Forming Catholic Leaders for the Modern World: The Mission of the Leadership Interns Program

The Catholic Studies Leadership Interns program has been undergoing some successful development in the last two years. The program seeks to equip and train future Catholic leaders through seminars, hands-on leadership experience, and interaction with civic and Church leaders. Now in its 10th year, the program has taken on new leadership and continues to develop more effective methods of forming capable and intentional Catholic leaders among students today.

Part of the Habiger Institute, the two-year program is for juniors and seniors who already exhibit leadership capabilities and are interested in receiving intensive and cohesive formation on what it means to be a true Catholic leader. The interns participate in weekly meetings, community building activities in organizations across campus in which they help lead, prayer and student-run events open to the entire university. Grounded in faith and virtue, students learn to use their personal qualities, talents and professional proficiencies for building up the kingdom of God.

During fall semester, using the True Leadership manual, interns explore what it means to be a Catholic leader, starting with the understanding that a leader is someone a person is, rather than simply what a person does. They then spend the semester considering five essential foundations of such leadership: conviction, character, vocation, gifts and skills.

The spring semester focuses on applying these foundations to leadership as it pertains to business and education during the first year, and with social action in the Church the second year. In addition to learning theory on leadership principles, the interns also meet Catholic leaders in these sectors who are living out those principles through their vocations and careers.

Each year begins with a vision retreat, which provides the interns with an overview of the program and time to meet one another and grow as a community. The interns also are able to explain the mission of the various groups they lead on campus and foster collaboration.

The year concludes with a spring institute – a weeklong trip after graduation that is infused with daily prayer, including Mass, and involves visits to the professional sites of Catholic leaders, who discuss the joys and challenges of their work. During the institute, the interns see and experience how leadership foundations are applied in diverse fields. Consequently, they get a chance to probe the blessings and difficulties Catholic leaders deal with amidst the realities of working in secular environments with modern work expectations. The institute has been an invaluable opportunity for our students and has helped in further developing relationships with Catholic leaders outside of the Twin Cities.

Held in Chicago and at the University of Notre Dame, last year’s institute focused on business and education. The interns met inspiring Catholic professionals in a variety of occupations: a homicide detective, a county judge, an owner of a large equity firm, an Emmy award-winning radio personality, a CEO dealing with medical benefits, as well as successful academics experienced in navigating secular trends. In and through these interactions the interns witnessed the many ways we are all called to help sanctify our world and serve the Church through our professions.

The interns will travel to Denver this spring to focus on charity and poverty in the Church by working with Christ in the City, a nonprofit Catholic charity that serves the homeless. The mission of the organization is to assist its “friends on the street” by providing food and helping them acquire jobs and housing, and also by building authentic personal relationships. Christ in the City missionaries spend hours talking to and praying with their homeless friends in hopes of allaying the deeper spiritual poverty that often prevails: loneliness.

In addition to serving with Christ in the City, the interns also will have a chance to meet people involved in other charities, including the Augustine Institute, Catholic Charities, Centro San Juan Diego and many others.

The institute opens the eyes of the interns not only to the possibilities of dedicating themselves full time to mission work but also to the obligation of every professional and vocation to devote some dimension of their time and resources to the underprivileged. As the interns receive the great call to leadership in the fields of business, education and charity work, they are inspired to leave St. Thomas with a newfound understanding of their roles as Catholic leaders in the world.

The Habiger Institute for Catholic Leadership announces a new publication:

To find out more or to order a copy of True Leadership, visit the Habiger Institute website.