Ecumenical leadership initiative for millennials

Tim Byron SJ (L) and Michael Leonard
Tim Byron SJ (L) and Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard, the executive director of Launching Leaders, spoke today about how the course’s interfaith approach has enabled millennials all around the world to experience a unique synergy with one another. The interfaith version of Launching Leaders had its global pilot last year at Manchester Universities Catholic Chaplaincy. The course helps young people find fulfilment through applying proven principles and spirituality to their everyday lives. This version of the course was developed in partnership with Professor Brian Grim and Fr Tim Byron SJ and is now being adapted and developed to be run in a variety of countries such as Lebanon, South Korea, Ghana, and Australia.  Professor Brian travels globally to connect interfaith initiatives with business people through his foundation.

Launching Leaders is described by Michael as being a ‘Personal Development and Leadership Course, powered by faith’.  Millennials, young people born between 1981 and 1997, share a powerful online curriculum which deals with issues such as identifying your core values, making a plan for life, finding a mentor, not living a double life and establishing financial fitness.  The curriculum was developed by a group of faith-driven entrepreneurs from America, originating in the Mormon tradition it has now been adapted for inter-faith context, with Catholics, Mormons and Muslims taking part in Manchester.

Reflecting on this unusual relationship between Catholics and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Michael said, ‘Catholics are our biggest friends and allies, we are very well aligned on moral issues and co-operate with Catholic charities on a lot of things.’ Recently the Church gave $1.25million to Catholic charities in US working with refugees.  An entrepreneur himself, Michael had set up a recycling business in Chicago, turning glass bottles into fibre glass insulation.  Connecting young faith leaders with such business mentors has proven to be a powerful element of the course. “It is about finding God in the details of your life,’ Michael commented, with obvious echoes in Ignatian Spirituality. Maybe it is not such a surprise to find out that it was the Belgian Jesuit explorer, Fr Pierre-Jean de Smet SJ, who directed the first generation of Mormons to settle in Salt Lake City.