A Note from our Pastor

A Note from our Pastor



My dear family of St. Matthew!

It’s called the Latino Leadership Initiative.  It’s a blessing and an honor that has been given to our Diocese of Joliet, and we are further honored to have on this 24-person leadership team one of our very own parishioners, Laura Vargas, and also yours truly, chosen to be a part of this one-year initiative.

First, as you know, I like to give a little background!  This is quite amazing news that our Apostolic Administrator Bishop Pates announced a few weeks ago.  Leadership Roundtable launched the Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative with support from a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. (an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J. K. Lilly and his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr.) through its Thriving in Ministry initiative.  With Thriving in Ministry, Lilly Endowment is encouraging various religious organizations across the nation to create or strengthen programs that help pastoral leaders build relationships with experienced colleagues and guide them through key leadership challenges in parish ministry.

Leadership Roundtable selected the Diocese of Joliet following a nationwide search for a diocesan partner to launch the Initiative:  to train the first group of 24 Hispanic leaders/trainees — 16 to 18 lay leaders and six to eight clergy — in a year-long leadership education process, which will be partly in person and partly online, to foster excellence and best practices in management, planning, finance and human resource development of the Catholic Church in the U.S.  Leadership Roundtable will work closely with the diocese and its Hispanic Ethnic Ministries Office to begin training this first cohort of 24 Hispanic/Latino Catholic leaders in January 2021.

Our Bishop Pates recently gathered this 24-person cohort to our Cathedral in Joliet for an evening of prayer and blessing on September 15th.  At the beginning of this amazing opportunity, Bishop Pates blessed this endeavor to empower Latinos/as with the necessary skills to respond and assume leadership in a multicultural church, as envisioned by the Fifth Nation-wide Encuentro (Encounter) process concluded a couple of years ago.  My goal is to share everything we learn in this extensive training with all the people who dedicate their time and talents to serve the people of God.

Why is this such a blessing of great importance?  First, of all the 196 dioceses across the whole United States, our Diocese of Joliet applied and was chosen because of its demonstrated commitment to listening to members of its Hispanic/Latino community and working collaboratively to foster leadership that recognizes and represents the community in decision-making structures.

“We appreciate that even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Diocese of Joliet saw the powerful impact that this Initiative will have for Hispanic/Latino Leaders,” said Andrea Blanco, program manager of the Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative. “We were delighted with the quality and thoughtfulness of their application and their commitment to ongoing leadership development for Hispanic/Latino leaders in the Diocese.”  The Public Religion Research Institute reported in 2017 that more than a third of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic. Among Catholics under 30, Hispanics make up the majority. According to Blanco, many parishes do not have staff who speak Spanish.  The needs and concerns of Latino Catholic leaders include faith formation in Spanish, family ministry, funds for education, and immigration reform.

Here in Joliet, the Latino population has grown as Chicago’s cost of living has risen, Elisabeth Román, diocesan director of Hispanic and ethnic ministries, said.  The Diocese of Joliet presently serves 616,000 parishioners in 118 parishes and 7 missions across DuPage, Will, Kendall, Grundy, Kankakee, Ford and Iroquois counties in Illinois.  About 40% of these 616,000 Catholics in the diocese are Hispanic or Latino, but that percentage is not reflected among the diocese’s leadership.

Leadership Roundtable’s Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative aims to increase access to critical leadership development and pastoral management training, coaching, peer support, and pastoral mentors utilizing Leadership Roundtable’s proven integrated leadership development solutions, including Catholic leadership 360 and Toolbox for Pastoral management.  The Initiative both seeks to positively impact Hispanic/Latino leaders and to promote a new culture of co-responsible leadership to better serve the Catholic Church in the United States.

Newly appointed to the Diocese of Joliet, Bishop Ronald A. Hicks noted that: “Leadership Roundtable believes it is critical that Catholic parishes and Dioceses support Latino(a) pastoral leaders to thrive in their vocations and, thus, support the well-being of the parishioners they serve.  We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with Leadership Roundtable to provide this important formation.”  For more information about Leadership Roundtable and the Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative, visit https://leadershiproundtable.org/latino-pastoral-leaders-initiative/.

Blessings of shalom and joy and good health for all, especially our dear young people who seek the good things that lead to lasting happiness and meaning!

In the living, loving, giving, and caring Hearts of Jesus and Mary and Joseph,

Fr. Gregor