||Brian Cain receives the papal award, the Knight of the Order of Pope St. Sylvester, from Bishop Robert C. Morlino at the recent Catholic Charities Awards Dinner. Cain’s wife, Mary, assists in pinning the award on her husband’s jacket. (Photo/Michael Mowbray of Beautiful Portraits by Michael)
MADISON -- For Brian Cain, being the head of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Madison has been much more than a job. It’s been a passion and his life’s calling.
“In looking back, although I didn’t realize it at the moment, I realize that this was my passion and my life’s calling: to work for the Church and help others,” Cain said in a recent interview.
Cain is retiring at the end of the year after 24 years serving as president of Catholic Charities. Before he came to Madison, he spent six years working for Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. That means he has served the Church for over 30 years.
In the Milwaukee Archdiocese, he worked out of the Racine-Kenosha office. He started the Johnson Wax Day Care Center in Racine and other projects.
In the Diocese of Madison, Cain has led Catholic Charities in a time of tremendous growth. Here are some of the facts:
• The agency’s budget has grown from $1 million in 1989 to $18.5 million today.
• Catholic Charities’ programs have ballooned from four to 40 today.
• The staff has increased from 30 to 300 employees.
Asked about this growth, Cain said he has looked for ways to meet needs that were unanswered or unmet. “I especially saw that my job was to reach out to the rural areas of our diocese so that we have the presence of the Church in every county.”
One way this has happened is the establishment of Parish Mobile Food Pantries, which are now in 12 different locations throughout the diocese.
“I love the fact that parishioners are volunteering with the pantries,” said Cain. “They are seeing the faces of the poor and realizing they’re like us. It’s putting the Gospel into action.”
Helping senior citizens
He has also felt that the needs of senior citizens should be met. “After holding listening sessions throughout the diocese, we envisioned the All Saints campus in Madison to serve the needs of seniors.”
Cain is proud that Catholic Charities didn’t have to ask parishes to support the All Saints project or rely on government funding.
All Saints includes independent senior apartments, condominiums, cottages, memory care, and assisted living. “There are exciting new plans for the future,” said Cain, which will allow All Saints to provide aging-in-place services for the full spectrum of needs.
Besides the All Saints campus, Catholic Charities also offers other aging services, including caregiver training; CompanionCare, which helps older persons remain living in the community; Elder Mentor, which matches older clients with a volunteer who is committed to helping elders; and an annual Aging Conference.
This year Catholic Charities took over the Adult Day Center in Madison, which had been operated by Care Wisconsin. It helps adults who have difficulty functioning at home alone during the day.
“The Adult Day Center operation is an ideal fit with the mission of Catholic Charities to maximize independence and dignity for our aging population,” said Cain.
Under Cain’s leadership, Catholic Charities has partnered with a variety of other organizations. For example, it partnered with Horizon Development Corporation to provide affordable senior housing in Jefferson County and with the Gary Gorman Company to provide affordable housing for families in Dane County and Portage.
“Our surveys said that people need more help with affordable housing. I’m very proud of what we’ve done,” said Cain.
Catholic Charities has also partnered with Oakwood Village in Madison, run by the Lutheran Church, for a program to teach parishioners how to provide respite care for caregivers.
Throughout the years, Catholic Charities has continued to expand its services in such areas as counseling, family programs, adoption and other services for children, alcohol and drug treatment programs, and programs for people with developmental disabilities.
Served five bishops
Cain has been grateful to the bishops he has served, four in Madison (Bishops Cletus O’Donnell, George Wirz, William Bullock, and Robert Morlino) as well as Archbishop Rembert Weakland in Milwaukee.
“It was a real joy to see how each bishop approached his ministry in his own unique way, and I learned from them all,” he said.
Cain was recently presented with a papal award by Bishop Morlino. The Order of Pope St. Sylvester is given in recognition of service rendered to the Church.
Bishop Morlino said in presenting the award that it is for lay men such as Cain “lwho work faithfully and tirelessly in the Church.”
Appreciates board, leaders
Cain has been impressed by members of the Catholic Charities Board of Directors. “They’ve been wonderful. They are driven by their faith and want to give back to the community,” said Cain.
Cain started Catholic Chariawards dinner 17 years ago to honor Church and community leaders.
He also started the President’s Awards, given to outstanding clients of Catholic Charities. “Their stories still bring tears to my eyes,” he said.
Training his successor
Since March, Jackson Fonder has been working with Cain as executive vice president of Catholic Charities. He will assume the presidency of the agency in January when Cain retires.
“It’s been a wonderful transition,” said Cain. “We’ve worked side by side. This is unusual. I’ve never seen such a smooth transition.”
He added with a smile. “I’m sure Jackson will do an excellent job because he’s been trained by the best trainer money can buy!”
Plans for retirement
Of his work with Catholic Charities, Cain said, “I am grateful for this opportunity to lead. I’ve been humbled by the generosity of the people I’ve worked with, and I cannot believe the positive change that has occurred within me as a man and a leader.
“I’m better at living life and appreciating the moments. I have a new appreciation for the Gospel and seeing the face of Christ in others.”
As for his retirement, Cain hopes to spend more time with his family. He and his wife, Mary, have been married for 42 years. They are members of St. Albert the Great Parish in Sun Prairie.
Mary is an avid quilter who designs and creates quilts and teaches quilting. “My house has more quilts per capita than any other house,” said Cain.
They have two sons and six grandsons ages one year to eight years old, all living in Minnesota. “We hope to spend more time with them,” said Cain.
He is a “little nervous” about retirement, but he sees it as a “new beginning.”
Of all his accomplishments, Cain said he hopes people will remember him for how he treated people and if he was a good man. “I feel like I was,” he said.