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Pastoral Planning notes: Evangelization through leadership

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It is a privilege for me to have the opportunity to support this innovative chapter in the life of the Church in Boston. With Catholic Leadership Institute, I have the great blessing to travel around the world and to offer support, training and consulting to bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders. Regardless of where I am or what I am doing, I find myself sharing what's happening here. Through Disciples in Mission, we are a part of an exciting effort of pastoral revitalization that is serving as a model for the rest of the country. Most importantly, Disciples in Mission is calling us to build a culture of encounter that will help bring people to a closer relationship with Jesus.

Disciples in Mission is also an interesting case study in how leadership and evangelization come together. In its wisdom, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Planning Commission recommended that in order to build missionary disciples, we need to invest in both their leadership development and their ability to evangelize. Our baptismal call to discipleship is also a call to leadership. We are called to follow Jesus. Being a true follower of our Lord requires leading others to Him.

As a leadership training organization, it's important to define "leadership." We define leadership as the "the act or process of arousing, engaging, and satisfying the needs and motives of followers in an environment of conflict, competition, or achievement, which results in followers taking action toward a mutually shared vision." The various parts of this definition provide the links between evangelization and leadership.

"The act or process" -- Evangelization happens through programs and plans. It also happens in moments. As Pope Francis writes in "Evangelii Gaudium," a parish is "a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey." Through our planning of retreat experiences, faith sharing groups, hospitality activities, we quench this thirst. However, we cannot rely on the processes or programs alone. When I have heard people recount that life-changing moment in their faith journey, I am struck at how often it is a moment where they were in despair, confused, hurt, suffering. Then, someone offers them a kind word, prays with them, invites them to get a cup of coffee. Someone acts. Someone responds. Someone is present and in that moment the person sees Jesus in a new way.

"of arousing, engaging and satisfying the needs and motives of followers" -- The world has so many needs and the Church meets a great number of basic needs for the world's marginalized every day. Perhaps the biggest need though is for people to be engaged. They need someone to awaken them from a slumber of indifference. They need to be stirred to embrace the unique purpose for which God has called them to -- their important part in the story of humanity. Evangelization and Leadership, or better said, Evangelization through Leadership, doesn't require having all of the answers but rather asking the questions. "What are you looking for? Before they can find their answers, we need to help them consider the question.

"in an environment of conflict, competition or achievement" -- Evangelization through leadership doesn't happen outside these settings -- it happens through them. Especially in times of conflict, it will be our behavior, our witness, which really shows what we believe and how we follow Jesus. Do we embrace defensiveness or do we allow ourselves to be vulnerable in search of truth? Likewise, are we territorial in our ministry or do we embrace the true ancient Greek meaning of the word "competition" -- "to strive together?" Do we leverage the very best of what each of our individual parishes bring to this tapestry of evangelization? In our successes, how do we remind ourselves and others that the achievement is ultimately the fruit of the Spirit working through us?

"which results in followers taking action toward a mutually shared vision" -- Christ tells us, "Go and make disciples of all nations." We have our mission statement. Jesus, in his ultimate leadership, gave us a crystal clear vision. At times on this journey, we will follow others and at times we will need to lead others. Everything we do, as a community and individually as a disciple, must be in alignment toward that vision or we risk not fulfilling the Great Commission we have been given -- to share the Good News that God loves us, that He sent His only Son to die for us in order to provide us with a bridge to journey toward a life of eternal salvation and joy.

Daniel J. Cellucci is vice-president of the Catholic Leadership Institute.

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