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Archives Deacon Carlin steps up to lead Mission of Hope

Aug. 31, 2022

By Shan Moore
Contributing Writer

PERU — Volunteering with North Country Mission of Hope opened an ever-developing relationship with Christ that James Carlin had never before envisioned.

Now, a year after that journey saw him ordained a deacon, the Plattsburgh man has accepted the position of executive director of the faith-based organization that primarily focuses on the poor of Nicaragua.

"It's part of who I am," Deacon Carlin said of his long history with Mission of Hope. "It's in my heart."

The parishioner of Holy Cross Parish, 59, is presently a fourth-term MOH Leadership Board president; he embarked on his first experience giving a hand up to the poor of Nicaragua in 2008 and, by the time political unrest suspended mission journeys to the country four years ago, he'd racked up some 19 trips there.

On that first experience in the Central American country, Deacon Carlin's focus was just "helping others," he said. Before he returned home, he'd understood he and the others from the North Country-based nonprofit were actually "working with people and helping each other."

The experience of finding God in the most seemingly forsaken of circumstances, he said, "gave me a relationship with Christ I never imagined I could have."

Despite the challenges that came with Daniel Ortega's return to power, Mission of Hope has continued all its programs, among them feeding and educating schoolchildren; providing medical, psychiatric and dental care; building home shelters; and much more. The group also responds to critical need locally and at other points around the world.

"James knows the interworkings and the challenges," said outgoing Executive Director Sister Debbie Blow, who is delighted over the choice of her successor.

Deacon Carlin also has worked with Mauricio Flores Cuadra and Magaly Velasquez, administrator and assistant administrator, respectively, of Mission of Hope operations in Nicaragua, a crucial piece now that the North Country nonprofit corporation must do its part remotely, Sister Debbie noted.

"He's the perfect fit," she said of Deacon Carlin, "He loves the Nicaraguan people; he truly believes in service."

Deacon Carlin will fully assume the post in January 2023. Meanwhile, as was decided by the Leadership Team at a recent meeting at MOH’s North Country headquarters in Peru, he will act in his capacity as board president, along with that membership, to direct operations. By the end of the year, he said, he will have sold his Plattsburgh business, Centennial Abstract Company.

The executive director position is one of two paid Mission of Hope posts; Deacon Carlin won't collect a paycheck until he fully assumes the role.

Executive Secretary Suzanne Charette holds the other paid job, but she will be leaving at year's end, Sister Debbie said.

"Suzanne is amazing," she said. "One of the hardest things to adjust to (with retirement) is not working with her every day."

Sister Debbie, who until now was the only person to hold the executive director position since mission operations began in 1999, announced her Aug. 16 retirement earlier this summer. A return of breast cancer that required a mastectomy factored largely in her decision.

That heart-wrenching choice has been made less painful by Deacon Carlin's selection.

She praised his business sense, among other abilities he will bring to the job.

"He's going to be well respected," she said.

As well, Sister Debbie and Deacon Carlin have worked together closely over the years, developing a friendship that makes for a very comfortable relationship, both agreed.

Sister Debbie will remain involved, contributing her long experience to Deacon Carlin's transition, and, in fact, has continued writing her News and Notes and Reflections that mission volunteers have long relied on through email.

Deacon Carlin requested she do so.

He wants to see those who support Mission of Hope continue their connection with Sister Debbie, he said.

"It's a really important part of the mission."

Deacon Carlin, who with his wife, Beth, have three children and three grandchildren, has served on many mission committees, including Community Development, Estate Planning and Fundraising.

"With the support of our leadership, staff, donors and volunteers, James and I have worked tirelessly together for the past 14 years and have navigated multiple challenges of serving in an underdeveloped country plagued by poverty, oppression, hunger and disease," Sister Debbie wrote in the email that announced her successor’s choice.

Deacon Carlin approaches this new challenge with some trepidation.

In sports parlance, he said, a smile in his voice, "you never want to take over for a hall of famer," and Sister Debbie certainly fits that description.

In truth, however, he made clear, "it's not me taking over."

He and the Dominican Sister of Hope will be walking the same path they have long trod together, Deacon Carlin explained. "It's not 'me or her' — it's differently but together."

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