Caritas has new Chief Executive

Mena Antonio, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand’s new Chief Executive’s impressive background ideally fits her for leading the Catholic social justice agency.

She has 20-plus years working on and with boards and executive teams, combining leadership in strategy, risk management, legal and financial compliance and people-management here and in the UK.

Of Samoan and Tokelauan descent, Antonio is the first-generation daughter of immigrants to New Zealand.

She learned from her earliest childhood how to live and thrive in a cross-cultural world.

It’s a world the Victoria University law graduate, former soldier and mother has taken with both hands and shaped into a career.

In her professional life, Mena Antonio’s clients included the academic and corporate worlds, public and private sectors, and community and voluntary spaces.

She says the variety has been “challenging” but has also gifted her with valuable insights which she uses in her leadership and coaching programmes “to help others be the best they can be.”

Caritas Board Chair Keith Wedlock says the board is excited about Antonio taking the helm at Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, replacing Julianne Hickey, who served for 10 years.

“Mena has a good balance of social enterprise and social justice skillsets in governance and operational roles.

“The mix of professional skills she brings to the role is complemented by a practical commitment to community building, justice and peace.

“The board is confident they’ve found someone able to lead … Caritas on the next phase of its journey and to respond in the fullness of Catholic social teaching.”

One of the many advantages Antonio’s unique cultural heritage offers is the opportunity to deepen connections with Oceania partners.

She experienced this most recently on recent Caritas assignments in Samoa and Fiji.

“One memorable visit with Caritas Samoa was to Moamoa Theological College where my grandfather, from the Tokelau atoll Nukunonu, trained as a catechist.

“My late father, Nikolao Pali’i, was Head Catechist at Holy Family parish, Porirua for years. To me this role continues the calling my parents and their parents before them heeded, to be in service of the people we are called to serve.”

Antionio is strongly supportive of the value of community and seeks to live out the principles of Catholic social teaching.

Wairarapa-based, Antonio founded a charity in Masterton bringing together leaders and teen parents through a mentoring programme aiming to build equitable and diverse communities.

“Engaging the voices of women and children is critical to good decision-making to ensure all people flourish. I want to enhance this work in Caritas,” she says.


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News category: New Zealand.

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