Forming leaders

“Our current culture is secularized, infected with immanentism and relativism. Such a mindset is the hallmark of the culture of our times and of those who today shape opinion or are considered the drivers of culture. It is a matter of culture and therefore a matter of leadership, i.e.: of those who hold the reins of society in their hands. We have before us a society that no longer evinces personalities of Christian and markedly Catholic cultural depth. At the same time, we know that the faith cannot be pushed back merely to the private level. If today’s society is to be Christianized, it needs people capable of assuming responsibility for the society of tomorrow, and who are formed in schools and universities. It needs priests, consecrated people, and committed lay people, all well formed. It needs apostles for the new evangelization.” – Cardinal Velasio De Paolis, October 19, 2010

Nothing seems to create more discomfort among critics of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi than our methodology of “working with leaders.”  Frankly, explaining the concept sometimes seems to be difficult for our own members.

Perhaps that is because many people confuse the process of working with leaders with the end goal.  As Cardinal De Paolis says, we need apostles for the new evangelization.  We need those apostles to Christianize society.  Thus, the Legion and Regnum Christi aim to form apostles, working with leaders from all walks of life who can help the evangelizing efforts of the whole Church

Frankly, there isn’t anything sinister or terribly original about the concept.  Successful organizations, including the Church, have been doing it since a carpenter’s son recruited 12 apostles and set out to save the world.  That’s right; Christi enlisted local men, formed them in leadership and the faith then launched them into apostolic action.

We see the wisdom of working with leaders all the time in our parishes.  In my parish, we have an annual gala to raise money for our school.  Our pastor, one very holy priest, always asks a leader in the parish to head the gala – someone with strong organizational skills who is hard-working and knows lots of people who can help.  He makes sure it is someone with strong faith because it is a difficult job.

During Lent, the Ladies Guild has a soup night to raise money for charitable causes.  They pull together the leading cooks in the parish to create really special soups and the event draws large and hungry crowds.

If our parish needs to raise money for a repair or special project, our pastor first approaches people who are financially successful.  He knows that if he gets financial leaders on board, they will convince others and the project will be adequately funded.

If you want to get something done, a powerful way to start is to enlist the help of people who are influential and will bring resources (including other people) to the table.  In other words, it makes sense to work with leaders.

Is this the only way to serve the new evangelization?  No, there are many ways.  And there are many religious orders, ecclesial movements, lay organizations and organizational structures in the Church.

But in the case of the Legion and Regnum Christi, we work with leaders and we form apostles.  And we’re thankful that other groups do the myriad things they do to serve the Church.  In their work, they also must – to some degree – enlist people who are leaders in whatever aspects of service they choose to engage. 

Most groups – including the Legion — will need to find benefactors who can fund their work.  And if someone of financial means becomes an apostle there is much he can accomplish.

Still, it is important to remember that being wealthy is very different from being a leader.  There are some leaders with virtually no personal economic resources – and there are some wealthy people who are totally devoid of leadership.

In the case of Regnum Christ, our handbook makes it absolutely clear that we are a way to live Christian life within the Church and we are open to everyone:

47  Regnum Christi is open to all Catholic faithful without exception, men and women, youth and adults, of whatever state of life and social condition.  God uses a great variety of means and avenues to invite those he wants, offering them the Movement as a resource and a way to live Christian life within the Church, and thus contribute to the sanctification of the world and fulfill the vocation for which he has chosen us in Christ before the creation of the world, so that we might be holy and spotless through love, and be imitators of God. – Regnum Christi Handbook, page 38

Have we always lived up to the ideal as stated in the handbook?  Undoubtedly, we have not.  In our drive to get numbers and results, we have sometimes focused too much on the pursuit of those who can help the most financially, or are, perhaps, the most attractive or popular.

Today, we realize we need the help of leaders of all manner and that apostles come from all walks of life.  As Christ told his disciples in the Gospel of Mark: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”

About Jim Fair

Jim Fair is a writer and consultant. He lives in the Chicago area and has a wonderful wife, son and daughter. He enjoys fishing and occasionally catches something. He tries to play the piano and sings a little. In addition to writing for Regnum Christi Live, he blogs at Laughing Catholic. And you can follow him on Twitter: Jim Fair (@fishfair).
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6 Responses to Forming leaders

  1. Francois M-D says:

    I agree with you Jim. As you certainly know, that technique is called the two-step flow in public relations and marketing. No need to say it is widely used, which is probably why people are often think it’s unethical to use it. But public relations and marketing are not unethical per se. Campains aimed at convincing smokers that smoking is bad are not unethical although they use persuasion techniques. chrsit asked us to spread his words and one way to do it is to tal to the leaders so that they can help us convincing a larger public.

  2. LNG says:

    Although your explanation sounds reasonable, in truth, the process of identifying leaders is far from scientific and, when working with youth, has a certain peril. It takes wisdom and experience and love to see the potential in an awkward adolescent. Over the years I have watched with sorrow as young priests, brothers and consecrated repeatedly separate out a few kids to be “leaders” with little sense and absolutely no concern for how this leaves the unselected kids feeling. Whatever “working with leaders” is intended to convey, the reality is a foolish and ungenerous way to work with youth. Young leaders actually self-select very efficiently, and I find my job as an educator is to fill out the ranks of these leaders by continually urging more kids to find and express their inner strengths and talents. What a huge mistake with youth to write anyone off as “not a leader” even if it is only by omission.

  3. Jim Fair says:

    Like I said, we have not always lived up to our own ideals. But we’re working on it. Everyone can be a leader and be a positive influence on those around them.

  4. Woody Jones says:

    Cardinal De Paolis is a serious man who really “gets it” about the state of Western society, the need for the Faith to remain in the public square, and the need for well-formed apostles. We are so very fortunate to have him as our Apostolic Delegate.

  5. Francois M-D says:

    @LNG I agree that working with youth means working with very sensitive egos in an environment that is emotionnaly charged. I think the best we can do is to foster an environment that allows the emergence of leadership. We then have to help young people identifying their strenghts, that is the fields where their respective leadership will blossom and whenever we think we have found a «diamond» (it’s business lingo for the happy fews who may eventually become leaders at large), it is our duty to provide them with continuous guidance.

  6. Viviane says:

    The “Leadership” methodology that Regnum Christi uses with adults is different in many ways from that of youths. When RC trains adults to be leaders they may focus first on those with obvious leadership qualities to multiply the result not to exclude anyone from being a leader. When it comes to youth groups as in Conquest Boys Clubs and Challenge Girls Clubs, every youth is being trained to be a leader, no exception. Ultimately, the goal is to train everyone, adults and youths, called to this vocation to become a leader, an apostle and in turn they will help others to be leaders in the faith. At least that’s how I understood it and experienced it both as a Regnum Christi member and as a Girls Club president.

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