Testimonies

Below are several testimonies shared from Good Leaders, Good Shepherds graduates and leadership formation participants.

Father John Sheridan is the pastor of the Cranberry Collaborative in the Archdiocese of Boston. He is a Phase 1 participant in Boston's Disciples in Mission program, and works with a Catholic Leadership Institute leadership coach.

Catholic Leadership Institute received the following letter from Father Wenani Kizito, as he approached the completion of his Good Leaders, Good Shepherds journey. His letter details how the Holy Spirit guided him from a shepherd of animals, in his native country of Kenya, to a shepherd of souls in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.

Well, to start with, I would like to register my heartfelt gratitude to all the donors that made it possible for me to undertake the program.

I remember 2 years ago when I started the program, all the individual members in our cohort were happy, filled with enthusiasm and looked forward to the program. Me too! I was eager to see how the program would benefitt me as Kizito and secondly the impact of the program in my ministry.

The Good Leaders, Good Shepherds program resonated with the dictum of my late beloved father, Charles Wenani. He once said to me when I was a teenager ( 10 years old) “Kizito, my son, if you want to be a good leader in future, you better start being a good shepherd now to the sheep, goats and cows that we own.” Wow! That was a powerful quote from my father. Why? It was powerful one because, in every African culture (especially Kenyan culture) every boy child, is encouraged by his father to develop strong affinity towards shepherding sheep, cows, goats or even donkeys.

Shepherding these animals wasn’t a cup of tea to everyone because it involved walking miles and miles with the animals in search of fresh green pasture and clean drinking water. This all came at the extent of risking ones life, as there were wild animals like leopards, hyenas or cattle rustlers that were often after the animals. As a shepherd you had to defend and protect the animals from such dangers.

Amazingly, people like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and David were shepherds before God called them to be His mouthpiece, kings, or great leaders. Me too! Here I am in the United States leading two Catholic parishes. I never thought of that by shepherding our sheep, goats and cows in a Kenyan village, one day I would be shepherding parishioners in Southwest Missouri.

Good Leaders, Good Shepherds has enabled me to identify lay people from my rural parishes who have leadership skills. I am encouraging them to use their skills to enrich the parish. There are other numerous lessons I gained from the program and I want to attest that, I now have new leadership style.

The responsibility of my first pastorate was to merge two parishes into one community. After long and sometimes grueling days, I would head to the rectory in order to "veg out" watching re-runs of "I Love Lucy." Something about those black and white sitcoms filled with simple gags and laughter, would soothe away the problems of the day. In one episode, Lucy pretended to have amnesia. She came out in a dramatic fashion, leaned against the fireplace with her hand to her forehead asking the questions: "Who am I? Where am I? What am I?"

In the midst of closing parishes, a capital campaign, designing and building a new parish church, along with all the "regular" pastoral responsibilities, I found myself on more than one occasion asking those same questions: "Who am I? Where am I? What am I?" I was never taught parish management nor church construction in the seminary. But, if the Ricardos and the Mertzes could get along despite their differences, then certainly, with God's help, I could pull this off.

The black and white decision making of a rookie pastor has now given way to the complexity of pastoring a parish six times the size. A farming and ranching community has given way to highly educated professionals. Within the Archdiocese, I co-chair the Ongoing Formation of Priests Committee, I am a member of the Building Commission and lead various liturgical workshops, all while serving as President of NOCERCC . Yes, my life is now in living technicolor! More than ever I ask myself those same questions: Who am I? Where am I What am I? Through the first two modules of Good Leaders, Good Shepherds (GLGS) I have come to know my DISCposition, my values, my point of view and my persona and thus better understand myself as a leader and shepherd. Knowing not only who I am, but better understanding others, makes for effective leadership.

The first cohort of priests in Galveston-Houston has completed the third module of GLGS training. It has been a great experience and is renewing a sense of camaraderie and fraternity. It is evident that down the road we will have a greater confidence and trust in each other and therefore be better pastors and leaders within the Archdiocese.

