Diocese of St. Augustine Selected for Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative
June 16, 2021 • Savanna Kearney

The Diocese of St. Augustine has been chosen to partner with Leadership Roundtable for the second cohort of the organization’s Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative.

Leadership Roundtable is an organization that partners with Catholic leaders to provide resources to promote best practices and accountability in the management, finances, communications and human resources development of the Catholic Church in the United States. The organization, thanks to a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., recently launched the Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative to positively impact Hispanic and Latino leaders and promote a new culture of co-responsible leadership to better serve the Catholic Church in the United States.

Through its Thriving in Ministry initiative, 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. Lilly Endowment has provided nearly $70 million in grants to 78 organizations through Thriving in Ministry.

“In our work at Leadership Roundtable, we’ve found that the major issues facing pastoral leaders are even more pronounced for Hispanic/Latino leaders,” said Andrea Blanco, program manager of the Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative. “And while about 36 percent of U.S. Catholics identify as Latino, only around three percent of pastors and one in 10 lay leaders are Hispanic/Latino. There is a great need for the Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative across the U.S. to equip these leaders for their ministerial roles.”

After a nationwide search for partners, the Diocese of St. Augustine was only the second partner to be chosen for this initiative, after the Diocese of Joliet, Ill.

(From left, back row) The 24 members of the diocesan cohort for Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative include Sister Isabel Fejervary, Marina Alonso de Gallo, Father Cesar Torres-Pinzon, Daniel Cobreiro, Father Carlos Lopera, Father Jhon Guarnizo, Johny Lopez, Clara Sowers, Father Gil Hernandez, (from left, front row) Betzaida Velez, Linda Herrera, Enrique Ventura, Teresa Catalán, Bishop Felipe Estévez, Sister Maricela de Jesus Gomez, Ana Mariá Aguirre, Victoria Peñaranda and Alba Orozco. (photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Woody Huband)

“We are excited to work with the Diocese of St. Augustine in large part because of the strong local support, efforts, commitment, and leadership of the Hispanic/Latino leaders here in the diocese and the ongoing accompaniment of Bishop Estévez of these leaders,” said Blanco.

Twenty-four local Hispanic/Latino leaders, both clergy, religious and laypeople, were chosen to be members of the diocesan cohort. On Saturday, June 12, the cohort convened for the first time for an introduction and sending-forth ceremony with Bishop Felipe Estévez and national representatives from Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative.

“Leadership Roundtable is one of the best organizations of the church in the United States,” said Bishop Estévez. The fact that Roundtable is having this outreach to the Hispanic/Latino Catholic community is such a blessing. And the fact that the Diocese of St. Augustine has been chosen for this project is a magnificent contribution to our pastoral care.”

From now until March of next year, the Diocese of St. Augustine cohort will meet regularly for both in-person and virtual sessions. The leadership training involves a variety of resources and programs, including Catholic Leadership 360, Toolbox for Pastoral Management, Peer Group Coaching Sessions and Catholic Standards for Excellence.

For more information about Leadership Roundtable and the Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative, visit https://leadershiproundtable.org/latino-pastoral-leaders-initiative.