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Meet Catholic Charities' Board Chair, Rebecca Yazzie

Posted by | Catholic Charities Communications

Rebecca Yazzie has served on the Catholic Charities board of directors since 2016 and is current board chair. She directs the Master of Social Work program at George Fox University, where she is associate professor of social work.

Growing up in a large Hispanic family as the youngest of six, Rebecca’s Catholic faith was shaped at an early age by her mother and godmother who modeled compassion, understanding and service to others. As strong women and devout Catholics, they taught her that faith must extend outside of church into the community.

“Their influence was instrumental in my choice of profession as a social worker and educator,” said Rebecca. “I look at my career as a calling, not a job. Integrating my faith into my work has always been important to me. My faith grounds me and helps me deal with the injustice I see in the world.”

Rebecca cites the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Two Feet of Love in Action social teaching as core to her beliefs. There are two distinct but complementary ways Catholics put the Gospel in action in response to God’s love. The first, charitable works, is a response to the immediate needs of the poor, and the second, social justice, is a call to act and address systemic, root causes of problems that affect many people.

Rebecca was introduced to Catholic Charities of Oregon by a fellow professor at George Fox University. Immediately inspired, she joined the board in 2016 and started work on the Community Issues & Planning Committee.

“I was impressed by Pope Francis’ approach to social justice. He calls us to move beyond simply denouncing injustice and inspires us to respond with action. CCO is the social service arm of the Catholic Church in western Oregon and partners with the most vulnerable, regardless of faith, to achieve lasting solutions to poverty and injustice. This really merged well with my beliefs.”

She cites a favorite book, The Good News About Injustice, by Gary Haugen, as a helpful guide.  “As a social worker, I have witnessed a lot of injustice and disillusionment which can challenge your perspective of faith,” said Rebecca. “This book grounds you in a God of justice and gives you ways to navigate through injustice.”

Rebecca accepted the position of board chair elect in September 2021 and was closely involved in the selection of Natalie Wood as executive director. In September 2022, she began her term as board chair.

“My main focus as board chair has been to walk alongside this important process and be a steadfast listener and supporter of the leadership team and staff. I look forward to setting the stage for our next board chair who takes over this September.”

Rebecca will continue serving on the CCO Board as immediate past chair and looks forward to spending more time with her partner and three teenagers. She’ll continue her work in social justice at Holy Trinity Parish in Beaverton along with her teaching and social work.

Often, she fondly recalls spending time with her godmother who went to Mass every day, taught her the rosary and died at age 98. “She would always leave me with a blessing and modeled how to live out her faith. She taught me to integrate my faith into everything I do, and this has served me well as a protective factor throughout my career in social work.”

Wood appreciates Yazzie’s influence on Catholic Charities.

“Rebecca brings a deep faith with a hunger for justice that has set us on an effective path,” Wood said. “It’s people like Rebecca who keep making Catholic Charities better and better.”