Carl Hetu.

It’s back to future as Hetu returns to Development and Peace

By 
  • February 11, 2022

The man who grew the Catholic Near East Welfare Association in Canada from zero to more than $5 million a year in donations is taking the helm at Canada’s Catholic development agency.

Carl Hetu becomes executive director of Development and Peace - Caritas Canada Feb. 14. Hetu leaves behind an organization he nurtured from the ground up beginning in 2004.

He returns to Development and Peace, where he worked as an Ontario animator for the 10,000-plus members of the solidarity organization from 1990 to 2004. In his previous tour of duty at Development and Peace, Hetu was responsible for cultivating relationships with clergy and organizing membership initiatives. He visited Peru on a solidarity trip with members and took part in a fact-finding mission to Colombia.

He returns to a somewhat embattled and smaller organization which has fought through social media campaigns targeting it with accusations of collaborating with pro-abortion partners in Latin America and Africa that led to an investigation of Development and Peace by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Waves of accusations and the organization’s response to them degraded the trust bishops had in Development and Peace.

“Let’s be honest, the last few years there’s been a lot of adaptation between the bishops and Development and Peace,” Hetu told The Catholic Register.

Hetu regards the reputational issues as yesterday’s news and trumpets the new relationship with the bishops, which now appoints four bishops to sit on the governing council.

“I think now we have a very good base to really move on to the next step and follow the path that Pope Francis has laid in front of us,” Hetu said.

Hetu’s first public act on accepting the post was to write to Development and Peace members and donors.

“This is a crucial time for us Catholics to be part of the solution,” he wrote.

The explosion of refugees and migrants, fuelled by war and climate change over the last two decades, political systems that marginalize and exclude vulnerable people and the decline in democratic institutions around the world call Development and Peace to action, Hetu told members.

Development and Peace’s Catholic identity is its greatest asset, said Hetu.

“You show that the Gospel is alive when you show that the teachings of the Church are alive. That affects people,” he said.

The Catholic identity of Development and Peace has to be apparent in the work it does in 30 countries around the world, he said.

“People are not supporting Development and Peace just because it’s a Catholic organization. It’s because it has an important mission,” he said.

The 54-year history of Development and Peace, which was one of the first fruits of the Second Vatican Council in Canada, is an asset, said Hetu.

“The organization has been well established, well known from one generation to another,” he said. “It has grown over the years to really become what it should be.”

For Development and Peace, the Synod on Synodality and the the ground-breaking 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ will guide the work over coming years.

“The Pope is inviting us to reflect on who we are, how we do things — to move outside of our church basements and reach out to people, to spread the word, the Gospel, to act where there are needs,” he said.

Development and Peace general council president Brenda Arakaza welcomed Hetu back.

“We know your deep commitment to justice and solidarity and are confident in what lies ahead,” Arakaza said in a release.

“We can be sure of leaving a positive, long-lasting impact, both materially and spiritually, on people around the world and in Canada.”

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