Rev. Tom Whittingham
A graduate of Catholic Leadership Institute’s lay program 10 years ago, Rev. Tom Whittingham was recently ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. He tithed a portion of his ordination gifts to Catholic Leadership Institute, remembering the generous spirit of co-founder and mentor, Fr. Chuck Pfeffer.
Q: How did you become involved with the ministry of Catholic Leadership Institute?
A: I was introduced through Fr. Chuck Pfeffer, one of Catholic Leadership Institute’s co-founders. Prior to implementing Good Leaders, Good Shepherds, Catholic Leadership Institute ran a program for lay Catholic leaders, which Fr. Chuck subsidized for a core group of student-leaders at the University of Pennsylvania Newman Center. The experience cemented long-term friendships with the other student-leaders and helped me grow and mature at a time when I had the opportunity to serve the local community of Catholic graduate students at Penn.
Q: Describe your experience with Fr. Chuck, and what his example meant to you.
A: Fr. Chuck was a mentor and a rock in my life. At a time when I was struggling to adjust to life in Philadelphia he gave me guidance and some stability, a place to call home (the Newman Center), and purpose and direction through the opportunity to serve the Church. He put into practice the skills taught at the Catholic Leadership Institute - identifying my gifts and giving me the chance to make use of them in service to the local community of Catholics. In doing that, he also enabled me to discover my own vocation to the priesthood that I now share with him.
Q: What did you learn from your Catholic Leadership Institute formation that you now apply in your ministry?
A: The program reinforced an attitude of setting attainable, realistic goals and recognizing that, as much as I can take that inventory for myself, everyone sitting in the pews can do that too. Having that experience of truly growing as a human person, with the help of God’s grace, and of learning to recognize the gifts and talents of others planted the seed for the same aspect of my priestly ministry today.
Q: What inspired you to give back to the mission of Catholic Leadership Institute?
A: As I approached ordination I realized more and more the debt I owed to Fr. Chuck for his mentoring, his prayers, and his gift of my experience with Catholic Leadership Institute. While the mission has since shifted to forming priests to be better leaders and shepherds of God’s people, the core mission of serving the Church by sharing one’s own gifts and talents with others has not changed. Finally, as I was deciding how to give back from the many generous gifts that were given to me, I realized that I knew personally one of the bishops mentioned in the CLI mailing I had just opened. I read his comments about the fruit that he was seeing in his own “missionary” diocese from the efforts of CLI and I couldn’t help but donate to the cause.
Q: Why do you feel it is important for each of us to use our gifts and talents in service to the Church?
A: As the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi notes - it is in giving that we receive. Whatever we have, even just being alive this day, is a gift from God. How can we not re-gift ourselves in imitation of Christ, by serving or donating ourselves, our talents, our treasure?