and I can argue that the nonprofit world is more challenging. But I also believe that every challenge is a new opportunity to do better.
Think about giving a gift. Who is happier? The person that is getting a gift or the person that is giving? The same is with us, the staff of Catholic Charities. It makes us happy when we can help and when we see our clients succeeding.
Last year, we touched the lives of 24,200 community members. This is the fourth reason I work for Catholic Charities.
I don’t know what is written in my “book,” as I can’t read it yet. But I am certain of one thing. My journey with Catholic Charities is going to continue.
Darko Mihaylovich is director of programs for Catholic Charities of Louisville, available at cclou.org.