By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – John Lunardini will step into the role of Chief Operating Officer at Catholic Charities, Inc., in Jackson on Monday, Nov. 20. Lunardini comes from the Mississippi Primary Health Care Association where he was the communications and business development director. Prior to his work in healthcare, he managed grants and programs for the Hinds County Human Resource Agency as the vice president of community programs.
Bishop Joseph Kopacz will remain at the agency as executive director, while Lunardini takes over much of the day-to-day work of operations and supervision. “John brings with him a wealth of experience in management, communications, IT and business development,” said Bishop Kopacz. “We are so glad he responded to the call,” he added.
Bishop Kopacz has been the executive director for about a year-and-a-half. “I am grateful that I got this opportunity to get an inside view of the operations at Charities. It is a good thing for a bishop to truly be immersed in the ministries of his diocese,” said the bishop. While he has enjoyed his tenure, Bishop Kopacz is happy to welcome a partner in the work.
Lunardini is a Jackson native and graduate of St. Richard and St. Joseph Catholic schools, but was not raised Catholic. His two children currently attend St. Richard and he and his wife love the community there. “We started digging down into ourselves to try and discover what we really wanted in our life,” he explained. They completed classes for the rite of Christian initiation for adults (RCIA) at Gluckstadt St. Joseph Parish and entered the church a few years ago. “It was one of the best things we have ever done as a family,” he said.
Lunardini was not looking for a job, but his wife saw an announcement about the Catholic Charities position in their bulletin and urged him to apply. “Not only am I looking forward to being able to serve the greater good, but to be able to combine that with my faith – that’s not something everyone gets to do.”
Catholic Social Teaching (CST) has had a tremendous impact on Lunardini’s faith development. He says integrating the seven principles of CST is at the core of what he believes Catholic Charities does. He believes they transcend politics and give the faithful a way to connect with the world at large.
“I think we should be asking how we can talk to people about these seven core issues – they are not just Catholic issues, they are issues of life, they are for everybody,” he explained. The seven principles proclaim the life and dignity of the human person; a call to family, community and participation; rights and responsibilities; preferential option for the poor and vulnerable; the dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity and care for God’s creation.
Lunardini’s approach to management comes from an African proverb popularized by Boston Celtics player Doc Rivers, Ubuntu. It roughly translates to “I am because we are.” To Lunardini, this means the success of Catholic Charities is predicated on the success of each person and program in the agency. Part of the philosophy calls for individuals to consciously and actively encourage one other and find ways to partner to make the overall organization stronger. Since Catholic Charities operates a number of diverse programs, this support is crucial.
(Editor’s note: the press deadline for this edition of Mississippi Catholic was too close for complete coverage of the Journey of Hope events. Look for stories in the next edition.)