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The Critical Seed That Blossoms and Spreads

It may seem difficult for us to consider attaining this lofty achievement by serving as a board member for a civic or non-profit organization where we’re often ‘in the weeds’ discussing organizational business but this is where it starts. This is the critical seed that blossoms and spreads.

The following is the keynote speech at Tepeyac Leadership Night 2024, by Joe Langenderfer, CFRE:

Sincere congratulations to the graduates of the Tepeyac Leadership Initiative 2024 Cohort.   

You entered TLI with your own thoughts of service and spiritual self-improvement that were helped shaped by the Holy Spirit. By early June you formalized those plans and created your Leadership Commitment which included certain goals. If you were like me upon graduation, you feel excited but also overwhelmed at the idea of creating strategies to achieve those goals. As months pass your mind may deviate from these original plans and you might feel that you’re not doing enough, that you should reach to astonishing heights to really “move the needle” through acts of extraordinary action. I know, this can be overwhelming.   

I won't suggest that you limit your ambitions. I suggest that you always involve the Holy Spirit in your contemplation, allow the Holy Spirit to be the driver in any change in your plans.

Reflect upon what you learned about leadership: We all have heard about leadership during our TLI sessions and have read the book, “Catholic Leadership for a Civil Society.” Catholic leadership involves a broad landscape of service. Our service and Catholic values can have a powerful impact on a variety of governing bodies and informal situations in which we find ourselves. Don’t underestimate those informal situations. 

Remember, the very simple but powerful definition: leadership is “accomplishing great things by bringing out the greatness in others.” This may include: lofty challenges such as entering elected public office with the potential to change laws and public policy for the good; or it may simply involve routine actions such as speaking up when the circumstances call for it.

Some examples include raising your concerns at your local Homeowners' Association, if you recognize an injustice with a certain policy. Another example is voicing your contrary opinion even during a Parish Finance Council Meeting if some dedicated but misguided parishioner calls for an action that could be harmful to church transparency and ultimately to the Faith of other members. I recall an experience where a council member was rightfully challenged when arguing against publishing parish financial information in the parish bulletin. 

You may be called to jury duty. It could even be a capital murder trial. Think for a moment and imagine during jury selection, in the company of eleven other jurors, alternates, the judge, and the lawyers. And you are asked in the presence of everyone, how do you feel about the death penalty? In the midst of this enormous peer pressure can you stand firm against putting a person to death even though US Criminal Law may allow it?

You may experience a proactive, yet subtle leadership opportunity such as asking your doctor or medical team to pray with you before a procedure. You may find yourself in an informal setting such as having a conversation about the Faith with your child who has stopped practicing the Faith. Or you may have the opportunity during a routine, immediate family gathering to describe your TLI experience and how your Faith has grown through it. 

In any of these examples, you’re not asked to be a theologian. You need not have memorized the documents of Vatican II. You simply need to possess and exhibit patient witness (Underscore the word 'patient,' if you have had conversations with your adult children about going to Mass!) The witness expressed by your own hearts will have tremendous impact on the outcome of a conversation or procedure and it will indirectly invite others to greater spirituality on their own terms and through God’s Will.

Personally, I found the TLI Zoom coffees a very helpful training exercise to have fruitful and illuminating conversations about the Faith. I hope you found them as healthy and refreshing as I did. I encourage you to continue this dialogue either via Zoom or a phone call with your fellow graduates or other TLI leaders. 

You’ve probably already found that you have plenty of chances to exhibit leadership in rather routine and everyday examples I just shared. To me, Catholic leadership starts with these rather routine scenarios. I confess I’m not nearly as strong of a debater as I’d like to be. But I know I have conviction and have been convincing in the past by simply speaking from my heart and, through my personal experience. Be vigilant to jump at these chances when you have occasion.

What an opportunity to ‘accomplish great things by bringing out the greatness in others” simply through our witness to Christ. 

In a larger sense, “speaking out” whether with a big microphone or in a one-on-one conversation is in fact reclaiming Christendom which is at the very heart of TLI and the Role of a Catholic Leader. It may seem difficult for us to consider attaining this lofty achievement by serving as a board member for a civic or non-profit organization where we’re often ‘in the weeds’ discussing organizational business matters but this is where it starts.  This is the critical seed that blossoms and spreads.   

Indeed, through our efforts we can reclaim Christendom in a variety ways, by recreating society through our actions to be Christ-Centered because the world needs the Truth. We can do it by believing Church teachings, standing up for them, refusing to accept lies or mischaracterizations of the Catholic Church. Consider that you might have to live with the loneliness and backlash from others after speaking Truth about our Faith. It may cost you friendships, even family relationships. But also consider this, how would you feel if you didn’t? I submit you’d feel worse. Remember to pray, it all starts with prayer. Prayer is our armor which leads to resiliency through hard work and determination.

In summary, everything I’ve said comes down to two things: Identity and Purpose.

Identity means we are grounded in Christ. Every Catholic Leader’s journey starts by identifying and praying over specific issues of concern in today’s society and issues in our own lives. We are all children of God. We were created to reach Heaven, to become a Saint. And by doing so we truly Sanctify those around us. That is a powerful blessing that God has given us whether we’re able to comprehend it sometimes or not!

Purpose, because we are endowed with the gifts of the Holy Spirt: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, knowledge and child-like fear of the Lord. Our ultimate purpose is to use these gifts as God calls each of us in our own way. Our own stewardship of time, talents and treasures.

You have already outlined your next steps in your TLI Leadership Commitment. That may look different in the months and years to come but you will always remain on the right path if you involve God in your decision-making.

Again, congratulations 2024 TLI Graduates! My prayer is that your TLI experience has helped condition you to pray more often to the Holy Spirit and remain vigilant of God’s direction, that your heart will remain open and listen to God’s vocation call. Christ will direct you to be the faithful Catholic leader he has created you to be in response to the gifts of time, talent and treasure He has given you.

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