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This leadership expert is guiding faithful Catholics from the pew to the boardroom

Cristofer Pereyra is the CEO of Tepeyac Leadership, Inc. in Phoenix, Arizona. / Courtesy of TLI

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jul 3, 2022 / 11:18 am (CNA).

Many people assume “Catholic leadership” stops at the pulpit, the principal’s office, or the doors to the parish center. Cristofer Pereyra wants to broaden that mindset.

A former television reporter with Univision, Pereyra led the Hispanic Mission Office for the Diocese of Phoenix under Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted. But an experience in a civic leadership training program opened his eyes to another mission: Teaching faithful lay Catholics how to be effective leaders in society.

Pereyra discovered that these types of programs are shaping leaders in small towns and large cities across the U.S. While they provide practical guidance and excellent networking opportunities, they also tend to advance a secular agenda that’s at odds with the Catholic faith, he found.

That revelation motivated him to launch the Tepeyac Leadership Initiative, which offers a five-month-long training program designed specifically for lay Catholics. As the initiative explains on its website, the goal is to educate participants “in the core teachings of the Church and their concrete application to the career world.” 

Now Pereyra has a book out that distills the program’s key principles: Catholic Leadership for Civil Society: A Practical Guide on Authentic Lay Leadership,” co-written with Erin Monnin. Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles wrote the introduction.

CNA spoke with Pereyra recently about the book and his belief that all Catholics are called to be leaders. Here are some highlights of the discussion:

Why did you start the Tepeyac Leadership program and write the book?

What we're trying to do, what we've been trying to do for the past six years, is to show lay Catholics what it means to be a leader out in civil society. Moreover, we have been extending them an invitation to realize that this is just no longer an option. Our true vocation is to seek to become influential leaders in society so that we can influence others for Christ to bring us closer to Christ. This is particularly for professionals, people who have been blessed by God with a college education and a professional career. The leadership initiative is the flagship program for my organization, Tepeyac Leadership. In our five-month, 18-week program we are trying to change the minds of lay Catholics, and we're forming them. Then, we're sending them out with a very concrete mindset and a very concrete mission, and that is to insert themselves into the secular institutions of society.

What led you to want to make a difference in Catholic leadership?

I was working for Bishop Olmsted as the director of the Hispanic Mission Office. A representative of the diocese sent me to a local secular civic leadership development program in Phoenix, Arizona. Going through that experience opened my eyes to the world and the reality of civic leadership development in the United States. It is in every major city in the United States, as I discovered. They have been placing and catapulting people into local leadership positions in their community. So their aims and goals are for service, philanthropy, even politics. Most of our public elected officials in the United States get their feet wet through this program. I had mixed feelings going through the program because in most of the sessions and discussions, I tended to be the lone conservative or religious voice in the room. Most of these programs around the United States form leaders with values that directly counter Catholic teaching.  

I spoke to the bishop, and said, “I think this is not a bad idea. It's a noble concept. Who could be against forming leaders? It is just not being oriented right, the way they're doing it. I think we can do it better.” We borrowed a template from the secular world, and that's how Tepeyac Leadership got started. We named this project simply because we were inspired by the story of St. Juan Diego (who had an encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary on a hill by that name.) We wanted to ask Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego to intercede for the future of the program, which they've done, tremendously. 

What is the objective, specifically?

For us, the preeminent field for leadership, for Catholic leaders and civil society, is board service (on the board of a business or other organization.) Our question is, “Where are the Catholics when big decisions are being made?” If there were any Catholics at all, they either lack the information or the courage to speak up for truth. So our objective as an organization is ultimately to form and prepare to send out and encourage committed Catholics to seek out seats at those tables where decisions are being made. Those are decisions that impact the culture. We simply want to help bring about the decisions, the right decisions, that will bring about the common good, guided by our Catholic faith. To do that, we need to be well-formed and have a seat at the table. 

Is the program restricted to top-level executives?

We have broadened the definition of “board service.” We definitely are referring to actual boards — governance boards, advisory boards, fundraising boards, nonprofits, for-profits, pay-based, non-pay based, all of it. We definitely want more Catholics on those boards. But we're expanding the definition. We are also talking about your local homeowner's association, your teacher association, boards for your local public school district, local municipality. Ultimately, we just need more people, well-formed and committed Catholics, in all those areas where decisions are being made. 

