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Retired Navy Vice Admiral James Malloy to take the helm of Catholic Charities

At right, James Malloy, who will become president and CEO of Catholic Charities of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington on July 1, 2023, stands with Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory at left, who appointed him to that position, and with Msgr. John Enzler, who has led Catholic Charities for the past 12 years and is retiring from that role. Vice Admiral Malloy retired in 2022 as deputy commander of U.S. Central Command after serving 36 years as an officer in the Navy. (Photo courtesy of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington)

Over his 36-year career with the U.S. Navy, Vice Admiral James Malloy served as an officer at home, at sea and abroad, commanding two ships and a squadron and culminating in the command of the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain. He retired from active duty service in October 2022 as the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command.

And on July 1, 2023, Malloy will take the helm of Catholic Charities of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, appointed Malloy to be the new president and CEO of Catholic Charities in the archdiocese, succeeding Msgr. John Enzler, who has led the agency for the past 12 years.

Catholic Charities DC, the largest independent social services agency in the metropolitan Washington area, serves more than 167,000 people annually in the nation’s capital and the five surrounding Maryland counties in the Archdiocese of Washington.

In a video announcing the appointment, Cardinal Gregory expressed gratitude for Msgr. Enzler’s service at Catholic Charities, noting that “Father John has served the poor with incredible devotion.” Last fall, Msgr. Enzler announced that he would retire from his leadership role with Catholic Charities in 2023, as he marks the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

The cardinal noted that a nationwide search had been conducted for Catholic Charities’ new president and CEO.

“One candidate stands out for his thoughtful perspectives, wide-ranging experiences, extensive education, passion for service, and faithful compassion for the needy among us,” Cardinal Gregory said, in welcoming Malloy to be Catholic Charities’ next leader.

Washington’s archbishop praised Malloy as a “true man of faith” who will be a strong advocate for those in need and who will collaborate with other organizations to address issues of poverty and vulnerability that people are facing in the community.

He also said that Malloy as a native of the Washington area will be an asset to Catholic Charities “as it moves into the next phase of its almost 100-year-old history.”

Malloy, 60, was one of the first babies born in the then-newly opened Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, and he is a graduate of St. John the Baptist School in Silver Spring, Maryland; St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C.; and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. He went on to earn three advanced degrees, including a master of health sciences in emergency and disaster management from Touro University in Vallejo, California.

In a statement, Malloy said the opportunity to become the 14th leader in Catholic Charities’ 94-year history was “humbling, but it energizes me, because the work that this organization does truly matters.”

Cardinal Gregory appointed Malloy to lead Catholic Charities after a unanimous recommendation from the agency’s Board of Directors. John Veihmeyer, the chair of Catholic Charities’ board, made the announcement of the appointment on March 28, saying in a statement that Malloy “is a proven and tested leader, but just as importantly, he is a man of deep faith who is passionate about spending the next phase of his career making a difference and caring for the underserved.”

Praising his successor, Msgr. Enzler in an interview said Malloy’s “great faith” stands out. Msgr. Enzler added that “clearly with his military background as a three star admiral, he has leadership that’s really almost beyond compare. To find somebody who has dealt with people, has led people, has inspired people, has done great work in his other positions, 36 years in the Navy, that’s a gift.”

The priest has already started working with Malloy in the transition process, and he noted that Catholic Charities’ new leader, although he won’t start until the summer, is already on board learning about the role. 

“We’re so blessed to have someone like him want this job, and someone who we want as well. It’s going to be a great partnership for years to come,” Msgr. Enzler said.

Malloy is the youngest of four children of John and Claire Malloy, who are now deceased. He has two brothers and a sister. His mother worked as a school teacher, and his father, a World War II Army veteran who served in the Pacific, worked as a civilian engineer with the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in White Oak, Maryland.

Reflecting on what it was like growing up at St. John the Baptist Parish in Silver Spring, Malloy in an interview said, “St. John the Baptist was the center of gravity for our family.” His father and brother sang in the choir, and James Malloy was an altar server and participated in the parish’s folk group, and he and his siblings played CYO sports there.

Malloy noted that a big influence on his family’s faith life was Msgr. E. Carl Lyon, who became the founding pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in 1960 and served there for decades until his death in 1999. Another influence was Msgr. Francis Kazista, who later became pastor there for 24 years and who died in 2020. As a younger priest, he was a parochial vicar at St. John the Baptist, and he led the youth group there, and Malloy who participated in those activities, said, “I’m still friends with that group of people.”

Malloy and his wife Kimberly Ann were married at St. John the Baptist Church in 1995, and they have three adult sons. Their two oldest sons, John in Florida and Tom in Virginia, are following in their grandfather’s footsteps, working as civilian engineers for the Navy. The Malloys’ youngest son Scott is studying for a master’s degree in biomedical engineering at Purdue University.

His biography provided by Catholic Charities notes that James Malloy “is a proud 1981 graduate of St. John’s College High School.” A pivotal moment for him there came during his senior year when he was going to be commissioned as an officer in the school’s military program and receive his sword, and the Christian Brothers emphasized the concept of “servant leadership” to the St. John’s Cadets.

“It was one of the first times I ever thought about leadership as being something other than being able to boss other people around. It was about being the voice of an organization, about empowering people and unleashing their potential, investing in them and reveling in their success, and it really resonated all the way through my naval career, that thought of a leader (who) serves others, and I tried to apply that wisdom of the Christian Brothers from back in 1980, 1981 to a naval career. And the transition was relatively easy, because that resonates, and it does lead to successful organizations,” Malloy said.

