The missing faith angle in the Catholic charity story

Having grown up in a large Catholic family that volunteered at her church, a former tech executive leaves her job at a large philanthropic foundation to take a job at a small charity founded by a Jesuit priest and named after a Biblical character.

Do you think there might be some faith-related angle to this story?

NPR doesn’t seem to think so. In their profile of Patty Stonesifer, CEO of Martha’s Table, NPR overlooks any hints that religion might be a motive:

One of nine children, Stonesifer grew up in Indianapolis, the daughter of a car salesman and a physical therapist. Giving back to the community was understood in their home. “I didn’t know the word, or I didn’t recognize that we were volunteering, but whether it was putting new missals in the pews at the church, or riding the bus to pick up the deaf children to bring them to Mass, or working in the soup kitchen on Sundays, it was just part of who we were,” she tells Block. “It was just part of what it meant to be part of my family.”

NPR also seems to miss the significance of the charity’s name. Two months ago, when New York Times‘ columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about Stonesifer, she included that tidbit along with other faith-related details not uncovered by NPR. For example:

. . . Stonesifer is taking on a fresh challenge of her own as head of Martha’s Table, a Washington community organization (named after the kitchen-bound biblical Martha) . . .

She is warm and laughs easily, still the down-to-earth Midwesterner from a big Catholic family, the daughter of an Indianapolis car salesman and a physical therapist. . . .

Her 89-year-old mother started a Bread for the World chapter in her retirement community in Indianapolis and, until just recently, continued to do volunteer work for St. Vincent de Paul, a Catholic charity. . . .

When a rich tech exec who talks about social justice leaves her top job at one of the best funded philanthropic organizations (the Gates Foundation) and turns down opportunities to work for the White House to work for a small charity, you’d think a curious reporter would inquire about her motives. Maybe religion had nothing to do with it. But it sure seems like there is a ghost haunting this story.

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  • Kevin Spencer

    So. Many. Ghosts. It would be easy to compare and contrast the Gates Foundation’s political and secular solutions to that of the Catholic charities that the story’s subject has (re)aligned to helping. This should have been done since there is such a difference of funds. Some would think that you can do more with more money. So what’s the story? There has to be a reason to the downshift.


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