Finding Christmas All Over the World

Dear Friends,

In a few weeks, I will celebrate my last Christmas as an employee of Catholic Relief Services. As you know, I am retiring as president on December 31 and am handing over the post to Carolyn Y. Woo. Starting next month, Carolyn will be writing these letters to you.

Almost 40 Christmases have passed during my time here at CRS. Coming up to the last one certainly brings back some memories.

Many of those Christmases were not at all like the ones I had growing up in Boston. It’s not cold or snowy in Sierra Leone in December. You don’t pull a scarf around your neck or smell roasting chestnuts as Christmas approaches in Manila. And reindeer seem a bit out of place in Nairobi—wildebeest maybe, but not reindeer.

I remember the Christmases when duty called, like the one when I tried to get a desperately ill CRS worker out of Togo so she could get better medical care.

And none of us who were with CRS in 2004 will ever forget the abrupt ending to our family gatherings and celebrations when the tsunami struck a huge area of the Pacific basin on December 26.

Even when we are back in the Northern Hemisphere in the midst of our family and friends, we are always reminded that CRS’ work does not stop for any holiday, religious or otherwise.

Another lesson learned was that, wherever we went, however far from sleigh bells and mistletoe, we still found Christmas. We were always reminded of the universal reach of our Church—that the good news of Christ’s birth is celebrated throughout the world. And we found that an essential part of the good news is that it leads us to help each other, our neighbors around the corner and around the globe.

I am so excited about Carolyn’s taking over this position. I have known her for years since inviting her to join our board in 2004 as one of its first lay members. She is such a fine person, and I can’t wait to see the vision and energy she will bring to the agency.

But both Carolyn and I know that CRS is not about one person. And it’s not just about the thousands who work for CRS around the world. It’s also about the thousands of local partners we have in nearly 100 countries, people we work with every day to bring care and hope. It’s about the hundreds of thousands in the United States who hear the good news and use us to help carry it out. And it’s about the millions who benefit from our work, who so often give us so much more than we could ever give them.

We are all part of CRS, whether you are putting a quarter in an Operation Rice Bowl box or a few shillings, kwacha or pesos in a savings program CRS sponsors. Whether you are drinking water from a well that CRS helped build or getting together with your fellow students on a college campus to raise awareness of the world’s needs. Whether you are in a new house in Haiti that you and CRS built or are getting in touch with your representatives in Congress to ensure that the poorest people in the world continue to receive aid from the richest of the world’s nations.

So, this is not the last Christmas I will celebrate with CRS. Like you, I know that I will be a part of the CRS family for as long as I live. It will always be in my life, as all of you will always be in my heart.

The greatest Christmas gifts I have received over the past 4 decades are these: getting to work with you, getting to know so many of you and being able to serve you, and your desire to help those who need it the most.

Thank you so much for all you have given me over the years.

Merry Christmas!

Ken Hackett

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12 Responses to “Finding Christmas All Over the World”

  1. Robert Glover Says:

    Mr Hackett,

    I have only been receiving your news letter since the latest earth quake in Hatti but I feel like I have come to know you in that short time.

    You will be missed

  2. BILL QUINN Says:

    WAY TO GO KEN. Your comments echo the old addage that it is better to give than receive.

  3. Joseph Kroutil Says:

    Thank you Ken for serving God and his people. Thank you for bringing our gifts to those most in need.

  4. Patricia Says:

    Thank you for all your work and guiding the work of others. May God continue to bless & guide you in this next stage of your life.

  5. Patricia Reid Says:

    May God bless you, Mr. Hackett for your lifetime of good works. You will be missed and remembered fondly.

  6. Gary M. Smit Says:

    Dear Mr. Hackett

    Congratulations on your long tenure with Catholic Services. What a satisfying career you must have had all these years.

    Best wishes on you “NEW” Career.

    Gary M. Smith

  7. Annette Clemens Says:

    Thank you, Mr. Hackett, for keeping us informed about the mission of CRS around the world and for your tireless efforts throughout your long career. May God bless you abundantly in this next phase of your life.

  8. Betsy Says:

    Thank you Ken for your many wonderful years of service to CRS and to the countless thousands who benefit from the CRS network.

    God bless and reward you with many good years ahead.

  9. Simon Cole Says:

    Dear Mr. Hackett,

    On behalf of all Gambians ( here in the smiling coast of West Africa), I wish to thank you for your immense contribution you have done with us and for us. I have worked 30 years with CRS here in The Gambia. I have seen and hear your untiring words of wisdom to address the needs of poorest of the poor. I thank you. May the good Lord continue to shower His blessing on you and your entire family.

    Thank you!

  10. Prosper Tibalinda Says:

    Dear Mr. Hackett,

    I have been receiving your letters for more than a year in Tanzania, you are among the blessed ones in this world, your words of wisdom have been encouraging me so much… I remember the way you explaining to us the word January in relation to the new year…It was fantastic to me.

    Gracias…Thank you…Ahsante sana (Swahili-Tananian Language)

    God bless you!

  11. Deirdre Brown Says:

    Thank you. To me, Catholic Relief provides a way for “haves” to have more, the joy of being able to connect, with even a modest donation, to the greatness of people. Once I’m assured that I have done something, in conjunction with your huge organization, I don’t feel so bad and am free enough from my cloud of guilt to learn about their incredibly varied lives, their reality, through which God works. Thanks again

  12. Lydia Says:

    I was once involved in one of the CRS’s projects here in Kenya and that is why i feel that i should celebrate with you.
    For a life well lived, may God be with you as you enter your new phase of life.
    Shalom peace

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