Catholic Charities’ new leader said he appreciates the discipline and camaraderie that he experienced at St. John’s. About a month ago, he went back to the school to talk to the J-ROTC Cadets there. “The school is vibrant, wonderful, relevant, creating great citizens, regardless of whatever direction they go, military or not military,” Malloy said. “It creates great citizens who are committed to making the world better.”

During his Navy career, Malloy took that message of servant leadership to heart, as an officer and in his commanding roles, and also by serving on the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets Corps Board of Directors and as a mentor to students in the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps. He was also a volunteer with Helping Hands for Veterans in the Tampa, Florida area, and throughout his naval career, he served as a Catholic lay leader aboard the Navy ships on which he served. He and his wife now live in Ellicott City and are active members at St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Parish in that area.

Retired Navy Vice Admiral James Malloy will become the new president and CEO of Catholic Charities of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington on July 1, 2023. He is a graduate of St. John the Baptist School in Silver Spring, St. John’s College High School in Washington, and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis and served 36 years as an officer in the Navy. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities)

Asked about his reaction to leading Catholic Charities, Malloy said he is “humbled and awestruck.” While looking into that opportunity, he researched issues like homelessness, food insecurity and people who lack medical or dental coverage.

“And looking at that, and also as I did my research into Catholic Charities, and specifically Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C, the direct tie between the needs of this community, and the lines of effort that Catholic Charities engages in on a daily basis, it’s almost 100 percent alignment,” Malloy said, adding, “and it’s not in a vacuum, it’s in the context of other noble efforts that are going on, government and non-government organizations, so it is a synchronized and a complementary effort to be able to address the most enduring and the most urgent needs of this community.”

Malloy has visited some of Catholic Charities’ 50 programs, and he said he’s been impressed by the volunteers “who are doing God’s work, the staff who are always looking for a better way to do more, to take what we’ve been given and do more that needs to be done. And then the donors who recognize this is the place where they can make the most difference… As I’ve learned more, my desire to come and be a part of this organization has increased geometrically.”

The Navy veteran used maritime imagery to describe his faith.

“The Catholic Church has been a lighthouse and an anchor to me in a storm,” Malloy said. “The anchor holds you grounded, and the lighthouse gives you a direction to steer by, and when you are out alone or with a group and you’re facing adversity, it has been that place of solace for me.”

Occasionally, he drives to St. John the Baptist Church for Mass.  “I’ll go back there every so often, even though it's a little bit of a hike from where we live now, but I’ll go back there because it will help me remember where I came from and where my faith was born there, and what sustains me,” he said.

Malloy said that seeing how Catholic agencies like Catholic Relief Services and Caritas bring help and hope to people around the world, and how Catholic Charities does that in the local community, “is part of what makes me most proud to be a Catholic.” He said that during his years in the Navy, “I have sought out the Catholic Church, wherever I happen to be, because to me it signifies home, it signifies my connection to my Catholic faith.” He remembered attending a children’s Christmas Mass in Guam, and an Easter Mass at a small chapel at a base in Kuwait. “It’s always been a feeling of home… and that has sustained me,” he said.

Asked about what he learned about leadership as an officer in the Navy, Malloy said, “I think that the thing that I remember and I miss the most of my time in the Navy is the camaraderie of the people, the idea that we are all part of a broader team. In an organization, everybody matters, everybody counts.”

Malloy expressed admiration for Msgr. Enzler’s leadership of Catholic Charities, and the priest’s legacy of accomplishment and how he cares about the people that the agency serves and the people who carry out and support that work. He also noted the priest’s passion about the outreach and his positive approach. 

“Msgr. Enzler in the course of his time here has set the most solid foundation of any organization I can imagine,” he said.

After assisting Malloy during the leadership transition, Msgr. Enzler will move into a part-time role supporting Catholic Charities’ Catholic identity and social justice mission, and also helping with its fundraising efforts. He’ll continue living at St. Bartholomew Parish in Bethesda and celebrating Masses there. Msgr. Enzler, who is also a graduate of St. John’s College High School, will be returning to his alma mater to serve as a chaplain there this fall. The priest, the former executive director of the archdiocese’s Office of Youth Ministry, said he looks forward to drawing on that experience. “It means basically to go back to my roots, to a school that I love… and inspire them (the students there) as best I can to be people of faith and to grow in their own high school years. It’s great for me to be a part of that journey.” 

Noting the importance of building on that foundation that Msgr. Enzler has established at Catholic Charities and charting new paths to serve those in need, Malloy said, “This organization has a reputation of being responsive to the needs of the community, so what are they, and how do we respond?… I’m going to have a responsibility to move out on initiatives that are going to keep this organization relevant and vital and vibrant for the community.”

On a recent Sunday in Lent, Malloy heard the familiar account of Jesus healing the blind man from the Gospel of John, and Jesus’s response to the disciples who asked him why the man was born blind, hit home as he thought about his new work. Jesus responded, “It is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. (John 9:3-4)

Reflecting on his second career that he will begin this summer at Catholic Charities, Malloy said it will be an opportunity to give back and to help do God’s work in the community in thanks for a life filled with blessings. “These people (in need) are not where they are because they did something wrong, it’s not our position, our job, to judge them, but we must do the works of the day while we still can,” he said.

Related story:

Msgr. John Enzler, Catholic Charities head and ‘pastor to the poor,’ to retire from that post in spring 2023