Inspiring the Next Generation of Catholic Leaders

An Interview with Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is the executive director of the relatively new Benedict Leadership Institute at Belmont Abbey College. He also serves as the CEO of TAN Books/Saint Benedict Press. You can read some more about Mr. Gallagher in the transcript of this June 2017 interview by Brian Fraga of Legatus.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Mr. Gallagher some questions about the mission of the Benedict Leadership Institute, and his responses appear below. I thank Mr. Gallagher for his time in the midst of his busy schedule, between his family (he is likewise married, but with twelve kids [my wife and I have “only” four]) and various ministerial and apostolic endeavors.

1) Please briefly describe your faith journey. How do you strive to live your faith in Jesus Christ from day to day?

It has taken a while, but now I know that God has called me not to be a thoroughbred, but a pack mule. I’m a husband of one and father of twelve. I run TAN and Saint Benedict Press as best I can. My “faith journey” is nothing more than the process of figuring out that God is the one really in charge. I just need to put my head down in prayer and hard work, and he’ll take care of the rest.

2) Please tell us about the mission of the Benedict Leadership Institute.

The mission of the Institute is really that of Belmont Abbey College: to help develop great Catholic leaders. We need nurses, engineers, lawyers… but more than anything, we need leaders. We live in dark hours. And leaders shine bright, providing vision and hope. At the Institute, we develop leaders by introducing students to current leaders. This is the greatest way to inspire the next generation.

 

3) Why is there such a significant need for initiatives such as the BLI when it comes to forming the next generation of Catholic leaders?

I think prior generations saw leaders more up close and personal. Now, however, young people are “formed” by the media, Netflix, and Facebook. More than ever before, we have to proactively show students what true leadership is. We need to give them a very tangible example of faithful, successful Catholic leaders.

4) The Church faces many social challenges in the midst of the modern culture, including defending the sanctity of all human life, promoting chastity, preserving a traditional understanding of marriage, supporting the family, speaking up for immigrants, those living in poverty, or otherwise potentially marginalized, and so forth. How does the BLI help to prepare its leaders to address these and various other issues in the twenty-first century world?

Think about the difference in reading about war and speaking with a former P.O.W. There is no comparison. Textbooks are great. The classroom is great. But nothing impacts you as much as a personal connection with someone. At the Institute, we put our students right in front of real men and women who battle all the cultural issues you mention. These men and women are on the front lines. We have a duty to introduce our students to the greatest men and women of the day, so that they can one day take their place in the culture war.

5) What is your favorite scriptural passage, and why?

John 3:30, “He must increase; I must decrease.” As a leader myself, I must always remember that Christ must increase, and I must decrease. Otherwise, leadership is vanity and a quick path to damnation.

6) What signs are there for hope for the future of the Church?

I see lots of hope. Here is a list that quickly comes to mind:

  • Priestly vocations in more faithful and traditional dioceses are booming.
  • Religious houses for women are also booming.
  • Homeschooling is increasing, and homeschoolers are growing up and making their mark on society.
  • Belmont Abbey College is one of the fastest growing Catholic colleges in the country.

***

On March 22, Leonard Leo – head of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy and a seasoned champion of religious liberty and the sacredness of all human life – received the BLI’s “Benedict Leadership Award,” extended to only one prominent Catholic leaders annually. Supreme Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus won the award in 2017. The Benedict Leadership Institute has as its patron Saint Benedict.

image: By Gryffindor [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Justin McClain

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Justin, his wife Bernadette, and their children live in Bowie, Maryland. Justin has taught theology and Spanish at Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, since 2006. He has degrees from the University of Maryland - College Park, the Universidad de Salamanca (Spain), and Staffordshire University (England), and he has studied philosophy and theology at Seton Hall University, the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the University of Notre Dame's Satellite Theological Education Program. Justin has written for Ave Maria Press, Aleteia, EpicPew, Our Sunday Visitor, Catholic365, Church Life, and various other publications. He is on Twitter (@McClainJustin).

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