Catholic Charities’ Head, Patrick Winn, to Retire
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
October 22, 2020
ROCKFORD—Patrick Winn, director of the diocesan Department of Social Services, which includes Catholic Charities, will retire this fall.
Winn has directed the department since September 2011. He came to the position with a background in legal and human resources executive experience. 
At the request of the Rockford Diocese, Winn had completed an analysis of the various offices of Catholic Charities after Illinois passed legislation that led the agency to stop providing foster care services. Winn completed his analysis and made some recommendations. 
‘It’s important ... to be involved in matters of justice so that the Catholic Church’s teachings are present in important conversations.’
— Patrick Winn about the future of the Department of Social Services
The diocese accepted his recommendations, then “asked me if I’d take on the job” of putting them in place, he says. “What attracted me (to their offer) was the opportunity to serve the Church.”
Winn’s immediate goal for himself was “to learn as much as I possibly could about the various programs and the dedication and expertise of the people leading those programs,” he says. 
He says his second goal was “to find out how I could help them develop (their skills) and lead their departments to the best possible service they could provide.”
To that end, Winn has a concrete list of seven operating principles written on the white board in his office. They are:
 Set clear goals.
 Provide autonomy.
 Provide resources, a step that he describes as difficult because “for all social service programs, funds are always limited. You have to get creative and use resources to the optimal degree that you can.”
 Give enough time by providing realistic goals for the changes to be in place and the ability to succeed.
 Offer to help, which may range from unloading a food truck to contacting secular or Church officials about public issues. Winn notes that making an offer “means that program leaders can decline the offer. Those leaders have to have the freedom to know their programs and what is needed, but sometimes I could provide a different viewpoint.”
 Learn from problems and successes mostly to avoid reinventing solutions or falling back on “we’ve always done it this way.”
 Allow ideas to flow from others. “A lot of good people have good ideas, and no one has a monopoly on good ideas,” he says.
Winn adds that, “I eventually found every program to be enlightening and really interesting. And all were dedicated to serving people.”
Looking ahead
Winn’s hopes for the department he has headed for nine years are twofold. 
First, he hopes that “whenever a question or issue comes up, (leaders) will always go back to our mission statement, (including) to serve God’s people (and) treat all with compassion, dignity and respect.”
Second, he finds it important always to be “working with other people of good will in advocating for justice.”
A letter issued by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, he explains, “was a good reminder (of that) when he said that the Church’s charitable activities must avoid the risk of becoming just another program of social assistance.” 
“It’s important,” he adds, “when we work with other public agencies (that) we never be a one-dimensional organization. We need to make sure our view on justice is Catholic, in terms of being universal.”
Winn hopes that the new director of the Department of Social Services will be “willing to drink from the fire hose of knowledge and experience that the program leaders bring to their respective areas, (and) not only reflect the strengths of the Catholic faith but also remember to be involved in matters of justice so that the Catholic Church’s teachings are present in important conversations.” 
Winn chuckles when asked about his retirement plans.
“I have a book in mind,” he says. “I want to write because I admire the discipline of writers and want to engage in some critical thinking.”
Playing music for his own enjoyment is a second part of Winn’s retirement plans. Music lessons, particularly on the banjo, are as well. In the past, he has provided a bit of musical accompaniment for St. Elizabeth Center youngsters but, he says, “The banjo is what I need to work on.”
In keeping with his usual positive attitude, Winn explains his love for the instrument, saying “You don’t hear many sad banjo songs.”
Shop Religious items at HOLYART.COM