What does Jesus say about leadership?

I don't know that the word “leadership” itself is in the (Gospels). Jesus points us toward the type of leadership that we must become in many instances, like when he asks us to be perfect, like his Father is perfect. What is Jesus truly saying? We are human beings; we're not going to be perfect. What he's inviting us to do is to try to become the best versions of ourselves every single day. Strive to grow in virtue, all of the virtues that he modeled for us. If every day we enter into a lifelong commitment to shape and grow and build our character by growing in virtue, then we are striving to be perfect, like God the Father is perfect.

The Tepeyac Leadership Initiative (TLI) program, which costs $2,000 per person, consists of weekly, virtual, online sessions from February through June. Participants also attend an all-day retreat, either virtually or in person. The program has three tracks, grouped by time zone. For more information, visit TLI’s Frequently Asked Questions page.

Pope Francis: Evangelization is not ‘personal activism’ but a witness of love

Pope Francis prays the Angelus from the window of the Apostolic Palace on July 3, 2022. / Vatican Media/CNA

Vatican City, Jul 3, 2022 / 06:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Sunday that evangelization should not be seen as “personal activism,” but a witness of love in relationship with others.

In his Angelus address on July 3, the pope posed a question: “How do we bring the good news of the Gospel to others?

“Do we do it with a fraternal spirit and style or in the manner of the world with prominence, competitiveness, and efficiency?” he asked.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the pope encouraged Catholics to work in collaboration with “the witness of fraternity.”

“It is possible to develop perfect pastoral plans, implement well-made projects, organize down to the smallest details. You can summon crowds and have many means, but if there is no availability for one's brothers and sisters, the evangelical mission does not advance,” the pope said.

Pope Francis reflected on how Jesus sent his disciples “two by two” in Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 10:1-9).

“The disciples were sent two by two, not individually. Going on a mission two by two, from a practical point of view, would seem to have more disadvantages than advantages. There is a risk that the two do not get along, that they have a different pace, that one gets tired or gets sick along the way, forcing the other to stop too. On the other hand, when you are alone, it seems that the journey becomes faster and smoother. However, Jesus does not think so: in front of him he does not send lonely people, but disciples who go two by two,” the pope said.

“Let us ask ourselves if we have the ability to collaborate, if we know how to make decisions together, sincerely respecting those around us and taking into account their point of view, if we do it in community, not alone. In fact, it is above all in this way that the life of the disciple reveals that of the Master, really announcing him to others,” he said.

After praying the Angelus with the crowd, Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine.

“I appeal to the leaders of nations and international organizations to react to the tendency to accentuate conflict and confrontation,” he said.

The pope underlined that the world needs to move from focusing on political, economic, and military power strategies to a “global peace project,” which says “no to a world divided among conflicting powers” and “yes to a world united among peoples and civilizations that respect each other.”

He said: “The world needs peace — not a peace based on the balance of arms, on mutual fear. No, this will not do. This is turning history back seventy years.”

“The Ukrainian crisis should have been, but — if you want it to be — can still become a challenge for wise statesmen, capable of building in dialogue a better world for new generations. With God's help, this is always possible!”

PHOTOS: Heated abortion confrontation in NYC

Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. / Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

New York City, N.Y., Jul 3, 2022 / 05:56 am (CNA).

Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a New York City Planned Parenthood abortion clinic Saturday, setting off a tense, hours’ long confrontation in Lower Manhattan.

With NYPD officers slowly pushing against the crowd, the marchers eventually reached the clinic. There were no immediate reports of arrests.

A counter-demonstration organized by NYC for Abortion Rights began Saturday morning outside the Basilica of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Mulberry Street, where a monthly Witness for Life Mass is held at 8 a.m. on the first Saturday of the month. The Mass is followed by the recitation of the Rosary outside the nearby Planned Parenthood clinic, then benediction back at the basilica before a social with the Sisters of Life.

On Saturday, counter-demonstrators tried to stop participants from leaving the basilica, though marchers managed to slip out a back door, AMNY reported.

The marchers’ path to the clinic was blocked by pro-abortion protesters who pushed back against police trying to clear the way.

