Catholic Charities names new executive director

July 29, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.


Marlene Lao-Collins, director for social concerns of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, has been named to the position of executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, replacing Francis E. Dolan upon his retirement March 11.

Mary Ellen Griffin, chair of Catholic Charities’ Board of Trustees, announced that Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. of the Diocese of Trenton had accepted the recommendation of a search committee to appoint Lao-Collins to the post.

A resident of Trenton and a native of Hoboken, Lao-Collins, 53, was with the NJCC since 1999, where she has recommended public policy positions and legislative issues of concern to the Catholic bishops of New Jersey, and presented those Church-based concerns to state legislators.

She has gained extensive experience in policy development and advocacy on the state level through a former position with the New Jersey Department of Human Services, and has frequently collaborated with Catholic Charities and other groups in the ecumenical, housing and anti-hunger arenas.

Lao-Collins serves on the boards of the NJ Advocacy Network to End Homelessness; St. Francis Medical Center, Trenton; the NJ Regional Equity Coalition; the Anti-Poverty Network of NJ; and the NJ Immigration Policy Network. She was co-founder and member of the Mercer County Hispanic Association and the Latina Women’s Council.

Bishop O’Connell said of the appointment, “Since arriving in the diocese, I have heard so many good things about Marlene Lao-Collins.  I am delighted that she will now put all her talents in service of the Church through Catholic Charities.  Her passionate commitment to the service of those in greatest need will yield much good in our diocese.”

Married since 1982, Lao-Collins and her husband, Michael Collins, have two sons, Eric and Abraham. The family belongs to St. Joseph Parish, Trenton, where Lao-Collins has served as director of religious education since 1998. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in business administration from Rutgers University and has religious education certification for the Diocese of Trenton.

Lao-Collins said of her appointment, “It is an honor to have been chosen the next executive director of Catholic Charities and to follow a giant like Fran Dolan.  His gentle approach, wisdom and sound leadership have paved a strong and stable path for Catholic Charities.  On a more personal level, he has been a colleague, mentor and good friend for over a decade.  Knowing Fran for this amount of time, and having the opportunity to work with him on issues impacting the poor and vulnerable, adds so much more significance to me in taking on this new role.”

Dolan, who led the agency for 23 years, chose his March 11 retirement date to coincide with his 65th birthday.  He plans to continue teaching at the Camden campus of Rutgers University School of Social Work, serving on the board of a nonprofit agency, and spending time with his wife Lena, three children and three grandchildren.

The outgoing executive director said of his successor, “I have known Marlene for many years and have worked closely with her in a variety of settings, including doing collaborative advocacy, meeting with elected and appointed officials, and attending public rallies on behalf of poor and vulnerable citizens in New Jersey. Marlene has established herself as an outstanding, regional leader who has earned the respect and admiration of so many people in prominent positions, as well as those for whom she advocates. I am filled with confidence and enthusiasm for the future of Catholic Charities as I anticipate passing the baton of leadership to such a dynamic and proven leader. The agency is indeed in good hands.”

In a letter to Board of Trustee members, Chairman Griffin stated, “We are confident that Marlene Lao-Collins will be a dynamic spokesperson for Catholic Charities, an energetic, creative and collaborative leader, and we are excited about the future of the agency under her tenure.”

Griffin also credited the members of the search committee, including Board members David Wright, Leonard Berlik, Frances McElhill, Msgr. Joseph N. Rosie and William Torpey, as well as longtime supporter Judge John Hughes, and Marianne Majewski, executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen.

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, is a faith-inspired social services organization founded in 1913 with a mission to ease human suffering. Currently the 10th largest nonprofit agency in New Jersey with a staff of more than 600 and a budget of $40 million, the entity serves over 100,000 people in Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties in an effort to provide support in housing, food, mental health, addiction treatment and specialized children’s services.

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Marlene Lao-Collins, director for social concerns of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, has been named to the position of executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, replacing Francis E. Dolan upon his retirement March 11.

Mary Ellen Griffin, chair of Catholic Charities’ Board of Trustees, announced that Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. of the Diocese of Trenton had accepted the recommendation of a search committee to appoint Lao-Collins to the post.

A resident of Trenton and a native of Hoboken, Lao-Collins, 53, was with the NJCC since 1999, where she has recommended public policy positions and legislative issues of concern to the Catholic bishops of New Jersey, and presented those Church-based concerns to state legislators.

She has gained extensive experience in policy development and advocacy on the state level through a former position with the New Jersey Department of Human Services, and has frequently collaborated with Catholic Charities and other groups in the ecumenical, housing and anti-hunger arenas.

Lao-Collins serves on the boards of the NJ Advocacy Network to End Homelessness; St. Francis Medical Center, Trenton; the NJ Regional Equity Coalition; the Anti-Poverty Network of NJ; and the NJ Immigration Policy Network. She was co-founder and member of the Mercer County Hispanic Association and the Latina Women’s Council.

Bishop O’Connell said of the appointment, “Since arriving in the diocese, I have heard so many good things about Marlene Lao-Collins.  I am delighted that she will now put all her talents in service of the Church through Catholic Charities.  Her passionate commitment to the service of those in greatest need will yield much good in our diocese.”

Married since 1982, Lao-Collins and her husband, Michael Collins, have two sons, Eric and Abraham. The family belongs to St. Joseph Parish, Trenton, where Lao-Collins has served as director of religious education since 1998. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in business administration from Rutgers University and has religious education certification for the Diocese of Trenton.

Lao-Collins said of her appointment, “It is an honor to have been chosen the next executive director of Catholic Charities and to follow a giant like Fran Dolan.  His gentle approach, wisdom and sound leadership have paved a strong and stable path for Catholic Charities.  On a more personal level, he has been a colleague, mentor and good friend for over a decade.  Knowing Fran for this amount of time, and having the opportunity to work with him on issues impacting the poor and vulnerable, adds so much more significance to me in taking on this new role.”

Dolan, who led the agency for 23 years, chose his March 11 retirement date to coincide with his 65th birthday.  He plans to continue teaching at the Camden campus of Rutgers University School of Social Work, serving on the board of a nonprofit agency, and spending time with his wife Lena, three children and three grandchildren.

The outgoing executive director said of his successor, “I have known Marlene for many years and have worked closely with her in a variety of settings, including doing collaborative advocacy, meeting with elected and appointed officials, and attending public rallies on behalf of poor and vulnerable citizens in New Jersey. Marlene has established herself as an outstanding, regional leader who has earned the respect and admiration of so many people in prominent positions, as well as those for whom she advocates. I am filled with confidence and enthusiasm for the future of Catholic Charities as I anticipate passing the baton of leadership to such a dynamic and proven leader. The agency is indeed in good hands.”

In a letter to Board of Trustee members, Chairman Griffin stated, “We are confident that Marlene Lao-Collins will be a dynamic spokesperson for Catholic Charities, an energetic, creative and collaborative leader, and we are excited about the future of the agency under her tenure.”

Griffin also credited the members of the search committee, including Board members David Wright, Leonard Berlik, Frances McElhill, Msgr. Joseph N. Rosie and William Torpey, as well as longtime supporter Judge John Hughes, and Marianne Majewski, executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen.

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, is a faith-inspired social services organization founded in 1913 with a mission to ease human suffering. Currently the 10th largest nonprofit agency in New Jersey with a staff of more than 600 and a budget of $40 million, the entity serves over 100,000 people in Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties in an effort to provide support in housing, food, mental health, addiction treatment and specialized children’s services.

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