PROVIDENCE — Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has appointed James Jahnz to serve as Secretary for Catholic Charities and Social Ministry for the Diocese of Providence. The appointment, effective January 1, is for a five-year term that may be renewed.
In his letter of appointment, Bishop Tobin noted that Jahnz’s 16 years of experience working in the diocese’s Catholic Charities and Social Ministries would serve him well in his new position heading the department.
“You will be responsible for representing the Church in areas that are essential to its very mission, a mission that we have received from Christ, in whose name we serve. These areas include works of charity, social justice, human development, and respect for human life,” Bishop Tobin said.
Jahnz will be responsible for developing, promoting and coordinating diocesan initiatives in these areas, and when called upon, will represent the Church, and its teaching and ministry, in the public arena.
“I have confidence that your personal commitment to the Catholic Faith, your human qualities, and your professional experience will enable you to be very successful in your new position. I urge you to root your service in prayer so that the Lord will accompany you every step of the way, and will bring to fulfillment the very good work you are about to begin,” the bishop said.
Jahnz began his service to the diocese in 2004, when he was hired to run its Project Hope outreach program. In 2006, he took on the additional responsibility of Emergency Services Coordinator of Catholic Social Services of RI, part of the Office of Catholic Charities and Social Ministries. He continued to oversee both of these departments until 2019, when Jahnz was appointed Supervisor of Catholic Social Services of RI.
Jahnz said he is “truly humbled” to be appointed as secretary by Bishop Tobin.
“There is great significance that lies within the charitable work that is being done by the diocese because it touches the very core of who we are as Catholics and the mission that we are called to carry out by Christ,” Jahnz said.
“We are called to justice. We are called to defend life. My faith is intrinsically tied into what I do, and thanks to Bishop Tobin I will be able to more fully live out my faith and my Gospel beliefs in a deeper way.”
Jahnz, who grew up in North Providence while attending St. Lawrence (N. Providence) and St. Michael (Georgiaville) Parishes, is a parishioner of St. Ambrose Parish in Lincoln, where he lives with his wife Kristen, a math teacher at Cumberland High School, and their two children. A member of the Knights of Columbus Lincoln Council, Jahnz holds bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Public Administration from Rhode Island College.
“I think of our collective mission as a call,” Jahnz said of those serving in diocesan outreach through its many ministries. “It is in our cumulative, daily acts that our actions have the greatest affect. And I truly feel that over the years I have been blessed to be able to serve our Church by being able to help the sickly man who needed heat in his small home, the widow who needed prescriptions and couldn’t afford them, and the homeless men with no place to stay on Christmas.”
“When people need help they turn to the Church,” he added. “My vision going forward is to continue and build upon that work and strive to find innovative ways to support those in need.
Jahnz, who turns 48 later this month, replaces longtime secretary John Barry, who began his career with the diocese in 1972, when he started as a community organizer.
“I am thrilled that Bishop Tobin has appointed Jim Jahnz as Secretary for Catholic Charities and Social Ministry,” said Barry, who retired at the end of 2020 after 48 years of service to the diocese.
He noted that for the past 15 years Jahnz has been involved in all the programs Catholic Social Services of Rhode Island offers in responding to the ever-changing needs of society.
“Jim has worked closely with the various outreach and service organizations throughout the state. He is chair of the FEMA Board and was a key player in the opening of Emmanuel House and oversees this important ministry of our diocesan church. He loves this work of the church and will continue our collaborative efforts with state and national organizations, particularly Catholic Charities USA,” Barry said.
Barry offered his thanks to Bishops Louis E. Gelineau, Robert E. Mulvee and Thomas J. Tobin for entrusting him to oversee this important outreach to the most vulnerable over the decades.
He also expressed his appreciation to the priests and laity of the diocese who rally daily to protect the unborn and vulnerable, respond generously to those in need and advocate to bring about a more just and peaceful community.
“To work to right injustices in society, respond to our neighbors in need and to be part of spreading the Good News is the best job that one could hope for,” Barry said, reflecting on his long career with the Office of Catholic Charities.