After nearly a decade at Catholic Charities, Vice President of Shelters Geoff Bennett has taken on new responsiblilities. He now also oversees the Respect Life Office. In this interview with Charity Works, he talks about the thread that combines these ministries – treating each person served as a child of God.
Charity Works: Tell us more about your work helping to advance these ministries.
Geoff Bennett: We have some terrific staff that extend the healing ministry of Jesus Christ to the poor and those in need—that is the mission of our ministries. I help by providing direction so we can help as many people as possible by meeting their spiritual and material needs. We provide emergency shelter to almost 800 men, women and children a night. As far as the Respect Life ministry, we are working to get into more
parishes to help educate the Catholics in the archdiocese about the assaults we face in our culture on life at all stages. By understanding the issues and why the Church teaches what it does, we (as a Catholic community) will be able to stand up in the public square with confidence knowing the truth and how to share it.
CW: What makes these services unique from other charitable organizations?
Bennett: Catholic Charities’ focus is on the individual as a child of God. We make sure that the spiritual needs are met along with the material as I mentioned earlier. Our focus is on serving those most underserved populations no matter how difficult they are, which is why our focus is currently on women, women with children, and seniors.
CW: What challenges and opportunities do you foresee with shelter and respect life ministries?
Bennett: The greatest challenges we face in both ministries is our culture and its attack on the family. We live in a time where there is an attempt redefine the family and there is an attack on life from the unborn to our seniors. Catholic Charities will continue to remain faithful to the teachings of the Church and defend life and the family. By doing so we will lose some funding and face other challenges, but we will follow the teaching of Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.
CW: What led you to work for Catholic Charities in Denver?
Bennett: I came to Denver from Houston, Texas. After many years in the energy business and being self-focused, the Lord gave me a wake-up call, which led me to look for a way to give instead of take. Our oldest daughter got into drugs and ran away from home. It made me realize that no money could solve the problem. I realized I needed to allow Christ to come into my life. So I left the energy business, took about a year and a half off, and did full-time volunteer work. I went through RCIA and came into the Church in 1999. The whole story could make a novel. After spending time at Catholic Charities in Houston, the opportunity to come to Denver and run Samaritan House came up, and through prayer I decided to come to Denver at the end of 2007.
CW: Tell us more about your family and your vocational call.
Bennett: My wife and I have been married for 27 years, and the fact that she still puts up with me is another one of those blessings. We have four children and four grandchildren. Our second oldest is a sister with the Nashville Dominicans. Our daughter and grandson live with us. We have two boys, one is in the army and deployed in Iraq and the other is a seminarian for the Diocese of Bismarck in North Dakota. I have been studying to be a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of Denver and, God willing, will be ordained in June. The seeds of my vocation were planted while I was in Houston, and after several nudges I decided to explore the possibility that the Lord was calling me to the diaconate. I feel he is wanting me to keep moving in that direction.
WHAT IS SHELTER AND HOUSING SERVICES?
Shelter and Housing Services provides hope to families and individuals experiencing homelessness by providing love, safety, shelter, clothing, food and services to rebuild their lives and restore dignity. Housing also provides affordable and service-enriched housing for families who cannot access housing in the marketplace.