NAPA INSTITUTE: The Way to Change the Culture is to Treat Every Encounter as an Invitation by God to Participate in His Miracles

An exclusive for the Catholic Business Journal — “The way to change the culture is to treat every encounter as an invitation by God to participate in his miracles,” says Catholic Relief Services (CRS) president and CEO Carolyn Woo, Ph.D., pointing to the results of CRS encounters that she says have ultimately reduced global infant mortality by five million. But this is just one example.

Speaking to Catholic lay and religious leaders at the Third Annual Napa Institute, on August 2, 2013, Dr. Woo focused on “God, Neighbor, and Self…the three biggest mysteries of life” to explain how Catholics can change today’s secular culture, one encounter with our neighbor at a time.

According to Dr. Woo, “our neighbor is anyone who crosses our path,” and each encounter with “the other” is "an invitation by God to participate in His miracles. This encounter is holy ground…, if we respond to God’s grace and allow Him to work through us in each and every encounter. God acts though us, if we let Him.

Dr. Woo served as dean of the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame for 14 years until taking the top post at CRS in January 2012.  Many describe her as a woman of deep faith with a strong commitment to the mission of the Church.

“CRS,” Dr. Woo explains, “has been responding to God’s call, and in recent years has helped reduce infant mortality globally from 12 million to 7 million, and has brought water to over 2 billion.”

For Dr. Woo, this encounter with the vulnerable, who have so little, is "holy ground." It magnifies the opportunity we each have to celebrate God when the three mysteries of “God, Neighbor, and Self” are in communion. 

As predicted by Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, who chairs the CRS board of directors, Dr. Woo brings what he calls “her exceptional abilities and gifts to the task of serving the poor around the world in the name of Catholics throughout the United States." 

Dr. Woo practices what she talks about, providing a living example of how to bring about change for the better though encounters with “our neighbor.”  

Each day, Dr. Woo explained, begins with a prayer to the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Mary, our Mother.

“This is a working day," she says, "and we now have to all show up.” We also have to remember that miracles do not depend on God alone,… we have to be an active part.icipant in God’s miracles. We do not control much and it is not what I can do alone, but what can be done with God who is with us.”

Dr. Woo finished her talk by reminding the Napa audience that we have an abundant God, not a stingy God.

“Our job is to make sure His abundance is here and now," she said. "And to realize WE ARE THE BRIDGE to make sure this abundance is available in the “land of the living.”

“Many believe only a few are called to serve our neighbors, particularly the poor. But the Call is to everyone. Whatever gifts we have, we are called to bring them to the world. There is a journey to holiness in each of us…every act of giving is an act of thanksgiving.”

The Napa Institute was formed to equip Catholics to lead in the “Next America.” The Institute offers participants a deeper understanding of the truth behind the Catholic Faith to embolden them to live and defend their Faith with a peaceful confidence that is borne out education, fellowship and spiritual enrichment. This year's annual conference was centered on “The Sanctity of Work,” “Building a  Catholic Culture,” and “Reason and Faith.” The Institute founders include Archbishop Charles Chaput O.F.M. CAP, Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Timothy Busch, Founder of the Busch Firm (Orange County, CA), and Rev. Robert Spitzer, S.J., founder and president, Magis Institute (and retired President, Gonzaga University). The Institute’s annual conference, , is held each summer at the Meritage Resort in Napa, CA.

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