Dennis Poust served 20 years as director of communications for the NYSCC
WINDSOR TERRACE — The New York State Catholic Conference (NYSCC) has appointed Dennis Poust as its Executive Director.
The 20-year veteran of the organization that represents the state’s bishops in areas of government and public policy, has been working in an interim capacity since January after being given that task by New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
“We bishops have been impressed with his vision for the Conference going forward,” Cardinal Dolan said in a June 7 statement, “with a focus on further engaging the Catholic people of our state toward faithful citizenship.”
Poust takes the post held by former executive director Richard E. Barnes, who led the Conference for 19 years before his resignation in January. While Poust has led the organization’s communications efforts for 20 years, he said he’s still getting acquainted with his new role.
“I’ve been with the conference for two decades, but certainly nothing quite prepares you fully for leadership until you do it,” Poust said. “It’s been a great experience to date and the bishops have been, to a person, they’ve been so supportive of what we’re trying to accomplish and I feel like we’ve been on the same page with them.”
Poust told the bishops that his vision for the Conference going forward is to ensure that his office isn’t just doing all the talking.
“For a variety of reasons, as important as direct lobbying is, that can’t be the only thing that we do,” he said. “It’s important that we activate and energize the Catholic people to get involved and to join our action network on our website so they can contact their legislators and make their own voices heard.”
He said that some of the challenges the Conference faces ahead will be seeking to find common ground between the largely Democratic-led Assembly, state Senate, and the Governor.
“To keep it simplified, Republicans are more likely to be sympathetic with us with our life issues. Democrats are more likely to be sympathetic with us in our social justice issues. It does make it more challenging to get more traction on family life issues,” Poust said.
Poust said the NYSCC, for years, has spoken out about issues such as education, poverty, abortion, family life, assisted suicide, health care, and criminal justice. He also said that high on the list of topics his office will address is physician-assisted suicide, school choice to fund Catholic education, and ending the long-term use of solitary confinement in New York prisons and jails.
Poust said that as he settles into his new role, he’ll continue to rely on his faith.
“My faith has played a role throughout my career, especially in the hard times in this job, for example, during the abuse crisis, before I was director,” he said. “In my time here at the Conference, there have been some difficult days for all of us as Catholics and I’ve been sustained by prayer and by my faith in Jesus Christ.”