More than 200,000 meals are served to those in need every year at the Catholic Charities of Central Colorado’s Marian House in Colorado Springs.
“One of the most important aspects of what we do here is bring people into contact with those in need,” the president and CEO of the Central Colorado Catholic Charities told The Cardinal Newman Society in an interview on February11.
For the last three years, Mark Rohlena has been in charge of the organization that serves some of the poorest people in central Colorado through a soup kitchen, pregnancy, adoption and immigration services, and various social ministries.
Rohlena has seen hope restored to those in physical, mental or spiritual need. And he has observed the“impact” that serving has on those who come to volunteer. While Rohlena did not always know that he would be at the forefront of serving the poor in society, he said that his Catholic education was “instrumental” in helping him “determine best how to serve others.”
After growing up in the state of Washington, Rohlena moved to the east coast to attend Newman Guide-recommended Christendom College. His father encouraged him to think about the “lifelong impacts” that Catholic education would have on his life—impacts which Rohlena says he has begun to realize over the years.
Rohlena’s undergraduate years at Christendom were a “time of falling in love with the Faith and starting a relationship with God at a different level.”
He said that Christendom offered him an “immersion in things Catholic” while also providing some of the “best of the intellectual tradition and a foundation for so many things that would come after graduation.”
While some of his friends were struggling at public colleges with large classes led by teaching assistants, Rohlena said he benefited from a solid core curriculum, a small student to teacher ratio, and a close-knit community.
With law school in mind, Rohlena double-majored in history and political science/economics and took advantage of internships in Washington, D.C. He said that Christendom gave him a “well-rounded education” and the “ability to analyze.”
Rohlena met his wife at Christendom and went on to be in the inaugural class of the Ave Maria School of Law. Ave Maria University is also recommended in the Newman Guide.
It took some “pioneer” spirit, but Rohlena related that he and his classmates formed a sort of “camaraderie” at Ave Maria. The Catholic law school offered him “technical expertise, but also a greater sense of why being in this profession is really a sacred trust” that is “important… to the greater society.”
Rohlena worked in law for almost eight years, even serving in the area of legal ethics. He worked for Holland& Hart, LLP in Denver, the largest law firm in the Rocky Mountain region, according to Catholic Charities’ website.
Even though he was happy with what he was doing, Rohlena eventually felt that “God was calling [him] to do something different.” He had been volunteering with Catholic Charities and after prayer, discernment and discussion with his wife, he applied for his current position as President and CEO.
In the last two summers, Colorado has undergone devastating fires. Catholic Charities and Rohlena have been able to respond and “walk with families who have lost everything.”
Every day is a new challenge, but Rohlena is grateful for his Catholic education that provided him with the “tools to go forward.”
Mr. Rohlena resides with his wife and five children in Colorado. More information about his work can be found on Catholic Charities’ website.
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