““Evangelization is the task of the Church. The Church, as the agent of evangelization, is more than an organic and hierarchical institution; she is first and foremost a people advancing on its pilgrim way towards God.””

– Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium

Dear Friends,

With so many needs in our churches today, it can be challenging for any diocese to focus on a main goal or priority. Bishop Brendan Cahill saw the importance of doing just that in the Diocese of Victoria, TX: setting a united vision for the people of his diocese and uniting under one goal and one focus. The diocese chose Evangelization, Family Life, and Human Dignity as their top three priorities and set out to better define these goals for the diocese, looking to Catholic Leadership Institute to provide diocesan support and coaching to chancery staff in making this possible.

The Diocese of Victoria had their first meeting with CLI in 2021 and their efforts have already taken root in living and teaching the Faith.

Read below about how Catholic Leadership Institute is supporting the Diocese of Victoria in their evangelization and catechesis efforts.

Living and Teaching the Faith in the Diocese of Victoria

When the Diocese of Victoria began their journey with Catholic Leadership Institute just a few years ago, they chose to focus their attention on diocesan support and coaching. Bishop Brendan Cahill enrolled himself in leadership training and invited key leaders within his diocese to join him in the same - working together for a common vision of making evangelization, family life, and human dignity top diocesan priorities.

Within a short amount of time, the diocese began to see fruits from the journey that changed the leadership dynamics in the chancery and opened doors to diocesan ministries that had once been closed or simply unavailable. Three key areas of growth include the establishment of a new overarching Evangelization and Catechesis team, the application of this mission in Victoria Catholic schools, and an impact on Hispanic ministry.

Evangelization and Catechesis

Fr. Jacob Koether is the Vicar for Evangelization Catechesis, a role that supported Catholic schools, youth and young adult ministries, the catechetical office, and Hispanic ministry. The goal of his office is to provide overarching support to the diocese and unite their efforts, striving to constantly ask, “Is this something God wants us to do?”

As the pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows, Fr. Koether’s knowledge of parish life, the needs of the people, and the challenges pastors face makes him an effective liaison on a diocesan level. In the Envisioning Phase of the diocese’s journey with Catholic Leadership Institute, Fr. Koether shared, “To have the support of those who are more experienced and have more skills and resources and tools than I do – those who can help me walk me through figuring out what this office is and what it could be – is very helpful. Even though I’m very busy, I have not felt overwhelmed at any point because there’s a lot of support.”

The urgency of evangelization is one that Fr. Koether shares with other leaders in the Diocese of Victoria. “I really want our office to be one of support where we are equipping parishes to do this work of evangelization catechesis.” As a result, Fr. Koether can provide the tools and resources needed to implement evangelization and catechetical practices among teams of Church leaders in the diocese - ultimately bringing souls closer to Jesus.

Impact on Catholic Schools

Ms. Ashley Novosad, Assistant to the Superintendent of Catholic Schools, is a member of the diocesan team dedicated to Catholic education in schools. Among the many resources that became available to her in the journey with CLI, Ashley found the coaching to significantly improve communications among her team. “I really enjoyed the two-day session and survey that helped identify our DISC profiles,” Ashley shared, sharing that she appreciated the chance to better understand her character traits and those of others on her team. “Our relationships and communications are more fruitful because we understand each other better.”

With 2,800 students enrolled among the 13 Catholic schools in the rural Diocese of Victora, Ashley noted the importance of uniting all teachers in the mission of Evangelization and Catechesis. To invite the diocese’s 300 teachers and administrators into this initiative, the 2022 school year began with a new focus. The diocese hosted a day of recollection for teachers with Mass, prayer, adoration, and lectio divina prayer exercises. “The teachers loved it!” Ashley shared, “It was a great way to start the academic year, kicking it off with strong evangelization practices.”

Ashley noted that the idea of “evangelization” often focuses on the entire Church, with Catholic schools as “part” of that initiative. “In the Diocese of Victoria, we believe evangelization is something that should be intertwined in every part of a child’s day.” Ashley is also involved with a new Vocations Team designed to help guide children to their unique calling from God to the priesthood, consecrated, married, or single life.

“Living the faith and teaching the faith are so intertwined, “Ashley shared, “We’ve never worked together like this before… I feel like a leader! Fr. Koether and Catholic Leadership Institute looking to us as a team and asking us what we’re going to do. In this way, are really being asked to lead!”

Opening Doors for Hispanic Ministry

In addition to being a rural diocese, the Diocese of Victoria is also close to the border of Mexico. Aldo Camacho is the Director of Hispanic Ministry in the diocese and is originally from Mexico. He understands the needs and struggles of the Hispanic community and can speak to them within diocesan efforts. “A lot of the Hispanics were not born here and do not speak English. They’re trying to feel like they belong to the diocese but sometimes, it’s hard because it’s a new environment and new culture. They go to the Church to feel like they are home, and they listen to different language and don’t understand the Word of God. They need to know they are important, they are a child of God, and they have a role in the Church.”

Aldo is working within the diocese to create more formation, curriculum, and host events that are available to the Spanish-speaking community. “The Evangelization and Catechesis team is vital for our diocese. We have more communication now and are working together. Our people are served better because we can provide better channels of communications to them – in English and Spanish.”

After meeting with Catholic Leadership Institute, Bishop Cahill came together with his team and started sharing a vision for the diocese, “It was something new for me - that a bishop is asking my opinion about any program or the future of the diocese. I knew that I matter. They want to know my opinion. Here, we are a part of a team. The bishop wants to hear our opinions and we can make decisions as a group.”

Catholic Leadership Institute is eager to see the continued fruits of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Diocese of Victoria, TX, including parish participation in CLI’s Disciple Maker Index survey and ongoing formation for church leaders. Please keep this work in your prayers!

by Mike School

January 26, 2023

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