Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri’s new executive director is deeply driven to uphold the dignity of every human person.
The diversity and inclusion she witnessed in action during her first visit helped convince her that this is where God wants her to be.
“One of the things I’m very passionate about is embracing diversity — letting people see that they belong,” said Litz Main, who will become the new leader of Catholic Charities in this diocese on Sept. 18.
“Not just among the staff but also the neighbors we serve — there is a lot of diversity to embrace, and respecting those differences and understanding that we don’t have to be the same in order to work toward the same goals,” she said.
Ms. Main brings not only an impressive resume to the job but a demonstrated enthusiasm for being Catholic and for serving God and other people.
“That’s who I am,” she said. “I think it’s part of growing up Catholic. Serving was always a common denominator for every member of my family.”
She sees her work for Catholic Charities — first in southwestern Ohio and now here in Missouri — as a calling from God.
“I’m going where he’s leading,” she said. “I’m okay with God making me a little uncomfortable in order to carry out his plan for me.”
Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri (CCCNMO) is the charitable arm of the Jefferson City diocese.
The agency responds to needs of people in these 38 counties, regardless of their faith, culture or situation.
In 2022, CCCNMO provided services to more than 6,000 individuals across a variety of programs, including mental health, housing and financial counseling, food security, health and nutrition education, disaster preparation and response, family reunification through immigration legal services, and refugee resettlement.
Ms. Main is a native of the Caribbean Coast of Colombia. She is fluent in English and Spanish.
Her innovative approach and strong background in business administration has helped expand the charitable outreach and language services of her current agency.
Having spent three years in medical school, she switched to working in the corporate sector, first in Colombia and then in the United States.
She had a “moment of enlightenment” while navigating the U.S. immigration system with her three sons.
“I saw that many people don’t have access to the language resources they need to fill out all those applications,” she said. “That’s when I started using my language skills to help other people in the community communicate.”
That eventually led to her starting a language social enterprise for Catholic Charites of Southwestern Ohio (CCSWO), one of 167 Catholic Charities USA affiliate agencies in dioceses throughout the country.
“I was able to reinvent myself in a way that allowed me to serve God and other people and do what I felt myself being called to do,” she said.
Working for Catholic Charities made Ms. Main feel like part of a large family, “which we as Catholics believe we are.”
She also served as chair of CCSWO’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
“I want it to be very clear that diversity is essential while following the guidelines and directives of Catholic social teaching,” she said.
She had worked for nearly eight years in Cincinnati when she began to wonder what more she could be doing.
One of her sons had recently graduated from high school and the other two were seniors, so she had no intention of moving far, let alone three states away.
“Then this opportunity was presented to me to uphold my ethics and upbringing on a larger scale,” she said. “I said, ‘I’m open to listening and attending to what God has in mind for me.’”
She had recently completed a certificate in organizational leadership from the University of Michigan.
The Catholic organization that helped CCCNMO conduct its national search for a new executive director contacted Ms. Main and encouraged her to apply.
“They did a fantastic job of selling the position,” she stated. “They understood that any organization I lead would have to align with my ethics, my values, my Christian desire to serve and help the community.”
Visiting Catholic Charities in Jefferson City, she immediately recognized the warmth and connectedness among the employees and Sister Kathleen Wegman SSND, who served as interim executive director from April until now.
“At Catholic Charities of Southwestern Ohio, we promote the idea that we’re a family working for a larger family, and that we want to continue to expand God’s Kingdom,” said Ms. Main.
“That’s also exactly what I saw when I came to Catholic Charities in Jefferson City: a culture of compassion, a family serving their neighbors,” she stated.
Flowers the fairest
Ms. Main noted that while Colombia is widely known for its coffee, it’s also where most of the fresh flowers sold in the United States come from.
“We are a country with immense biodiversity,” she said. “We have a beautiful array of flowers that are brought to the United States to make people happy on a daily basis.”
The Colombian population is predominantly Catholic, with most people taking off work the week of Easter Sunday in honor of Jesus’s resurrection.
“It’s a whole week that we dedicate to praising and worshiping and celebrating,” said Ms. Main. “That’s something I really miss — dedicating a whole week to the remembrance of the sacrifice of our Lord.”
“We’re also very open about embracing and celebrating our connection with the Blessed Virgin Mary,” she noted.
Ms. Main prayed an Act of Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary many years ago and has been gathering each Tuesday with a group of women in Cincinnati to pray the Rosary.
“The Rosary is my refuge,” she insisted. “It has kept me grounded and given me peace through the challenges of navigating a new country, speaking a new language, navigating a new culture.
“I pray every day for God to keep me focused and to continue giving me a charitable heart and the openness to embrace diverse communities,” she said.
From the moment she wakes up until the moment she falls asleep, Ms. Main tries to remember that everything she has and everything she is comes from a tremendously generous God.
“I am honored to be our Lord’s daughter,” she said. “He wants us all to be generous like him — with our time, with our resources, with our very selves.”
She sees taking on this new role is an act of faith.
“I wasn’t planning on this, but God has this plan for me, and his plans are perfect,” she stated.
She has taken renewed interest in praying the Lord’s Prayer.
“Sometimes, when you’ve been given a lot of responsibility, you feel like you have to be in control of every single detail of your day,” she observed.
“The ‘Our Father’ helps you realize that you don’t have to be in control — that God has already won every battle,” she said. “Praying the ‘Our Father’ reminds me to be humble and recognize my total dependence on God, and that’s something I strive to do every day.”
She’s convinced that every challenge she’s faced up to now has been preparing her for this moment and this new role.
“I see all of that as being from God,” she said.
“Hold onto God”
Sr. Kathleen, who helped Bishop Emeritus John R. Gaydos establish Catholic Charities in this diocese 12 years ago, was its director of mission integration for two years before serving as interim executive director.
She talked at length to her successor about “holding onto God through every moment.”
Ms. Main finds that to be a sound strategy.
“That’s what I do,” she said. “I pray and I listen. I trust. Even during difficult times, challenging times, even when I don’t know what I’m doing, I trust that God knows what he is doing.
“I understand that I don’t always see the whole picture, but I have a lot of faith that he wants what’s best for me and my family and the community I’m here to serve,” she said.
She enjoyed visiting with Bishop McKnight and recognizing his passion for promoting concrete acts of charity and mercy.
“I can see he is very committed to the success of Catholic Charities and also to embracing the community we serve,” she said. “I’m very honored to work with him to make sure this mission gets accomplished.”
Ms. Main asks for prayers and patience as she steps up to her new leadership role.
“I have a lot to learn,” she stated. “I need prayers for the Holy Spirit to give me understanding so I can be an instrument of God’s love and compassion and help bring this organization forward so we can continue to do his work.”