This was the speech given by Luke Kircher, President of the Tepeyac Leadership Initiative Class of 2020 in Arizona, at the graduation ceremony for the 2020 TLI cohort in Arizona.

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In the tradition of TLI, I’d like to start how we begin all TLI gatherings – with our opening prayer…

“O Mother, strengthen the faith of our brothers and sisters in the laity, so that in every field of social, professional, cultural, and political life they may act in accordance with the truth and the law brought by your Son to mankind.”

The Holy Spirit works through each of us. When we permit Him to lead, the work achieved is truly His. In our final class last night, the reading was from St. Josemaria who stated, “Let us not turn away from our duty to live our whole life – to the last drop – in the service of God and His church.” He further reiterates that, “I know full well that a life of service is man’s noblest calling.” Throughout my spiritual journey, I have believed service to the Church is a non-negotiable and permits the sanctification of our lives. Like many of you, my service started early. In 2nd grade I began as an altar server and continued through church ministries, to serve as an usher with my dad, and then an EM [Eucharistic Minister]. During college I helped teach RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults], and now support our Men’s Ministry as well as my wife and I help with Marriage Prep. I also served for 6 years on the Board of Directors for a crisis pregnancy organization and loved it.

I knew that the truth was in the Catholic Church. I’m sure I’m not the only one to experience this, in such a secular world—I began to feel terribly lonely. Many of my childhood, high school and college friends left the church so I began to search for my “tribe” of fellow Catholic peers. I knew they were out there and spread across each of our local parishes but there was no Facebook group or easy way to find them. And so, I set out to find more of my adult peers and couples who held similar values to my wife and I. Specifically, I was looking for those with similar values, convictions, and willingness to be courageous leaders for our families and our Church.

I would like to fast forward to my introduction to TLI. During my interview for admission into the program with Steve Green and Deacon Doug Bogart, one of the questions they posed was, “How was I expecting to benefit from being involved in TLI?” My paraphrased response was, “I hope to find my ‘tribe’ and reinvigorate my spirituality to prepare for what God calls us to do next.” I continued to share with them. “But what I am most excited for is the potential for what Christ can do with this group.” After being accepted to the program, what quickly became apparent from our first class, is that this is an incredible mix of dedicated, spiritually led professionals who have these shared values and represent many segments of our community from non-profit, professional services, finance, legal, health care, and social services.

Two weeks ago, I was discussing with a very good friend of mine about this COVID world, ripe with uncertainty, fear, and stress. Compound those feelings with a cry of police abuse and racial inequality. The litany of issues we face today is shaping a future that challenges our fundamental values and beliefs. I believe we are facing a “paradigm shock” in this culture war we face. If we do not engage, not only are we complicit in the outcomes but it will be much more challenging to shift the tide in the future. There is hope. In a “paradigm shock”, and this is what we need to be mindful of, everyone starts from zero. Everything that we used to know is being challenged and what was normal is gone. What has changed and could be revolutionary, is that our Bishop and the leadership of TLI recognized that our communities and secular society are starved for a sense of authentic and virtuous leadership at every level, so they began a journey to address it.

I pause to ask—what could be accomplished by the Holy Spirit, Bishop Olmsted and this graduating TLI class? Can we be the leaders in the community who will provide witness to those who feel lost or forgotten? Yes!

Now, more than ever, during this paradigm shock, we are being called to be leaders who permit the Holy Spirit to work through us to further the mission of Christ. Our commitment today is to Christ, our Catholic church, our Bishop, our fellow brothers and sisters, and to each other in TLI with whom we have shared this journey. Today, let us commit ourselves to go forth to make our world a better place. May God bless this work. Thank you Bishop Olmsted, the TLI leadership and Board, each of our mentors, and our presenters for all you have done to support and prepare us.

As the Patron Saint of TLI – St. Juan Diego, pray for us.

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Speech by Luke Kircher, TLI Class of 2020 (AZ)