Catholic Leadership Institute -- partners in ministry

In a March, 2013 article in The Boston Globe, Father Paul Soper, Director of the Office of Pastoral Planning spoke about the work facing the 12 pastors who were about to begin Phase I of the pastoral plan, Disciples in Mission. Acknowledging the ground-breaking, exciting, but difficult work ahead, Father Soper said, "We're putting a lot on their (the pastors) shoulders; therefore it only makes sense to give them the best support we can," Now in Phase II of the plan, that practical assistance continues.

The support Father Soper referenced comes from several sources. Archdiocesan Pastoral Center staff are committed to resourcing the collaboratives in business and ministerial concerns. Members of parish staffs in the parishes provide invaluable knowledge and understanding of the local context. A third source of support comes from the partnership between the Archdiocese of Boston and the Catholic Leadership Institute. Leadership training and support is what CLI does.

CLI describes its purpose: "Catholic Leadership Institute provides bishops, priests, deacons and lay persons in the Roman Catholic Church with world-class, pastoral leadership formation and consulting services that strengthen their confidence and competence in ministry, enabling them to articulate a vision for their local church, to call forth the gifts of those they lead, and to create more vibrant faith communities rooted in Jesus Christ." Their first core value is "Love of Christ and the Church." ( CLI has served over 90 dioceses in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean since its beginning in 1990.

Our archdiocese has known CLI for many years and benefited from their programs long before Disciples in Mission was written. Between 2007 and 2011 over 50 priests and lay leaders in the archdiocese participated in CLI programs. Good Leaders, Good Shepherds is a two-year ongoing priestly formation curriculum. As described on their website and affirmed by participants, the program "combines the science of leadership with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. Using Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd as the ultimate model of leadership, the program celebrates and supports the ministry of Catholic priests." Thirty-five priests in the Archdiocese of Boston, ranging from 45 years ordained to newly ordained, graduated from Good Leaders, Good Shepherds. A separate program, Tending the Talents, is "designed to support parish and diocesan leaders in their unique role in ministry. Centered on Jesus' model of leadership, Tending the Talents is a parish leadership program with a curriculum that complements Good Leaders Good Shepherds ... designed to strengthen the talents God has given each person so that he or she can be an even more effective Catholic leader." Archdiocesan lay and religious parish leaders, male and female participated in Tending the Talents.

CLI has been an integral part of the pastoral planning process. Dan Cellucci, Vice President for Episcopal and Client Services, and Denise Ehlen, Leadership Consultant, came to Boston in January 2013 to begin training the Pastoral Center staff. Dan describes this experience, "The 200 professionals ranged in role from accountants, to ministry directors, to facilities managers. ... The people in Boston are amazing. ... It is a gift to support them. A special gift was to see how so many people, who work together daily, can increase their joy and effectiveness by sharing a new language of leadership."

In May 2013 CLI began working with the 12 pastors about to begin Phase I. Phase II pastors met for one week in March 2014 and another week in May. These trainings are intense and CLI stays connected with the pastors after training ends. Each pastor has the opportunity to work one on one with an executive coach. The priest determines the topic and schedules the sessions as needed.

Reflecting on his work with the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan, Dan Cellucci says, "The women and men engaged in Disciples in Mission are pioneers. This process is innovative. The fruit and learning that comes from this experience provides a rich gift to the whole Church. We know it's not easy and that's why CLI's whole purpose is to support the priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders who are taking this brave and inspiring step forward toward a future full of hope and full of disciples on fire to share the good news of their faith. We are grateful to Cardinal O'Malley and the archdiocese for the opportunity to partner in this exciting initiative."

Susan Abbott is Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.