By Tony Gutiérrez
The Catholic Sun
[dropcap]D[/dropcap]on’t call Candelario “Cande” de Leon a fundraiser. The newly appointed executive director of the Phoenix Diocese’s Office of Mission Advancement says he is a part of the evangelization effort of the Church.
“When people walk through our church doors, we need to be ready to welcome them, engage them and share our faith,” said de Leon. “I don’t see my role as a fundraiser or a developer. I see my role as evangelization, giving people an opportunity to be a part of the mission.”
A native of Corpus Christi, Texas, de Leon will begin his duties on May 2. The Office of Mission Advancement was established this year to broaden the scope of stewardship.
“While stewardship is still an important component, the component of Christian discipleship and formation will permeate the different aspects of Mission Advancement,” said Fr. Greg Schlarb, diocesan vicar of stewardship. “As a diocese, we advance in how we are to meet the needs of the people. The mission always begins with Christ.”
Fr. Schlarb knew de Leon previously through their involvement with the International Catholic Stewardship Council, and said he looks forward to working with him.
But de Leon wasn’t always so enthusiastic about his faith. As a teen, he started to drift away. While serving in the U.S. Marine Corps he met Rosemary, his future wife, a Southern Baptist. She insisted that he start going to church, so they would visit Baptist and Catholic churches. Rosemary fell in love with the Catholic faith and converted.
“Still I hadn’t had any conversion experience yet. She really led our family in terms of faith,” he said.
One Sunday while she was getting ready for Mass, he asked what she was doing and she responded, “I’m doing your job — I’m taking our family to church!”
“That hit me,” he said. Shortly after this incident, he began taking his family to church and eventually opened the Bible his wife had given him years before for the first time and read Proverbs.
“I had this thirst for the Word of God,” he said. “I told my wife I feel God’s telling me to evangelize. I didn’t even know what the Catechism of the Catholic Church was, but I wanted to go deeper in my faith and learn more about it.”
Cande has been married to Rosemary for 19 years and has four daughters. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, and is currently pursuing his master’s degree in business administration there. He also earned a master’s degree in theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.
At the time, he also had a consulting business advising small businesses in financial management, marketing and strategic planning. Through his business, he began to advise Catholic parishes, schools and small businesses. While doing this, his pastor encouraged him to apply for a position with the Diocese of Corpus Christi working in stewardship.
“It was fulfilling to take the business experience I had and apply that in the parishes and eventually to the diocese,” he said.
He recently was recognized as one of Corpus Christi’s “40 Under 40” and has many accolades recognized by the International Catholic Stewardship Council.
On taking charge of the new Office of Mission Advancement, de Leon said when he saw the title, he thought, “they get it.”
“It’s this idea of advancing the Gospel and doing that through their time, their talent, their treasure, all the gifts God’s given them,” he said. “For a me, this position is an opportunity to bring people to Jesus. When you give, you’re taking a part of you, and giving it up for someone else. I’m very grateful for the Diocese of Phoenix for giving me this opportunity.”