Published January 26, 2017
ATLANTA—Catholic Charities Atlanta celebrated the graduations of the 41 Catholic men and women of the 2016 Leadership Class at its annual ceremony Jan. 19 at Heritage Sandy Springs. This class marks the sixth year of the Catholic Charities Atlanta program, which has graduated over 240 servant leaders in the archdiocese. The success of the program continues to grow as faithful Catholic leaders look for opportunities to learn servant leadership and incorporate their faith in the workplace.
The 41 members of this year’s leadership class represent 21 different parishes across the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Collectively, they are involved in over 130 community, academic and social volunteer organizations and are members of or lead 60 different parish ministries.
One of the components of the program is that each class member must commit to volunteer or complete a service project on behalf of CCA. This year’s class collectively volunteered over 150 hours of their time to the agency. They helped sort and distribute gifts for the Christmas Connections program. They also provided and served a Thanksgiving meal, delivered food baskets, and collected winter gear for the residents at St. Joseph’s Place, Atlanta. Class members also participated in training for speed interviewing skills and set up an apartment for refugee clients.
Jennifer Daniels, chair of the Leadership Class steering committee, said, “For six years, Catholic Charities Atlanta’s Leadership Class program has been the perfect training ground for class members to learn from other Catholic professionals and community leaders and to practice servant leadership with our clients. Class members collectively raised nearly $100,000, which will directly benefit Catholic Charities Atlanta’s clients in need.” She added, “This year we piloted a new approach for the volunteer component of the leadership program by adding a service action project focused on Veteran Support Services. The model designed and launched by the class project team will allow Catholic Charities Atlanta to serve more veterans and provide access to more resources.”
At the graduation ceremony each year, one class member is asked to speak about his or her experience in being part of the CCA Leadership Class. This year’s speaker, Eric Anderson, spoke to the audience about preparing for one’s own spiritual journey. Anderson said that he had had no expectations about how the program might help him. He compared the class to a person insistently trying to get his attention in a parking lot, tuning out that voice. “You turn around and you see this person holding out their hand and they say, ‘I think you dropped this.’ … You look in their hand and see your car keys.”
He said, “In that moment, you realize that this person found something you didn’t know you needed. You thought your keys were in your pocket or your purse. Now, imagine that same scenario, but this time, in their hand they have the diamond from your engagement ring, given to you by your husband 20 years ago, that belonged to his grandmother. A truly irreplaceable family heirloom. How thankful would you be to someone that helped you in such an unexpected way? That is the type of gratitude I have for the Catholic Charities Leadership Class.”
Over 100 Catholic leaders attended the Catholic Charities Atlanta Leadership Class graduation ceremony, including class members and their guests, program mentors and members of CCA board of directors. Part of the evening’s celebration included an inspirational talk on servant leadership from special keynote speaker, Father Dennis Dorner, chaplain at Our Lady of Mercy High School in Fayetteville. He reminded the audience that “Leadership is not a title; it is an action.”
The evening included the bestowing of several awards. Ryan Johnson, a parishioner at St. Ann Church, Marietta, won the Cindy Nofi Servant Leadership Award, which recognizes the class member who emanates a deep spirituality, is dedicated to helping those less fortunate and has shown a true commitment to the program.
Fellow St. Ann parishioner Dawn Hurlebaus received the Top Volunteer Award, and Elaine Szeto, a parishioner at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, received the Star Student Award.
Each of the class members has been matched with a senior Catholic leader to serve in a continuing nine-month mentorship program. Mentors include influential Catholic leaders in the Atlanta professional community who have made a commitment to be involved in the spiritual and professional lives of these new servant leaders.
For more information about nominating someone for the 2017 Leadership Class or serving as a mentor, contact Julia Bacce Moseley at 404-920-7757 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Nominations for the 2017 class are now being accepted. Visit https://catholiccharitiesatlanta.org/leadership-class/ for nomination forms, mentorship opportunities and sponsorship opportunities.