Kathryn Jean Lopez,  senior fellow at the National Review Institute and an editor-at-large of National Review, tweeted from the scene that it took marchers more than an hour to reach the clinic, which is just a block from the basilica. Marchers were “praying all the way,” she said.

Outside the basilica, demonstrators chanted, “Thank God for abortion,” and “F---- the Church,” among other slogans.

The demonstration comes a little over a week since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that legalized abortion nationwide. With Roe no longer in effect, the issue of abortion is left up to the states to legislate.

Photojournalist Jeffrey Bruno captured the march and counter-demonstration for CNA.

Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA
Hundreds of pro-abortion demonstrators tried to block a monthly pro-life march and prayer vigil at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Lower Manhattan on July 2, 2022, setting off a tense confrontation. Jeffrey Bruno/CNA

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in the Congolese rite: ‘Peace begins with us’

Pope Francis celebrated Mass for Rome’s Congolese community in St. Peter's Basilica on July 3, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Jul 3, 2022 / 04:10 am (CNA).

Amid singing, clapping, and dancing to traditional Congolese music, Pope Francis celebrated the Zaire Use of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday.

The pope began his homily on July 3 with the word, “esengo,” which means “joy” in Lingala, the Bantu-based creole spoken in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo and by millions of speakers across Central Africa.

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass for Rome’s Congolese community on the day that he was due to offer Mass in Kinshasa before his trip to Africa was canceled at the request of the pope’s doctors.

The pope, whose mobility has been limited due to a knee injury, remained seated throughout the Mass. Francis presided over the Liturgy of the Word and gave the homily. Archbishop Richard Gallagher offered the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

“Today, dear brothers and sisters, let us pray for peace and reconciliation in your homeland, in the wounded and exploited Democratic Republic of Congo,” Pope Francis said.

“We join the Masses celebrated in the country according to this intention and pray that Christians may be witnesses of peace, capable of overcoming any feeling of resentment, any feeling of vengeance, overcoming the temptation that reconciliation is not possible, any unhealthy attachment to their own group that leads to despising others.”

The pope underlined that the Lord calls all Christians to be “ambassadors of peace.”

The Democratic Republic of Congo has experienced a wave of violence in recent years. Dozens of armed groups are believed to operate in the eastern region of DR Congo despite the presence of more than 16,000 UN peacekeepers. Local Catholic bishops have repeatedly appealed for an end to the bloodshed.

“Brother, sister, peace begins with us,” Pope Francis said.

"If you live in his peace, Jesus arrives and your family, your society changes. They change if your heart is not at war in the first place, it is not armed with resentment and anger, it is not divided, it is not double, it is not false. Putting peace and order in one's heart, defusing greed, extinguishing hatred and resentment, fleeing corruption, fleeing cheating and cunning: this is where peace begins.”

Peace was expected to be a key theme of the pope’s canceled Africa trip. Pope Francis was planning to spend July 2-5 in the Congolese cities of Kinshasa and Goma, and July 5-7 in the South Sudanese capital Juba.

After the Vatican announced that the trip was postponed due to the ongoing medical treatment for the pope’s knee pain, Pope Francis said on June 13: “We will bring Kinshasa to St. Peter’s, and there we will celebrate with all the Congolese in Rome, of which there are many.”

About 2,000 people were present in the inculturated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on the first Sunday of July.

Women in brightly colored traditional dresses sang and danced as they prayed the Gloria. People clapped and shouted as Archbishop Richard Gallagher incensed the main altar.

The gifts were brought up to the altar in a dancing procession. Religious sisters in the pews stepped from side to side together to the music.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis greeted some members of the local Congolese community from his wheelchair.

“May the Lord help us to be missionaries today, going in the company of brother and sister; having on his lips the peace and closeness of God; carrying in the heart the meekness and goodness of Jesus, Lamb who takes away the sins of the world,” the pope said.

The Zaire Use of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is an inculturated Mass formally approved in 1988 for the dioceses of what was then known as the Republic of Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The only inculturated Eucharistic celebration approved after the Second Vatican Council, it was developed following a call for adaptation of the liturgy in "Sacrosanctum concilium," Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

In a video message in 2020, Pope Francis said: "The experience of the Congolese rite of the celebration of Mass can serve as an example and model for other cultures.”

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