Glendale Heights pastor and parishioner completed national Hispanic leadership training


A pastor and parishioner from Glendale Heights recently completed the inaugural class of a groundbreaking Hispanic leadership program developed by a national Catholic nonprofit based in Washington, DC and overseen by the Diocese of Joliet.

Bishop Ron Hicks of the Diocese of Joliet congratulated Father Gregor Gorsic of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, parishioner Laura Vargas and the 14 other graduates for “growing in wisdom” at a mass celebrated in Spanish.

Leadership Roundtable, a nonprofit organization focused on best practices for the Catholic Church, developed the Latino Pastoral Leaders Initiative in recognition of the untapped resource of the Hispanic community.

Michael Brough, Leadership Roundtable partner, praised the students for their diligence. “You are the pioneers,” said Brough.

As the Hispanic ministry coordinator at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church, Vargas said she now felt more secure when speaking with Anglos, which is key to her future purpose.

“I not only want to work with my community, but also to work outside of my community by evangelizing others,” said Vargas.

About 40% of all Hispanics in the United States are Catholic, according to a 2018 study conducted by V Encuentro, the Hispanic outreach arm of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This percentage is reflected in the diocese of Joliet and in the parish of Saint-Matthieu, according to Gorsic.

Gorsic said he had spent nearly 25 years as a priest in Hispanic ministry and hopes the program can bridge the gap between diocesan and parish efforts.

“It gives a wider connection as a diocesan family,” he said.

The journey of Gorsich, Vargas and their classmates was not without challenges.

When the Diocese’s Hispanic and Ethnic Ministry Office competed and won against the country’s Catholic dioceses for the opportunity to serve as the first class of the new program, the country was grappling with the first months of the coronavirus pandemic.

Participants received a blessing from then-Diocesan Apostolic Administrator Bishop Richard Pates in September 2020 as they wore masks and were seated at least six feet from each other in St. Raymond Nonnatus Cathedral from Joliet. Plans for in-person classes starting in January 2021 quickly shifted to online learning.

The Leadership Roundtable students and staff persevered, meeting regularly through Zoom for courses that included a comprehensive personal assessment and best practices on issues such as finance, operations, legal compliance, ethics. , stewardship and advocacy on local ordinances or national and federal legislation.

Leadership Roundtable is expanding the program to the Diocese of St. Augustine in Florida and will soon announce a third site.

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