As president of NOCERCC I know that Good Leaders, Good Shepherds is spreading and is becoming the answer to a leadership model for the Church. As bishops continue to see the need for more priests, they also see the need for priests who will shepherd after the heart of Jesus. Because of GLGS the fraternity of the priesthood is being strengthened, the Church is being strengthened and the Kingdom of God is being realized in our midst.

When we were students in the Archdiocese of Detroit the Venerable Jack Castelo was preaching on a particular Sunday, the great scripture teacher, and the text that Sunday happened to be “the living stones that are built up into the living temple” and his concluding remarks were, “it says stones gentlemen, not marshmallows.” Problem with stones is they need to be reformed on occasion and as the Holy Father has said: “If we want to become spiritual stones suitable for building up the spiritual edifice of the Church, we must accept our fate of being cut and carved. In order to be suitable for the house, we must let ourselves be bent into shape for the places where we are needed.”

I have true admiration for the members of Catholic Leadership Institute and for their dedication to not only this program but to priests. One of the things that I was most impressed with in the program, is the systematic and consistent approach to the question of contextual leadership. The fact that at the very beginning the purposes of each of the five segments was defined and then was consistently applied through each of the six modules, a vision that not only guided the program, but that was held to in every single one of the exercises and every single one of the lectures.What I found most beneficial was coming to a greater awareness of the way in which I interact with other people and a greater consciousness of the other person.

I think of the many quotes that I wrote in the margins of my booklet, but the one that has stuck with me the most is, "if we made the effort to prepare better we would save time and effort needed to resolve." I think after two years we understand in a new way what that vision means. I wish I had had this program 20 years ago when it could have been a tool and a series of tools that I could have used more effectively in the places that I have had the privilege to lead. I appreciate the big picture, the vision for the priesthood and for pastoral leadership, the translation of leadership concepts from other fields and other positive experiences into terms that we could relate to and have a chance to apply.

I have found this to be an extraordinary experience of the bond of priesthood and priests in ministry. I've gone to lots of workshops over the years, spent a lot of time on retreat with other priests, working on committees and councils and task forces with other priests. Never have I found the level of openness and acceptance and support that develops in the group that shares this program together. That will be a treasured blessing and a treasured memory.

I’m delighted to see the growth of this program around the country, the growth that is even faster than Catholic Leadership Institute can keep up with. I think that is a wonderful problem to have. For I'm convinced that 20 from now this program and what it represents will have had an incredible effect on the pastoral leadership of this country. To those who learn and use the skills offered to us here (the Archdiocese of Detroit) it will provide a much more effective, consistent and open kind of pastoral leadership.

It will be a greater and greater blessing I am sure, as diocese after diocese recognizes the benefit this opportunity will be to their priests. It's going to necessary because those very same priests are going to be so much fewer in number; that the ability to draw out and to coordinate and to unify the talents and the opportunities of the people with whom they serve is going to be all the more critical.

GLGS will be a blessing to them and to the whole Church and so I thank very Catholic Leadership Institute for providing us with this opportunity, certainly thanks to Cardinal Maida and the presbyterial council for offering it to us.

Catholic Leadership Institute received the following letter from Father Wenani Kizito, as he approached the completion of his Good Leaders, Good Shepherds journey. His letter details how the Holy Spirit guided him from a shepherd of animals, in his native country of Kenya, to a shepherd of souls in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.

Well, to start with, I would like to register my heartfelt gratitude to all the donors that made it possible for me to undertake the program.

I remember 2 years ago when I started the program, all the individual members in our cohort were happy, filled with enthusiasm and looked forward to the program. Me too! I was eager to see how the program would benefitt me as Kizito and secondly the impact of the program in my ministry.

