People often believe that “Catholic leadership” stops at the pulpit, the principal’s office, or the doors of the parish center. Cristofer Pereyra seeks to broaden this perspective

Cristofer Pereyra is the CEO of Tepeyac Leadership, Inc. in Phoenix, Arizona. / Courtesy of TLI

People often believe that “Catholic leadership” stops at the pulpit, the principal’s office, or the doors of the parish center. Cristofer Pereyra seeks to broaden this perspective.

Under Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, Pereyra, a former Univision television reporter, oversaw the Hispanic Mission office for the Diocese of Phoenix.

However, his eyes awoke to a new mission: to teach the Catholic lay faithful how to lead effectively in secular society after participating in a civic leadership training program.

From small towns to big cities across the United States, Pereyra has found that these initiatives produce future leaders.

He found that while they offer helpful advice and fantastic networking opportunities, they also frequently champion a secular agenda that opposes Catholicism.

The Tepeyac Leadership Initiative, which offers a five-month training course exclusively for lay Catholics, was established by him following the Epiphany.

On the initiative’s website, it says participants should be educated “about the essential doctrines of the Church and their practical application to the career world.”

The book “Catholic Leadership for Civil Society: A Practical Guide on Authentic Lay Leadership,” co-authored by Pereyra and Erin Monnin, summarizes the main ideas of the initiative.

The introduction was written by Archbishop of Los Angeles José Gómez.

Pereyra recently spoke with CNA about the book and her belief that all Catholics are called to lead.

Here are some of the highlights of the discussion:

The Tepeyac book and leadership program were both launched for what?

Showing lay Catholics what it means to be a leader in civil society is what we have been trying to do for six years. Moreover, we invited them to understand that this is simply no longer an option.

In order to influence people for Christ and draw us closer to Christ, our true calling is to strive to become powerful leaders in society.

This is especially for professionals, those to whom God has given a professional career and a university education. My company’s program, Tepeyac Leadershiphallmark, is the leadership initiative.

We try to form and transform the attitudes of lay Catholics during our five-month, 18-week program.

Then we send them out with a very specific mindset and mission: to integrate into the secular institutions of society.

What prompted you to want to change the Catholic leadership?

I was the director of the Hispanic Mission office when I served Bishop Olmsted. I participated in a local lay civic leadership development program in Phoenix, Arizona, at the invitation of a diocesan official.

My eyes were opened to the world and the realities of civic leadership development in the United States as a result of this experience.

As I learned, it is present in each of the major American metropolises. They placed and propelled people into local leadership positions in their neighborhood. Therefore, their goals include politics, philanthropy, and service.

Thanks to this plan, the majority of our civil servants in the United States receive their departure. Because I often stood alone as the only conservative or religious voice in the room during sessions and discussions, I struggled throughout the program.

Most of these programs, which are spread across the country, produce leaders whose ideals are in direct opposition to Catholic teaching.

I said to the bishop, “I don’t think it’s a bad idea. It is an admirable idea. Who could oppose the training of leaders? Simply said, the way they do it is incorrect. I think we can do it more efficiently.

Tepeyac Leadership was founded using a model drawn from the secular world.

We chose the name St. Juan Diego for this project purely out of inspiration (who had an encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary on a hill of that name.)

We wanted to ask St. Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe to pray for the future of the program, and they did it incredibly well.

What is the specific purpose?

For us, board service is the pinnacle of leadership for Catholic and civil society leaders (on the board of directors of a company or other organization). Where are the Catholics when important decisions are made? is the question we ask ourselves.

Catholics, if any, have neither the knowledge nor the confidence to defend the truth.

Therefore, the ultimate goal of our organization is to get organized, to be ready to deploy, and to inspire devout Catholics to seek seats at those tables where decisions are made.

These are the kinds of choices that affect culture. Simply put, we just want to help make the right decisions that will advance the common good and that are inspired by our Catholic faith.

We need to be well informed and seated around the table to achieve this.

Is the program only available for senior executives?

The term “consulting service” now has a broader definition. We are undoubtedly referring to actual boards of directors, including those of governance, advisory, fundraising, not-for-profit, for-profit, paid, and unpaid organizations.

On such advice, we most certainly want to see more Catholics. However, we are expanding the definition.

Plus, we talk about the homeowners association, teachers union, local school board, and your neighborhood municipality.

In the end, we just need more educated and dedicated Catholics in all the places where decisions are made.

What did Jesus say about becoming a leader?

I don’t know if the term “leadership” itself is included in the (Gospels). When Jesus tells us to be without blemish as his Father is perfect, for example, he is telling us what kind of leaders we need to develop.

What exactly is Jesus saying? Since we are only human, we will never be perfect.

It encourages us to strive to be the best versions of ourselves every day.

Be diligent in developing all the virtues that Christ exemplified. We will work toward perfection, just as God the Father is, if we make a lifelong commitment to developing our character by adding virtues to it daily.

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