The second graduation class for the Tepeyac Leadership Initiative included 30 young adult Catholics. They graduated June 27 at Mount Claret Retreat Center. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

A two-year program created to develop Catholic leaders within the professional world is expanding beyond the Diocese of Phoenix in a move that reflects the success and popularity of the still relatively young initiative.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted celebrates a graduation Mass for the Tepeyac Leadership Initiative June 27 at Mount Claret Retreat Center. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

Leaders of the program, now known as Tepeyac Leadership, Inc., announced during their graduation dinner and awards presentation June 27 at Mount Claret Retreat Center in Phoenix that TLI will launch this year in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“This was one of my dreams for a long time; that we would have training and real leadership being built on being good professionals being a person of virtue and a person of faith,” said Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted at a reception following a Mass at the retreat center prior to the dinner. “We are already seeing it having a big impact in our own diocese, and now the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has invited us to help them begin the same thing there. That’s really wonderful.”

This year, 30 individuals working in fields including religion, education, business, health care and public service completed the five-month program, which teaches students Church teachings and Biblical principles for growing in their faith while allowing it to influence their professional and personal lives.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, a parishioner at St. Mary in Chandler, delivered the keynote address at the Tepeyac Leadership Initiative graduation dinner June 27 at Mount Claret Retreat Center. “It is time for us to be intentional about how we answer the call of Jesus and the vocation we live out,” he told graduates. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

TLI coordinator Cristofer Pereyra said it is too early to gauge the expected turnout for the Los Angeles effort, but he sees this as just the potential beginning of branching into other dioceses.

“It’s a great way to start — it’s the largest archdiocese in the United States,” he said. “It will put us on the national stage [and] make it much easier to go into any other diocese.”

A longtime vision of Bishop Olmsted, TLI was launched as Tepeyac Leadership Initiative in the Diocese of Phoenix in 2017, with the first class graduating the following year. Participants gain practical knowledge through the training as well as develop bonds with fellow classmates that help encourage them to grow and share their faith.

“The idea is by planting seeds through lay Catholic leadership, we are creating a more fertile ground for the Church to do what it does,” said Pereyra. “These people are not going out into the streets with a Bible. They are going to make the world a lot friendlier to the Gospel so the Church can continue its mission.”

Alan Sears, founder of Alliance Defending Freedom, received the inaugural “St. Juan Diego Leadership” award from Tepeyac Leadership, Inc., at a dinner at Mount Claret Retreat Center June 27. (Billy Hardiman/CATHOLIC SUN)

“It was a fantastic experience, very special for me,” said graduate St. Thomas the Apostle parishioner Bill Fathauer, who has worked four years in government relations for the Arizona Deparment of Transportation. Not only has he gained a better understanding of his faith, but he’s been encouraged and inspired to live in the professional world as a Catholic, including being instilled with the truth that a loving God sees everyone — regardless of his or her opinion — as His creation.

“Working in politics, it’s very easy to view other people who have disagreements more like an enemy. It really opened my eyes,” he said. “I think it will make me better at my job because … I’m going to go [into a meeting] with an understanding of who they are; not this arbitrary person just existing.”

St. Augustine parishioner Cecilia Lavallade, who has worked in the Diocese of Phoenix Finance Office for three years, said TLI left her more grounded in her faith and more comfortable discussing it with those outside the workplace.

“(Since) I work in the diocese, it’s a way to open conversation. When asked what I do and where I work, it’s the perfect opportunity to share my faith and explain it,” said Lavallade, adding that TLI has “given me the tools [and] introduced me to a network of other Catholic leaders who inspire me to continue growing.”

Graduates were urged by keynote speaker, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, to be faithful to their call as Catholics regardless of the profession where God has placed them.

“It is time for us to be intentional about how we answer the call of Jesus and the vocation we live out,” said Montgomery, who attends St. Mary Parish in Chandler.