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Q&A: Gupta Grad Luis Gonzalez, CEO of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul North Texas
Jun 20, 2024

Luis Gonzalez, MBA ’95, worked in finance for years before he felt called to support the Catholic Church more directly in his work. Today, Gonzalez leads the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of North Texas, a Catholic charitable organization, as CEO.

Can you start by telling me a little bit about your background before UD?

Before coming to the Society, I was working at a private equity firm here in Dallas in their global IT space, helping to manage their help desks. Prior to that, I had been at a small niche insurance company, and then prior to that, I had been with Allstate for 24 years or so.

I really felt very compelled, like the Lord was inviting me to consider doing something different, and I ended up discerning the opportunity to leave that private equity firm job. I felt like the Lord was calling me to do something, to work in the nonprofit spaces, specifically for the church in some form or fashion.

Can you describe how your faith has developed over time?

My wife and I got married and, you know, we were nominal Catholics. We would go for Easter and for Christmas. I would go on occasion on my own. She did not really grow up with a lot of involvement in the church. I was an altar boy and everything, so I kind of felt like I needed to go more regularly. But then, I ended up going through CRHP, Christ Renews His Parish. The retreat, which is given by parishioners for parishioners, was just a complete unveiling of the way we should be living our life, and radically changed our lives after that. I went through CRHP, and then six months later she went through CRHP. After that, we became very open to life, and we ended up having four kids. Before that point, I was insistent that we were only going to have two kids. We went through CRHP, and I thought, “No, I think the Lord is calling us to have more kids,” and it’s been just an amazing transformation ever since.  

Wow! That’s wonderful. And then how did you find St. Vincent de Paul?

So, I was discerning, and I saw very clearly, “Follow Me.” And then, Becca, it was like a week after I had an experience in the Adoration chapel there at St. Ann that I got a cold call from an executive recruiter in the nonprofit space. I remember looking up, thinking, “That was fast.” He was recruiting for another position; it was not St. Vincent de Paul, but with another Catholic organization. I went through the interview process. It opened my eyes to the opportunities, but it didn’t feel like it was a good fit. I even felt like when I met with the hiring manager I was giving very stilted answers. But the recruiter got a chance to know me a little bit more, so when we ended up getting the decision back from that organization that they weren’t interested any longer, he told me, “I’ve got something else that’s come across my desk that I think you might be interested in, given how much I’ve gotten to know you.” Once he shared with me this role, and I learned about the Society, which I didn’t really know much about, I just fell in love with everything that we’re doing. And then when I looked at the primary mission of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which is to grow the holiness of its members, that to me was everything I’ve dreamed of being able to do, everything the Lord has prepared me for in the corporate space for the past 30 years. And I just knew that this is where I needed to go.

That’s amazing. It probably seemed like a long shot to find a job suited to your years of experience that was in the non-profit sector and available, right?

Yeah, it really was just amazing. When I saw it, I thought, “Oh my gosh, CEO” — that was not the role I was looking for. But you know, I thought about how everything I have done has been pointing towards this. I remember going through the selection committee and having multiple interviews with them, and every time I interviewed, it just felt more and more right. It felt like this home is where He has been preparing me for all this time. And I remember at one point, again during one of my Adoration sessions, I wrote down in my journal, “Lord, I don’t care how much they offer, I’ll accept it. I’ll take it. Because this is where You want me.” And I remember coming home and showing it to my wife, and she was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a second. He hasn’t been talking to me.” [Laughing.] But then, she had one of those encounters with the Lord where she thought, “No, this is where He’s calling you; you need to do this.” And I’ll end this whole discernment process by sharing this detail with you because I think you would appreciate it: So, when I started, it was January 10, 2022 — and you can go back and take a look — the Gospel reading for that day was from the Gospel of Mark. And it was chapter 1, verse 17, where Jesus calls Peter and Andrew and says, “Come, follow me.” 

I don’t see this as work; it really has become my vocation. I love, love, love what I’m doing. I’m working harder than I ever have before. I go to sleep exhausted; I wake up energized. It’s just such a blessing.

Maybe you can tell me a little bit more about St. Vincent de Paul — what your job is specifically, and the mission of St. Vincent de Paul, and what you guys do.

In my role, I help oversee all of the activity for all of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul throughout North Texas. We are a lay organization, so I don’t report up to Bishop Burns, for example, but everything we do is with his blessing. As a matter of fact, we’re very blessed — last year, he agreed to be our spiritual adviser for the Council. So, we have him there to support us, and Bishop Kelly also is just a wonderful supporter of us as well. 

So, I represent the Society of St. Vincent de Paul throughout all the Diocese of Dallas, and then we have what’s called the Council, which oversees all of the activities that we manage — some of our larger programs, like our charitable pharmacy, our StudyTime program, our Mini Loan program, our outreach center in Lancaster. But then we also help support the 39 local chapters of St. Vincent de Paul that are in various parishes throughout the diocese. We refer to the local chapters as conferences. Each of these local conferences is a network of friends that come together. They grow spiritually, they grow in fellowship, and then, in growing in their faith and spirituality, they go out and do works of mercy, works of charity. We go and try to encounter Christ in the poor and bring Christ to the poor as well. The slogan for the Society is that “we serve in hope.” There’s no act of charity that’s foreign to the Society. We may not be able to solve all problems, and that’s not what we’re about. Instead, we’re about encountering Christ in the individual that’s in front of us, and then trying to give them hope and help them. That’s what the Society does. Some people will often ask, “How are you different than Catholic Charities?” Catholic Charities is a wonderful sister organization of ours. We have a great working relationship with them. They do report up into the bishop’s office. What’s different about the Society, though, is that we are a lay organization whose primary focus is first to grow the holiness of its members. Then, growing the holiness of our members is how we then go out and do works of mercy, works of charity.

Do you see ways in which your UD education from your MBA program is impacting your work today with St. Vincent de Paul?

Yes, I do, in a couple of different ways. First and foremost — and I think this even applies to the for-profit space — I saw it help me start to think more broadly and more holistically about decisions that were being made, whether it was financial or operational. And when I think about my MBA now from UD, and the role that I’m in, I can see where that experience and learning how to think more broadly have now equipped me for this role, because I have to be thinking about the 800 Vincentians that we have throughout all of North Texas. I have to be thinking about the 85,000 Vincentians we have nationwide, and how we potentially can be working with and impacting one another. I have to think about the relationships with all the other nonprofits in the Dallas area, about relationships with the Church and having a vested interest in working so closely with our bishop and the pastoral center and our diocesan leaders. You know, those are all the things that just get you thinking more globally.

 

This interview has been edited for length and style.

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