Shepherd's Voice

Global Leadership Summit Equips Leaders To Realize Pastoral Vision

Early in August, I joined over 300 clergy and lay leaders from around the archdiocese to participate in The Global Leadership Summit (GLS). While we were gathered in Omaha, we joined well over 100,000 people at dozens of sites across the country for a two-day program of simulcast presentations on leadership.

We listened together to excellent talks by leaders in the fields of business, education, not-for-profit, religion and other areas of our culture. We had time to reflect with our local parish or diocesan groups about what we were hearing and how it might apply to Catholic life here. I am grateful to Father Jeff Lorig and members of our pastoral services team for coordinating this positive and inspirational experience for us locally.

As you know, about three years ago we articulated a pastoral vision for the Archdiocese of Omaha – One church: encountering Jesus, equipping disciples, living mercy. We have begun to direct significant amounts of time and resources to the greater realization of this vision of ourselves as a local church, in line with the particular priorities and goals that have been established.

For example, after several years of planning, much hard work and the support of generous donors, thousands of us participated in ArchOmaha Unite on the vigil of Pentecost. This event was designed to foster one of our main pastoral goals: to create a culture of unity in our archdiocese. We gathered as disciples of the Lord, across generations, geography and cultures to celebrate our unity in Jesus Christ. We asked the Holy Spirit to equip us to move together into the future.

In some of our parishes, groups who participated in Unite have been meeting to discern what this experience can mean for their parish. In October I’ll gather a representative group from across the archdiocese to reflect on ArchOmaha Unite and to ask what it is providing for the realization of our pastoral vision.

In a similar way, the recent Global Leadership Summit has given us new energy to move ahead together. Our primary objective for hosting the GLS has been to equip a community of disciples to lead a change in culture toward the pastoral vision and priorities. We have come to see that leadership is one of the key factors in the realization of our pastoral vision. Having a vision of where we want to go implies that we are not wandering aimlessly, nor are we refusing to budge from a place that is comfortable. So that we keep moving in the direction of the vision, we need leaders who are equipped to take us there.

The concept of leadership is not foreign to us Christians. Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with good and bad examples of leadership that had an impact on the story of salvation. We could say that Jesus’ three years with the apostles – with even more attention given to Peter, James and John – was an example of leadership development.

The public ministry of Jesus was limited to just several years. Only a few witnessed his death or saw him after the resurrection. However, his mission to reconcile humanity to God extends around the world and down through the ages. So that more people all the
time could be invited to make a free response to God’s love in Jesus Christ, it was necessary for him to equip others to carry out his mission.

As disciples of Jesus, we understand that leadership in carrying out the mission of Jesus is not something that only people in positions of authority have to worry about. Simply put, leadership is influence, and every one of us has influence. As Christians we need
to be good stewards of our influence, using it to further the mission of Jesus Christ. This is the responsibility and privilege that Jesus gives to everyone whom he calls, to use our influence to lead others to the Kingdom of God.

The Global Leadership Summit provided great tools for pastors who have particular roles of leadership in our parishes. But I was happy to see that pastors were accompanied by parishioners who were able to grow in awareness and empowerment in their vocation as members of the laity. As the Second Vatican Council has taught, the lay faithful are to be “led by the spirit of the gospel … to work for the sanctification of the world from within, as a leaven.” (“Lumen Gentium,” no. 31)

Really, this is what we mean when we say that an essential aspect of our vision for the future is “equipping disciples.” Each one of us who is called by Jesus is asked by him to be a person of influence. Formed by the Gospel, we are expected to take the lead in influencing our families, our friends, our schools, the places where we work and the community at large. We must do this humbly, as Jesus himself has done, but we must do it surely.

Unfortunately, we Catholics have not always learned that living our faith is not a private matter. Jesus sends us out daily and asks us to have an influence on others. This is an important opportunity that our vision for the future presents, to grow in our ability and our desire to be sent out on mission.

Be alert for how to take advantage of this opportunity in your life and in your community. We will be working to identify leaders in parishes and schools with whom our diocesan staff can work to move our pastoral vision forward in those contexts. We will work with pastors to encourage growth in their skills and capacity for leadership among missionary disciples. Always we will be looking to activate and equip lay leaders in families, in the workplace and in the community to be heralds of the Gospel, to lead others to Jesus Christ.

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