Strong Foundations for Pastoral Leaders Program

June 17-21, 2019

The Strong Foundations for Pastoral Leaders Program offers focused support for young lay leaders who have recently begun their professional service in the Church. The program addresses the unique challenges that face young ministers and provides them with the resources, guidance and support they need to thrive and find sustainable success in their ministry.

The program consists of two one-week conferences held during consecutive summers at the University of Notre Dame. During the week, participants receive professional and pastoral development, financial and career planning, and personal and relational support. Participants also meet with a mentor-minister dedicated to support, challenge and accompany them for the duration of the program and for at least two years after the program's completion.

The typical cohort consists of fifteen young lay leaders who have already completed formal training for ministry in the Church and who are still in the first few years of their ministry. This program, fully funded and underwritten by the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame with the support of a generous grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., provides lodging and meals on campus during the week-long conference. 

Featured Speakers

  • Most Rev. José H. Gomez

    Most Rev. José H. Gomez

    In addition to serving as the Archbishop of Los Angeles, Most Rev. José Gomez currently serves a three-year term as Vice President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a post he assumed in November 2016. He has played a leading role in the Catholic Church’s efforts to promote immigration reform, and also serves as a papal appointee to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

  • Christina Lamas

    Christina Lamas

    Christina’s current role reflects more than twenty years of experience in catechesis and youth ministry, including work for the Office of Religious Education for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Christina made her way into the field of Youth Ministry after ten years of volunteering at her home parish, where she was drawn to empower young people to find ways to actively live out their faith and to continue to grow in their relationship with Christ in their daily living.

  • Colleen Moore

    Colleen Moore

    Colleen serves as the Director of Formation for the McGrath Institute for Church Life, and the program director for Echo, a two-year graduate service learning program that partners with dioceses across the country. A native of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Moore received both her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies, a Catholic Great Books Program, and Theology and her Master of Divinity degree from the University of Notre Dame.

  • Mike Patin

    Mike Patin

    Since 1984, Mike has worked in ministry settings: first as a high school teacher and coach, then in diocesan ministry for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, and since 2003 as a full time speaker and self-described “faith horticulturist.” Though he currently resides in Lafayette, LA, his speaking engagements with groups of all sizes have brought him to over 130 dioceses in the U.S. and Canada.

  • Brian Reynolds

    Brian Reynolds

    Besides his work as a diocesan administrator, Brian has served as a consultant, trainer and author in church ministry for almost 40 years, working with more than 100 Catholic dioceses in the United States, Canada and Ireland. He has been married to his wife, Catherine, for 38 years and they have two young adult children.

Full List of Speakers

Katherine Angulo

Program Director of the Thriving in Ministry Initiative at the McGrath Institute for Church Life
Katherine’s substantial experience in youth ministry prepared her for her current work with the Thriving in Ministry Initiative, which works to prepare pastoral leaders for long-term ministry in the Church and also directs the Bishop John M. D'Arcy Program in Priestly Renewal. Though she currently resides in Granger, Katherine was born in Mexico and raised in Columbia, and frequently visits family in Knoxville, Tennessee and Bogota.

John Cavadini

Director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life
Since 2000, John has served as the Director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life at Notre Dame, inaugurating programs like the Echo program in catechetical leadership and the Notre Dame Vision program for high school students A renowned theologian and teacher, John is the recipient of the 2018 Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities' Monika K. Hellwig Award for outstanding contributions to Catholic intellectual life.

Brian Dean

Director of Finance and Operations for the McGrath Institute for Church Life
Brian holds a B.A. in Government from the University of Notre Dame and an M.S. in Management from the Naval Postgraduate School. Before coming to Indiana, he served 11 years on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, flying the CH-46 helicopter in the Persian Gulf and Somalia.

Leonard DeLorenzo

Director of Undergraduate Studies at the McGrath Institute for Church Life
In addition to writing books, articles, and essays, Lenny speaks regularly in academic and pastoral settings on the saints, biblical catechesis, vocation and discernment, and the theological imagination, among other topics. Originally from Nutley, New Jersey but raised in Southern California, he now lives with his wife, Lisa, and their six children in South Bend, Indiana.

Claire Kilbane

Senior Learning Designer for the McGrath Institute for Church Life
Since joining the McGrath Institute for Church Life in 2018, Clare has contributed her expertise in educational design and digital learning to extend the impact of the Institute’s many educational initiatives. Originally from central Ohio, where she grew up as the fourth of eight children, Claire now lives in South Bend with her husband, daughter, and her Glen of Imaal Terriers.

M.J. Murray Vachon, LCSW

Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Marriage and Family Therapist
​​​​​​​M.J. Murry Vachon previously worked at CANCO, Midwest Family Resource (Chicago), and Healthworks!, currently uses her 33 years of experience in private practice. MJ has given over 600 workshops and was named Social Worker of the Year for Region 2 in 2011, and now lives in Mishawaka with her husband Dominic and is the mother of two adult children.

Tim O'Malley

​​​​​​​Director of Education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life, Academic Director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, Editor for the Church Life Journal
In addition to his work with the McGrath Institute for Church Life, Tim also researches and teaches at Notre Dame in the areas of liturgical-sacramental theology, marriage and family, catechesis, and spirituality. He is the founding editor of Church Life Journal, the online publication of the McGrath Institute for Church Life.

Brett Robinson 

​​​​​​​Director of Communications and Catholic media studies at the McGrath Institute for Church Life
Brett oversees outreach efforts for the Institute while conducting research at the intersection of religion, technology and culture. He studied marketing and English at the University of Notre Dame and received his Ph.D. in Mass Communication from the University of Georgia, and his essays on technology and culture have been featured in Wired Magazine, CNN, the LA Times and Catholic News Service.

Darius Villalobos 

​​​​​​​Director of Multicultural Ministry for the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry
Darius previously held the position of coordinator of Youth and Young Adult Ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and uses his experiences both in ministry and of growing up in the culturally and racially diverse city of Chicago to shape his current work. He currently resides in Chicago with his wife Lissette, and is pursuing graduate studies at the Catholic Theological Union.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Katherine Angulo, Program Director, Thriving in Ministry Initiative, McGrath Institute for Church Life, at or 574.631.1192.