Mary Ellen Potash Gustainis ’83

Business Manager and Community Mentor

At this stage in her career Mary Ellen does a lot of mentoring. While she is still surprised that younger co-workers care about what she thinks, she is also thrilled to build community by helping them excel. Professionally, she is passionate about ensuring that her teams collaborate, support each other, and celebrate successes together.

The theme of building community is deeply woven into everything Mary Ellen does, whether she is mentoring younger colleagues in her current position as business manager for the Formulation Additives division at BASF, or being involved in a range of faith-based volunteer work that includes teaching faith formation classes and leading youth mission trips with her husband, Joe.

"What I remember most from my time at Sacred Heart is the strong sense of community fostered there. I watched it modeled by the Sisters in their daily lives and I lived it as part of the Class of 1983. I saw how being part of a community could help each of us achieve success. More importantly, I learned how being part of a community could help us best use the gifts God has given us and best live out the path He has set for us. As I reflect on my work, my volunteer activities, and my community engagement, I realize that I work to build community in each of these areas.
I've been connected to Catholic Charities for the last six years—first in the Diocese of Raleigh, NC, and now in the Diocese of Charlotte, NC. In Raleigh, when I was chair of the board of directors, we began a partnership with the city of Raleigh to develop an organization called Oak City Cares—helping to eliminate homelessness by engaging numerous organizations and services to provide coordinated care. This effort was in its infancy when I left, and I'm so pleased to say it has moved forward and will launch fully later in 2019. I've served as chair of the finance council at both my former parish and my current parish—a great way to use my business/ professional skills in service to my faith community.  

About ten years ago I started an annual youth mission trip event at St. Thomas More in Chapel Hill; the trip involves about 75 teens and adults in a weeklong experience of service and prayer, and engages teenagers in serving others. I planned the trip each year, and my husband and I chaperoned each year, first with our own kids, and continuing even after our kids were grown. Though we moved from St. Thomas More three years ago, I'm pleased to say the annual mission trip has continued as a highlight of the youth ministry program there.

Joe and I have also taught faith formation together for nearly twenty years. When our son and daughter were in high school, they too taught elementary faith formation; the activity was unifying for our family and in a way that allowed us to help our broader faith community.

I've always been compelled by the idea of Matthew 25:40: "Whatever you do for others, you do for Me.” This passage had a major influence on Mother Clelia and my love for this scripture grew during my time at Sacred Heart. Much of my service work is related to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy compelled by this verse. Christ calls us to love and serve others and I think He tells us in this passage that when we look to the faces of those we serve, we see the face of Christ too. My love of service is definitely based on my love for others and for my community, but I serve mostly because it allows me to glimpse the face of God in others."