Train New Catholic Leaders

Robert P. George answers Gregorian Fellows' questions. Robert P. George answers Gregorian Fellows’ questions.

We are presenting daily suggestions on how to promote Catholic identity in public life. Today: Train the young.

Yesterday, I wrote about the education the Great Books institute I attended gave me in college. Another thing the institute gave me was a career.

When I left college, I went to Washington, D.C., and discovered a network of alumni from my institute and schools like it. Without them, I don’t know that I ever would have found a job. Through them, I was able to become press secretary for the pro-life Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee, Bill Archer.

I next went to work in Catholic media, where the network of alumni from my school was mighty indeed.

At one point when I was editor at the National Catholic Register and my wife and I were editors of Faith & Family magazine, a classmate of ours was editor of Our Sunday Visitor (he still is), and another classmate was editor of Catholic World Report. Another was (and is) editor of the Catholic Key in Kansas City, another was the English translator of Pope Benedict XVI’s first book, and yet another was a popular Catholic author, columnist and speaker (Mary Beth Bonacci).

The program we graduated from gave us the tools we needed to be leaders: It gave us confidence by showing us the truth, the humility to see that God’s plan is infinitely better than ours, and a passion that our faith could solve the world’s problems.

Our Gregorian Fellows program hopes to do the same thing.

Students qualify for a Gregorian Fellowship by excelling in academics and leadership and by writing an essay. Once in the program, they study the enduring wisdom of the great thinkers, and learn firsthand how to translate that wisdom into effective action. They each receive a stipend for educational activities.

The Fellows learn presentation skills from experts, get writing tips from professional writers and meet with national Catholic leaders to learn how to live their Catholic identity in public life. This year, those meetings included a late-night jam session with Princeton Dr. Robert George, a frank talk on the stresses of leadership with Afghanistan strategist Gen. Sean MacFarland and an inspiring meeting with FOCUS founder Curtis Martin, a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

Dean of Students Dr. Joe Wurtz, former Dean of Students at Christendom College, leads the program, with help from Dr. Susan Traffas, a pro-life leader who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. In the fall, we add a second 25-member cohort of Gregorian Fellows in this young program.

The program is already showing how powerful its combination of enduring Catholic truths and contemporary leadership can be. One Gregorian Fellow is spearheading a new Chastity Team on campus, with others serving as speakers. Another completed an extensive research project comparing the the right to life  in World War II Germany with its place in contemporary America. Another Gregorian Fellow is interested in politics and working for the mayor of a major U.S. city.

The Gregorian Mentor students who lead the program should give you hope in the future of the Church:

Drew Marsh converted to the Catholic faith (and brought friends with him) after taking an Introduction to Theology class. He will spend time working as a missionary this summer then will start work with PriceWaterhouseCoopers. He sees the Gregorian Fellows as an “intellectual community of motivated students, top-quality Benedictine faculty and leading intellectuals from around the country.”

Brandon Boesch triple-majored in Philosophy, Biology and Spanish at Benedictine — and composed music and delivered a lecture on “The Role of Contemporary Literature in the New Evangelization” in his spare time. In the fall, he starts post-graduate work at the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the University of South Carolina. His leadership advice: “People are generally pretty competent. Give them the opportunity to show their competency.”

Kristen Rosser, a senior Finance major with a minor in Accounting, went to Honduras last spring with Benedictine’s Thomas Hoenig Student International Business Council (SIBC) last Spring.  She led a project that partnered with the non-profit Water with Blessings to obtain filters and deliver clean water filters to Hondurans.  Her team led prayer reflections and offered encouragement for small groups of women attending the training sessions. “God will never give you more than you can handle,” said Kristen. “If God believes in me, then so must I believe in myself.”

The future of the Church depends on our ability to equip young people who can be leaders of integrity, courage and effectiveness. One day, we hope the next generation of Catholic leaders will look back and marvel at the blessings their undergraduate training gave them.

Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is honored to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report, the best private college in Kansas by The Wall Street Journal, and one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. Benedictine College is dedicated to transforming culture in America through its mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.