The Catholic vision for leading like Jesus stresses that Jesus-like, selfless S3 leadership inspires great loyalty to mission. In contrast, self-serving leaders inevitably, if inadvertently, encourage their followers to mimic their self-serving behaviors — and then no one is looking after the mission.

Jesus’ patient but persistent and visionary leadership helped his apostles grow from naïve, often bumbling and less than loyal followers to people who were willing to give their lives to serve the mission he gave them — to make disciples of all nations.

And the power of that leadership is still apparent, 100 generations later, in a report from the Vatican news agency Fides, which has reported that at least 26 Catholic pastoral workers gave up their lives in 2011 in mission lands or among society’s most disadvantaged communities.

Fides said that most were victims of violent crimes rather than explicit persecution for their faith. However, they would not have been in harm’s way were it not for their faith convictions and their willingness to serve Jesus’ Great Commission. The list of those who died included 18 priests, four religious women and four laypeople.

Twenty-five church workers were killed in 2010, and 37 were killed in 2009.

Among the 2011 victims, 13 priests and two laypeople were killed in the Americas: seven in Colombia, five in Mexico and one each in Brazil, Paraguay and Nicaragua. Six pastoral workers were killed in Africa, four in Asia and one in Europe. 

Fides, which is the news agency of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said “many were killed in an attempted robbery or kidnapping that ended badly, caught in their homes by bandits in search of imaginary riches. Others were killed in the name of Christ by those opposing love with hatred, hope with despair, dialogue with violent opposition (and) the right to perpetrate abuse.” 

In either event, Fides noted, in their commitment to serve the needs of others, the church workers made their own safety their last priority.

We hope and pray that no one has to lose their lives for the sake of Jesus’ mission this year. But we gratefully acknowledge these sacrifices for the sake of his mission -- and we remind one another of how they teach us about the enduring power of Jesus-like leadership.

PASSION TO SHARE – Bob De Lorenzo leads a Catholic Encounter for 51 fellow parishioners and visitor at St. Joseph Parish in Kennewick, WA. on March 31. 

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