Quote Unquote: Longtime Catholic Charities Hawai‘i President Retires, But Not From Giving Back

After a 40-year career at Catholic Charities—21 in Hawai‘i—Jerry Rauckhorst is retiring from the job—but not from giving back. For those 21 years, he has headed the private, 69-year-old social service agency in Hawai‘i, which provides a wide range of services to more than 40,000 people every year, regardless of faith or culture. When the 67-year-old father retires at the end of the year, he plans to teach, travel, babysit his two grandkids and stay involved with the national organization in some way.
Terrence Walsh
Photo: David Croxford 


I WAS THE YOUNGEST IN MY FAMILY, and the husband of one of my older sisters was working for Catholic Charities. Back then, it was a youth development organization, similar to the YMCA. He was doing walks for hunger and other activities like camping programs. He would take me to events and I got really excited about what he was doing.


I WENT to an all-boys Catholic high school [in Akron, Ohio]. It was, like, “Let’s try engineering,” but that didn’t last long. In less than a year [at the University of Akron], I knew it wasn’t the right fit. I had a sociology professor who was involved in community organizing in a neighborhood undergoing a lot of issues. I developed a strong admiration for this man and decided I wanted to move into social work.


WHEN I WAS DIRECTOR of Catholic Charities in Pittsburgh, I was on the national organization’s board, too, and my predecessor in Hawai‘i was also on the board. So he and I worked closely together. When he decided to retire, he called me in Pittsburgh and basically said, “If you have any interest in this job, I would encourage you to apply. For a Mainland guy, you’re not so bad.”


MY WIFE AND I had never been to Hawai‘i before we came for the interviews. When we got on the plane to go back to Pittsburgh, we had already said yes to the job offer.  One of the things that felt really very good about it had to do with the diversity in Hawai‘i.


WHEN I TALK ABOUT THE PHILOSOPHY at Catholic Charities Hawai‘i, I often say that we give a hand up and not a hand out. That really permeates all of our programs and services. We’re into the longer-term solutions.


CATHOLIC CHARITIES HAWAI‘I is super involved in the homeless issue, but we don’t do shelters. We believe that shelters need to exist, but that’s not our niche. Instead, we have a transitional housing program.


EIGHTY PERCENT of our annual budget is funded by government sources. If we didn’t service everybody and we had any kind of discriminatory practices against religion or ethnicity, we’d never get the money.


IT’S NOT ABOUT BEING CATHOLIC or having the means or anything like that. It’s about having a need, and Catholic Charities is here to assist as long as you’re serious about it.


Terrence Walsh, with more than 20 years of experience in social services, will take over as Catholic Charities Hawai‘i’s new president and CEO on Nov. 1.