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Pat Mudd closes a career of service

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The year was 1959, and 18-year-old Pat Mudd had landed a job as a summer secretary at Catholic Charities —  hopefully, one that would lead to a career as a social worker. Fortunately, that’s exactly how it turned out. 

Since then, Mudd personally has placed 148 children with loving adoptive families. She oversaw Family Services and Children’s Service and helped build the Office of Victims Assistance from the ground up. She retires this week after decades of service to the church.

Mudd earned her social work degree at Catholic University in Washington in 1965, and then began full-time work with Catholic Charities. She worked primarily in Children’s Services until 1972, when she left to raise her children. She returned to work in 1980, and became the associate director of Social Services in 2000.

In 2002, the American bishops wrote the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which prompted all dioceses to find ways to prevent child abuse and appropriately respond to past abuses. Along with Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde, Vicar General Oblate Father Mark S. Mealey and others, Mudd helped create what later became the Office of Child Protection and Safety, and the Office of Victims Assistance, where she serves as coordinator. 

Much has been accomplished thanks to Mudd’s efforts. In the 1980s, she worked with statewide adoption advocacy organizations such as Adopt and lobbied the Virginia legislature. As a result, there now is state-funded medical care for children in Catholic Charities’ custody and a law requiring a home study before a child can be placed with adoptive parents.

Since the formation of Victims Assistance, she and the other coordinators have helped more than 500 people find healing after being abused by those inside or outside the church. Each year, they host three prayer services and Masses to pray for victims. They offer support groups, a yearly retreat and therapy referrals. Their work has served as a model for other dioceses, nationally and internationally, to improve their victims assistance efforts. 

Behind the numbers are the personal relationships and memories that she treasures, such as the time she was able to connect a little girl with her biological mother. At a group meeting for adopted children and their parents, a girl came up to her, saying, “Mrs. Mudd, I know you know who my birth mother is. Let’s call her up.” That wasn’t allowed, but Mudd promised to pass along a letter from the girl to her biological mother, who was excited to receive it. They corresponded and met years later. 

Mudd fondly remembers the annual Catholic Charities Walk for Life fundraiser, where families who had adopted through the agency could reconnect with the employees who had helped them. She still receives Christmas cards from some. “I loved the feeling that we had found good homes for these children,” she said.

Working with victims of sexual abuse was difficult but gratifying, especially when the victims found healing or came back into the church. “It’s been a joy to watch them help one another,” she said. 

Father Gerry Creedon, former director of Catholic Charities and current pastor of Holy Family Church in Dale City, remembers Mudd as a woman with a big heart, an eye for detail and an active parishioner in his former parish, Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria. “I see her as a woman with great faith and as a professional who put her social work degree to good use serving the rights of children,” he said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017