Chris McAtee named Catholic Charities director for the Diocese of Peoria
One adjective wasn’t enough for Chris McAtee to describe his enthusiasm at being named the new director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Peoria.
“This is amazing, blessed, providential, great news for me and my family,” said McAtee, who comes to the diocese after two years with the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, where he began and led its Office of Human Life and Dignity. “It’s a great blessing to be here.”
McAtee’s appointment, announced by Bishop Louis Tylka on Nov. 2, is also welcome news for this diocese, which has been without a Catholic Charities director for 17 months.
“I’m excited that Chris is here,” Bishop Tylka told The Catholic Post. “He’s coming to us with a wealth of experience and knowledge and a passion for the church’s social justice ministry, which fits well into the mission of Catholic Charities.”
McAtee is no stranger to the Diocese of Peoria. He was raised in Davenport, Iowa, and is a graduate of Assumption High School. His education and career paths have kept him in the Midwest and include stints as a seminarian discerning a possible vocation to the priesthood, a high school teacher and coach, service in parish ministry, campus ministry, and 16 years in educational and fundraising positions at two seminaries. Thirteen of those years were at Mundelein Seminary, where McAtee was associate academic dean and an assistant professor in pastoral theology.
He has master of divinity degree and a doctorate of ministry in theological reflection from the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary.
“I love central Illinois,” said McAtee, who with his wife Dawn just observed their 29th wedding anniversary. They met while Chris was serving as a hall director at Marquette University in Milwaukee. The McAtees have two children: Sarah, a recent graduate of Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and Matthew, now a freshman at Carroll.
McAtee expressed gratitude for the “warm, welcoming, and hospitable” reception he has already received. And he will get to know central Illinois much better in the coming weeks and months as he guides Catholic Charities as “the umbrella for Catholic social ministry and justice and service throughout the 26-county diocese.”
Bishop Tylka also described Catholic Charities as an “umbrella” for many ministries of charity and justice that “bring the compassion of the church to people.”
“I think Chris has a great understanding that we start all of that with trying to help people with their basic needs — food, clothing, and shelter,” said the bishop. “And we build upon that.”
McAtee plans to seek feedback from the diocese’s priests and will work with schools, Curia offices, and existing organizations — including “our ecumenical neighbors” — to better identify and serve those basic needs. He will also oversee existing programs such as the St. Nicholas Charity on Wheels mobile pantry and work with the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Catholic social teaching — which he described as “a very important part of our faith” — has long been an interest for McAtee.
“My parents raised us with a heart for mission and service and Catholic social justice,” said McAtee. That interest was solidified through encounters with St. Mother Teresa who visited his high school and St. John Paul II when he visited Des Moines.
He joins a Peoria-based staff that includes Suzie Meismer, ministry coordinator and senior case manager; John Gibson, director of the St. Andre Bessette Center; and three women religious — Sister Merlinda Marco, Sister Vilma Koquez, and Sister Clare Key.
Catholic Charities also has a Champaign outreach; a food pantry at St. Patrick in Tolono; and the Guardian Angel Outreach for Mothers at OSF Center for Health in Streator.