One of the great privileges that I have had is working in the diocese in various youth programs that are near and dear to my heart. One program that specifically is important to me not only helps young people develop their faith, but also leaves them with very important life skills. The Christian Leadership Institute (CLI) helps young people develop their natural and supernatural selves.
CLI seeks to foster the leadership potential of young men and women and to heighten each young person’s awareness of leadership and ministerial roles and responsibilities in the parish and high school and work settings. CLI daily sessions focus on the art of leadership, communication skills, leadership styles, group dynamics and planning skills. Other sessions explore various aspects of Catholic Christian discipleship, and how that is embodied through prayer and liturgy, moral decision making, sacramental living and service. CLI participants are challenged to use their skills and talents in planning sessions for specific portions of the daily program: morning wake-up, morning and night prayer, meal blessings, daily liturgy and evening socials. Despite this full schedule, there is still time for relaxation and recreation on the grounds Stonehill College in Easton. CLI is a blast. In fact CLI has been rated by graduates as nearly a perfect 10 year after year.
You may feel that you are not ready for leadership. You may feel that you are too young to be an influence in your environments! Nothing could be further from the truth. Young people have such an opportunity to shape and influence their work, school and church communities. CLI seeks to give you the skills to help you accomplish that.
One of my favorite Bible passages we use on CLI is the one in which we hear about Paul who went from town to town sharing the message of Christ with everyone. Before he left each town, however, he always left behind a new teacher, someone whom he had enabled as a minister, an elder who was respected as a leader in the community. But in one town, he could not find such an elder, so he called a young man named Timothy. This young Timothy became the first youth leader of the New Testament. As Paul continued his ministry in other towns, he supported Timothy through letters. Here is part of Paul’s message sent to Timothy, a message that is also sent to us.
“Let no one look down upon you because you are young, but be an example to all in speech and behavior, in love, faithfulness and purity. Devote your attention to the public reading of the scriptures, to teaching and to prayer. Do not neglect the spiritual gifts you possess, which was given to you through the laying on of hands by the elders as a body. Make these matters the most important things in your life, so that your progress may be seen by all. Keep strong in them, with a close watch on yourself and your teaching, for by doing so you will further your own salvation and that of the people who listen to you.”
During CLI, the team shares with the candidates a number of Bible stories in which a young person is called to a role of leadership. Here are a few examples of what they’ve said in the past. Remember David (of David and Goliath fame)? Imagine David’s fear as he came face to face with this strong and powerful warrior, armed only with a slingshot and five stones. Yet, God responded by giving David courage and strength. David slew Goliath, and saved God’s people from certain death at the hands of the Philistines. There was Esther, a young woman, who became King Xerxes’ queen, called by God to plead to the king to save the Israelites from death at the hands of Haman. And there was Jeremiah, called to remind the Israelites of God’s faithfulness to them at the very time of their unfaithfulness to God. Many other young men and women were called by God to share the special message. Among these was a young woman named Mary., called to conceive and bear God’s own Son. And of course there was Jesus Himself: a young Jewish boy who studied and worked and played. He grew in the awareness that He, too, was to spread God’s message that we are good and we are created to love God and one another. All are living examples of what youth can accomplish with God’s help.
Is there any doubt that all young people can be called to be leaders? The 15 adult leaders that conduct the CLI experience believe that each and every young person can develop the skills that are necessary to make a difference in this world. I would encourage all of you, whether a young person, or an adult, to take a look at CLI. CLI will be held on June 27-July 1 at Stonehill College in Easton.
More than 1,000 young people have lived the CLI experience! You are now being called to leadership. Respond!
For more information, please contact Oscar Rivera at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anchor columnist Frank Lucca is a deacon in the diocese of Fall River assigned to St Mary’s Parish in Dartmouth, and a campus minister at UMass Dartmouth. He is married to his wife of nearly 44 years, Kristine, and the father of two daughters and their husbands, and five grandsons (with number six on the way). So blessed!