Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 22, 1960 when ground was broken for St. Philip Church, East Windsor.
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The political season is upon us. About 20 people announced their candidacy for the office of president of the United States, and by this time next year, the battle for the White House and for many other local, state and federal offices will be raging. What should we look for in the people who present themselves for our consideration as leaders?

Daniel J. Elsener, president of Marian University in Indianapolis, frequently speaks about the three qualities that define true leaders. He says they are: 1) intelligence, 2) experience, and 3) character. Whether we are speaking about health care professionals, educators, business people, church leaders, civic leaders or politicians, these three characteristics must be present if good leadership is desired.

Intelligence is critically important, but it’s not enough. Smart people can fool themselves and deceive others if they don’t balance what they know intellectually with what they have experienced firsthand, and what they believe about the world we live in.

Experience says a lot about a person’s abilities and his or her performance under pressure or in crisis situations. But experience or skill alone isn’t enough for leaders who must guide us through unknown territory. A real leader must be able to “cast vision” and imagine scenarios that are untested. That requires intelligence and a profound sense of what is right and true in challenging circumstances.

Faith grounds leaders in a system of values that go far beyond practical day-to-day experiences and intellectual pursuits. It affirms that there is more to life than what we find on the surface of things. To be women and men of character, leaders must be able to anchor their policies and programs in a set of beliefs that define who they are as human beings.

Elsener says all three characteristics are needed. Without any one of these, the three-legged stool of leadership will collapse under the weight of office. Unless our leaders are smart, skilled and trustworthy, they will be unable to exercise wise leadership when we need it most.

Wisdom is not something we hear much about in political discourse, but it is a powerful indicator of an individual’s capacity to lead, especially in times of crisis. Authentic wisdom is found in the integration of intelligence, experience and faith. Each of these leadership virtues informs the other two, creating a synergy that makes sound judgment possible.

So, we need to ask ourselves during the coming year: “What should wise leaders do about poverty, religious freedom, life issues, immigration, the economy, terrorism and all the cultural issues facing individuals, families and communities today?” Is candidate John Doe or nominee Mary Smith wise enough to deal with complex issues in ways that are prudent and productive? Is he or she capable of offering more than political lip service? Will she or he actually deliver on promises made in front of television cameras after the latest polls and focus groups have been consulted?

Elsener frequently observes that while all three virtues are necessary to make leaders wise, character is the most important of all.

Would you willingly consult a smart, skilled surgeon who regularly lies to patients? Would you do business with a highly successful CEO who fixes prices? Would you entrust your children to a teacher or a coach who drinks or gambles or cheats on his or her spouse? Would you cast your vote for a politician who says one thing to get elected, and then does something very different while in office?

We need leaders who are smart, experienced and trustworthy. We need women and men whose ability to lead flows from, and is reinforced by, their character. Above all, we need our leaders to be agents of change who are “doers of the word, not hearers only who delude themselves” (see James 1:22-25).

During the coming year, let’s pay close attention to the candidates who present themselves as leaders. Let’s ask how smart they are, how much practical experience they have and how solid their character appears to be. It’s true that looks can be deceiving, and politicians are often brilliant show people with dazzling smiles and soothing words. But are they wise enough to be leaders, especially when the going gets rough?

Retired Pope Benedict XVI has written that what distinguished Jesus from every leader ever born is the fact that there was never any disconnect between his words and his actions. What he said was what he did. Always.

Jesus Christ is not running for public office this year, so we have no choice but to select candidates who are less than perfect. Wisdom does not demand perfection, but it does require intelligence, experience and, above all, good character.

This editorial first appeared in the The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. It is distributed by Catholic News Service.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.