“Were you there?”

On Good Friday, you may hear – maybe in person, maybe virtually – one of my favorite hymns, “Were You There?”

This beautiful hymn, rooted in African American spirituals, invites us to walk with Christ in the last painful moments of His life. As I sing the words, I truly feel grief for the Lord, even though I know the final result of Jesus’ death is a magnificent one.

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”

From Jesus’ crucifixion and suffering came great transformation. The world was never, ever the same. It was more beautiful. We were saved forever.

Perhaps today we are experiencing something similar. In the great pain and sickness of our world during this global pandemic, we have suffered tremendously. I lift up your suffering every day in my prayers.

Yet, I can’t help but think something greater is happening.

“Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?” 

As Jesus is nailed to the cross, hope seems distant, but it was just the beginning of so many glorious things to come.

I truly believe there is so much hope and love to come for our Church. In fact, I see it already through Catholic Leadership Institute’s ministry and our opportunities to witness courageous Catholic leaders in action. Much of it will be a byproduct of this time of change that we are both challenged and blessed to be living through.

“Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?” 

Through the words of this hymn, we become a part of the crowd at Jesus’ feet as he breathed his last breath; we are beside him as he is placed in the tomb; we are there in spirit as he offers the greatest sacrifice and act of love He could ever perform.


It made me think, how are we here today for this journey taking place right now?

Were you there when someone needed prayers?
Were you there when a fellow Catholic needed support during these trying times?
Were you there when your parish streamed its first Mass?
Were you there when your children learned something about their faith from you during this time at home?
Were you there when someone you love went to heaven?
Were you there when your parish needed leaders to step up in new ways?
Were you there when your parish opened its doors again?
Were you there when you had to give to the collection in a new way?
Were you there when your pastor courageously tried something new?
Were you there when you had to join a ministry virtually?
Were you there when you had to witness a sacrament – Mass, wedding, baptism – virtually rather than in person?
Were you there when you realized things were different, and we could never go back?
Were you there when the Church was changed forever?

“Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?”

As we look forward to the joy and resurrection of our Lord, I hope it brings you great hope to know that we are seeing a similar resurrection – slowly but surely – across the country. When our Church is thriving for generations to come and emerges stronger from this challenge, I think you might hear people say:

Were you there when the Church made this turning point?
Were you there when the Church re-opened brighter than before?

To all of the program alumni, donors, friends, staff, program participants, and anyone who has ever even prayed for Catholic Leadership Institute and the leaders we serve:

YOU WERE THERE. Thank you.

I wish you and your loved ones a blessed and beautiful Easter; you will be in my prayers of gratitude for being there for our Church and our faith.

by Tim Flanagan

April 01, 2021

Discerning Insights About Leadership

Our CEO Daniel Cellucci's weekly email, the DIAL: Discerning Insights About Leadership.

View all
Emboldening Our Clergy

CLI serves Church leaders, helping them rediscover their potential and forming them to be more intentional with those they serve.

View all
Igniting Our Parishes

CLI helps empower and energize Catholic leaders by providing focus and courage to engage the culture with an apostolic mindset.

View all
Forging Our Future

CLI provides vision and hope about the future of the Church with a humble, yet strategic approach.

View all

Browse past updates and insights.

View all