The Good Leaders, Good Shepherds program resonated with the dictum of my late beloved father, Charles Wenani. He once said to me when I was a teenager (10 years old) "Kizito, my son, if you want to be a good leader in future, you better start being a good shepherd now to the sheep, goats and cows that we own." Wow! That was a powerful quote from my father. Why? It was powerful one because, in every African culture (especially Kenyan culture) every boy child, is encouraged by his father to develop strong affinity towards shepherding sheep, cows, goats or even donkeys.

Shepherding these animals wasn't a cup of tea to everyone because it involved walking miles and miles with the animals in search of fresh green pasture and clean drinking water. This all came at the extent of risking ones life, as there were wild animals like leopards, hyenas or cattle rustlers that were often after the animals. As a shepherd you had to defend and protect the animals from such dangers.

Amazingly, people like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and David were shepherds before God called them to be His mouthpiece, kings, or great leaders. Me too! Here I am in the United States leading two Catholic parishes. I never thought of that by shepherding our sheep, goats and cows in a Kenyan village, one day I would be shepherding parishioners in Southwest Missouri.

Good Leaders, Good Shepherds has enabled me to identify lay people from my rural parishes who have leadership skills. I am encouraging them to use their skills to enrich the parish. There are other numerous lessons I gained from the program and I want to attest that, I now have new leadership style.

When their mission is accomplished, ten thousand Catholic students at the University of Florida will have been invited into lifelong discipleship. Ashley D'Emo and her fellow campus minister Sandy DeTeresa believe that they will complete their mission in four years by engaging leadership skills they newly acquired through CLI's Tending the Talents program. Ashley shares with us how her Tending the Talents experience has shifted her from a "spinning wheels - getting nowhere" mode to an experience of confidence, competence and getting results for their "Mission 10,000."

I work as a campus minister at St. Augustine Church and Catholic Student Center at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL. Last academic year we launched the mission given to us by our director, Fr. David Ruchinski (a Good Leaders, Good Shepherds graduate, by the way!). In short we call it Mission 10,000. The long form is this: Over the next four years, St. Augustine Church and Catholic Student Center will find, form, and launch into lifelong discipleship all 10,000 Catholic students at the University of Florida. We know that, if we could reach them, 10,000 well-formed, excited, evangelization-minded, Jesus-loving young adults entering into parish life after they graduate from the University of Florida have the potential to change those parishes, the state of Florida, and the world.

For Sandy DeTeresa (my fellow campus minister) and me, Tending the Talents gave us the framework to be able to tackle that "Big Hairy Audacious Goal" of Mission 10,000 and take concrete steps to make it a reality. Learning about DISC, values, and persona helped us to understand our staff and students better, and as we teach our student leaders, it helps them to do the same. I can remember how disorganized our staff used to be before we started seeing an increase in student numbers, and I can't imagine what a mess our huge campus ministry operation would be today if we didn't have the Christ-alignment model to help us with our organizational structure. Having KRAs helps all of our staff, interns, missionaries and student leaders understand their roles (and everyone else's roles) in the mission. Setting SMART goals for each of our ministries is how we take Mission 10,000 one step at a time. Every year in the past when we've asked our students how we can improve, "communication" has been among the top answers. Tending the Talents has helped us answer that need by teaching us to be clear and over-communicate, to listen more effectively, and to give better feedback. This year before the students went home for the summer, we took the time to sponsor and charter the new student-leader officer teams for the next academic year. I cannot even begin to tell you how much it energized and motivated the students, and how much easier it made communication of purpose and goals and expectations. It was one of my favorite things I've had the opportunity to do in campus ministry!

Before I went through Tending the Talents, I often felt like I was just spinning my wheels and getting nowhere with our mission. Tending the Talents gave me language to describe what we were trying to accomplish, a process and structure to break down a huge mission into achievable parts, and incredibly valuable lessons about maintaining drive and motivation for myself and others that I believe will be key to the success of Mission 10,000. I'm incredibly grateful for this program and all that it has given me, and I cannot imagine where my ministry would be without it. 

Learn more about Mission 10,000 and St. Augustine Church & Catholic Student Center here.