I was saddened yesterday to learn of the sudden passing of Bob Hentzen, one of the co-founders and the president of CFCA, the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. While I’ve obviously never met Bob in person, his vision and example of saying “Yes” to God’s call to serve the poor will leave a lasting legacy. Please join me in praying for the repose of Bob’s soul, and for comfort for his wife Cristina, his family and loved ones.
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (October 10, 2013) CFCA is saddened to announce the passing of Bob Hentzen, 77, co-founder and president of the largest charitable organization in Kansas and one of the 200 largest non-profits in the United States.
Hentzen, his siblings and a family friend started CFCA, an international sponsorship organization, in the basement of his home in 1981. They began their adventure with a Christmas card list and a calling to follow the social teaching of the Catholic Church as it relates to the Gospel call to serve the poor.
Today CFCA works in 21 developing countries around the world. The organization Hentzen helped build serves more than 300,000 children and aging people and their families. More than $1 billion in direct aid has been distributed to benefit families in the CFCA programs.
Hentzen was an unconventional leader; he was never one to wear a suit and tie. He preferred living in Guatemala among the families who live on the margins of society, promoting the concept of “gentle, balanced leadership.”
“Bob walked right into the hearts of people in poverty all over the world,” said CFCA CEO Paco Wertin.
“He built bridges across divides.”
In 1996, Hentzen set out on foot from CFCA headquarters in Kansas City, Kan., and walked all the way to Guatemala as an act of solidarity with the poor. It was there that he and his wife Cristina settled.
In 2009, Hentzen embarked on his second walk, an even bigger challenge. He assembled a team to walk with him from Guatemala to Chile, walking through 12 countries and more than 8,000 miles lasting 18 months. He completed the walk just before his 75th birthday. Video of Bob’s last walk can be accessed here.
“Society has told them all along that they are not capable,” Hentzen said during the walk. “We are here to tell them they are quite capable. You are not alone. We are walking with you.”
Bob died unexpectedly Oct. 8, 2013 of natural causes. He was the last surviving member of CFCA’s five original founders. But the mission and work of CFCA will continue.
“He was fearless in walking that road,” Wertin said. “He will continue to walk with us, leading the way.”
Bob is survived by his wife, Cristina, six children, 11 grandchildren, 7 sponsored children, many nieces and nephews and an international circle of friends that numbers in the hundreds of thousands.
Hentzen will be laid to rest in San Lucas Toliman Guatemala on Saturday, October 12, 2013. A memorial Mass will be held later in the church where Hentzen grew up in Kansas City, MO.