Richard E. Barnes, who has served the New York State Catholic Conference for nearly 32 years, the last 19 as executive director, has resigned to become director of community relations and regional senior advisor for the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, a $3.2 billion philanthropic foundation focused on improving the well-being of vulnerable New Yorkers and bolstering health outcomes of diverse communities.
Dennis Poust, who has served as the conference’s director of communications for 20 years, has been appointed interim executive director by Cardinal Dolan, the president of the conference, which guides New York state’s bishops in public policy matters.
The transition will become effective Jan. 1.
“We have been so blessed for so many years to have Rick Barnes at the helm of the state Catholic Conference,” Cardinal Dolan said. “His sharp legal mind, political instincts and commitment to social justice have made him an invaluable asset to the bishops and to the entire Church in New York State. I’m pleased that Rick will continue to be in service to those in need through his important work at the Cabrini Foundation.”
Barnes, who received his juris doctor degree from Albany Law School, came to the conference in 1989 as legislative counsel before he was named executive director in 2001.
“I’m grateful to the bishops for the opportunity they have afforded me, and I am excited about my next phase and the chance to advance Mother Cabrini’s vision of the Gospel, in service to the poor and vulnerable,” Barnes said.
Barnes, as one of two community relations directors, will focus on outreach to New Yorkers north of the Hudson Valley. He will also serve as a regional senior advisor to the foundation’s executive staff.
Barnes and his wife, Sheila, are the parents of two children.
Poust, who received a bachelor’s degree in politics from New York University in 1988, came to the conference in 2001.
Poust, who was born and raised in the Bronx, began his career as an editor and reporter at Catholic New York.
“As the long-time public voice of the bishops on public policy matters, Dennis has demonstrated an intimate knowledge of the many important issues facing our Church and state, and an expertise in communicating—to the Catholic faithful, to the media and to public officials,” Cardinal Dolan said. “I have every confidence the conference will be in good hands going forward.”
Poust said, “I’m so grateful for the trust that Cardinal Dolan and the bishops have placed in me. My life’s work has been to advocate for the teachings and positions of the Catholic faith in the public square, and this opportunity to lead the conference as interim executive director is the culmination of that.”
He and his wife, Mary, have three children. She is a columnist for Catholic New York.