Catholic Sentinel photo by Clarice Keating
CRS President Carolyn Woo speaks on the University of Portland campus.

Catholic Sentinel photo by Clarice Keating

CRS President Carolyn Woo speaks on the University of Portland campus.

It’s easy to see God’s love in Carolyn Woo’s work. As the president of Catholic Relief Services, the official overseas relief agency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Woo helps provide aid to more than 100 million of the world’s poorest people.

That love should also exist in the corporate business environment. This was Woo’s theme as she addressed University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business School alumni Wednesday. Woo, who serves on the University of Portland Board of Regents, was previously dean of Mendoza, one of the top business schools in the country.  She left that post to join CRS in 2012.

“Business is not a necessary evil, but a necessary good, worthy of the best minds and biggest hearts,” she told the group.

Business leaders may be conditioned to share God’s love in their personal lives or charity work, but can concurrently believe the notion of bringing that love into an environment dominated by transactions is naïve.

But the dignity of work is a human right in the context of Catholic Social Teaching, Woo said, so the creation of jobs is a crucial vocation.

According to Woo, the No. 1 driver of conflict is extreme poverty, followed closely by inequity and corruption.
“How businesses conduct themselves can ameliorate those problems,” she said to the Notre Dame alumni, who gather regularly at UP. Both schools are ministries of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Woo grew up in Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States to attend Purdue University, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a Ph.D.

She is proud that CRS’s work elevates the perception of Catholics in the world. The organization’s help is based on “need, not creed,” she said.

The international relief and development agency is one of the world’s largest, providing emergency response, education, and other crucial services in nearly 100 countries.

“Whether people know our name or not, they all know we are U.S. Catholics.”

Woo told the group that her decision to leave behind the financial security of her tenured position at Notre Dame was one of the most difficult in her adult life. But, she said, we can’t be afraid to let go of what we have in order to attain what we really want.

In May, Woo was featured in Foreign Policy magazine as one of the “500 most powerful people on the planet.”