US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Great gifts come with great responsibilities in ‘Working for a Better World'

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Article Justice
Working for a Better World
By Carolyn Y. Woo (Our Sunday Visitor, 2015)
When Carolyn Woo first came to the United States as a college freshman, she barely had enough money to pay for one year at Purdue University. Alone and far from her loved ones in Hong Kong, Woo struggled to adjust to life in her new surroundings. But thanks to the kindness and generosity of others, she managed to persevere. Woo not only found a way to afford a second year of college, she remained at Purdue, as both a student and later a faculty member, for 35 years.
Now president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Woo’s mission is to bring that same kindness and generosity to others in need. In Working for a Better World, she retraces both the steps of her own life’s journey and the history of CRS, the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency. For Woo, God’s grace has been unmistakable in guiding her along the way, but with the gifts she has received comes a great responsibility to give back to others.
This book is much more than a CEO touting the success of her organization. Woo is an engaging storyteller who writes with humor and humility, opening up to readers about the highs and lows of her childhood, family, and career. She fondly recalls her upbringing in Hong Kong and the profound influence of her beloved nanny, Gaga, and the Maryknoll Sisters who taught at Woo’s Catholic school. She candidly discusses the anxieties that nearly prevented her from applying for the position at CRS—Would she really be qualified? Would the travel involved be dangerous?—and how prayer helped her overcome those fears.
In spite of her doubts, Woo has clearly found herself at home with CRS. And with someone who has led such an inspiring life and has an undeniable enthusiasm for the agency’s mission at the helm, CRS is clearly in good hands. 
This review appeared in the August 2015 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 80, No. 8, page 43).
Monday, August 17, 2015