SEATTLE – Mirya Muñoz-Roach has been named executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Seattle-King County, the first woman to lead the nonprofit organization in its nearly 100 years of serving the poor.
“She’s a really wonderful person. We’re really lucky to have her,” said Mary Jo Shannon, recently elected president of the agency’s board of directors.
Muñoz-Roach joined the Seattle organization in 2012 and has been associate director since May 2018. She replaces Ned Delmore, who stepped down October 1 after eight years as executive director. He will continue working with SVdP as a senior advisor, according to the organization.
Muñoz-Roach, who grew up in Puerto Rico, may be the first Latina executive director of a local SVdP organization in the U.S., according to Jim McFarland, SVdP’s director of marketing and communications.
In her new role, Muñoz-Roach said, she will build on the work and growth of the organization that Delmore led during his tenure, calling his leadership “courageous.”
“We are definitely going to continue what was started,” Muñoz-Roach said. “We want to continue to reach deeper into our communities. There’s so much more to be done; we’re just scratching the surface.”
She hopes to expand the organization’s parish-based outreach, response to the homelessness crisis (“We need to have our voice out there”) and involvement in the Catholic Initiative for Poor Families and Communities led by Catholic Community Services of Western Washington.
“We need to be a strong church for the poor [and] really live out Pope Francis’ call to go into the streets and just be alive,” Muñoz-Roach said. “The poor need all of us. … They need the whole church.”
Helping 15,000 families each year
Based in the Georgetown area of Seattle, the council has more than 100 employees and serves neighbors in more than 50 communities in Seattle and King County. The agency operates a food bank, five thrift stores and Centro Rendu, a program spearheaded by Muñoz-Roach in 2013 that today serves more than 1,000 Hispanic/Latino individuals and families annually.
In addition, St. Vincent de Paul’s parish-based volunteers (Vincentians) are found in 53 parishes, where they provide direct service by visiting neighbors in need in their homes.
“The amazing thing is we have 1,100 Vincentians in the county and we do 15,000 home visits in a year,” Shannon said.
“My hope is that we continue to figure out how to really support those Vincentians,” she said, as well as work to identify trends and solutions based on what those volunteers learn during home visits — then advocate for change at the local, county or state level.
With the appointment of Muñoz-Roach and the election of Shannon as board president, four of the organization’s top positions are now held by women, McFarland noted.
“What’s exciting to me,” Shannon said, “is of the four [board] officers, three are women [and] two are people of color.”
The other women are Sandra McGowan, a member of St. Therese Parish in Seattle who is serving as first vice president, and Adelfa Moreno, second vice president/secretary, who has been involved with SVdP’s first Spanish-speaking conference in Kent, where she is also vice president of the conference at Holy Spirit Parish, Shannon said. And the Seattle-King County Council’s spiritual adviser is Providence Sister Charlotte Van Dyke, Shannon noted.
Dedicated to serving immigrants, those in need
Muñoz-Roach became a Vincentian in 2008 while serving as pastoral assistant for faith formation at St. Theresa Parish in Federal Way. She attends Holy Spirit Parish in Kent and St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Renton.
She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Seattle University. For the past 13 years, she has been actively serving immigrant and low-income communities across King and Pierce counties, “forming leaders, promoting equity in education, raising awareness of the housing crisis, and advocating for individuals and families affected by systems that perpetuate inequality and poverty,” according to a news release.
Muñoz-Roach is a member of the National SVdP Hispanic/Latino Task Force, and a past member of the archdiocesan school board and faith formation commission. Recently, the state Supreme Court appointed her to the Access to Justice board, where she sits with members from the legal community to discuss topics that affect people living in poverty, the release said.
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