2020 Cohort

We would like to share some of their commitment to leading within their family, parish, community, and in business.

2020 Cohort2021-02-01T23:18:32+00:00

Michael Sayegh

During these times, I feel our Catholic leadership is vital in Proclaiming the good news and truth about the Catholic faith and the importance of the sacraments. Being led by the Holy Spirit we are called to engage with our community and to Bring healing hope and justice to those who have open ears. TLI has utilized great tools and speakers especially in connecting like-minded Catholics. Our strength lies in our support, teamwork and knowledge. I plan to be involved where my presence can help. This means I’m carrying my Catholic Faith everywhere I go from work, school, social media to smallest encounters, Random acts of kindness, charity etc. Thank you TLI for being such a blessing and such a great support group.

Luis Sanchis

I commit to helping establish or support a mental health organization that will advocate, facilitate, and provide affordable services in Southern California. These resources will be specialized in connecting Catholics with mental health professionals that provide services within the context of human dignity as understood in the Catholic Magisterium.

Isabel Sanchez

In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, people who described their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26% in the United States, up from 17% in 2009. And for every one convert to Catholicism, there are six who switch to another religion. My leadership commitment is to strengthen my formation by asking the tough questions. It’s when these doubts are left unanswered, that the roof starts caving in. I have joined the Word on Fire Institute. I commit to becoming an effective evangelist to transform our present culture.

Bryan Ruiz

My Jesuit education provided me with the tools to think conscientiously, be driven by integrity, bold and courageous in my convictions, and to always be compassionate. I commit to upholding these standards so that my future decisions are firmly rooted in positively impacting the world. TLI has educated me on the value of virtuous leadership as a lay Catholic professional and how to best apply that to the Church and secular society. I will actively seek out board service opportunities with the goal of establishing scholarship funds for Catholic education. I will also donate my time to mentor Latino youth in Los Angeles. In the future, I hope to serve my community through local politics.

Jose Rodriguez

Here is my Leadership Commitment. Because I care as a Financial & Health Insurance Advocate, Vice-President of Amor x Teco Foundation, Board Member of Pico Rivera Chamber of Commerce, Board Member of the Organization for the Physically Impaired and Blind, Founder and CEO of Optimized Financial and Insurance Services; I commit to be a Catholic Advocate, Leader, Moral, Ethical and Holistic Financial Educator Becoming a Trusting Loving and Giving Servant in all my current and future Leadership roles. Today I choose to live my TLI Resurrection.

Catherine Rivadeneyra

Today, in society, many young women have lost their true identity, self-esteem, and value as women of God. I feel passionate about helping women find their true beauty which I believe is within their hearts. Saint John Paul II left us the Theology of the Body, and I genuinely believe that if every woman learns about it, this can change their lives. As a catholic woman, I want to help women in my community to take care of their souls, their minds, and their bodies. We need women that do not feel ashamed of talking about God, of following his path and letting Him guide their lives.

Stephanie Rebollar

I have a desire to continue building the Catholic church through Catholic education. My commitment is to volunteer my time and talents towards schools and organizations that provide children the opportunity and support to attend a Catholic school. Catholic schools’ foster opportunities for students to know and strengthen their relationship with God, develop their academic knowledge, build community, and promote growth in virtue. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6)

Jesse Ramirez

Here’s my leadership commitment. I will do the following in no particular order: Start a nonprofit which A) educates others on how to lobby their elected officials. B) educates the Hispanic American population on the importance of not being considered a captured group under any political party as the case may be in California, so they can learn to be Catholics first, and choose according to their conscience. C) Help the needy in accessing government resources.

Christopher Plance

After reflecting on my experience in the TLI, my leadership commitment will be to become the program facilitator for TLI Los Angeles in 2021. I look forward to teaming up with TLI to advance lay leaders in the world. Along with the mission of TLI, I’m also passionate about seeing the Gospel advanced in the city of Los Angeles. Thus, this leadership commitment provides me with the opportunity to apply my skills and experience to the much larger mission of the sanctification of this wonderful city in which we live. I have no doubt in my mind that TLI is being used by God to advance the Church’s mission in the world. And I’m excited that I can play a small part in seeing that done here in Los Angeles.

Ariana Perfecto

President Thomas Jefferson stated, “kno[w]ledge is power…kno[w]ledge is safety, and… kno[w]ledge is happiness.” As a Catholic leader and firm believer in this truth, I commit to creating opportunities for others to gain knowledge so that they are empowered in their lives. Through the non-profit I founded this year, Forward, Countrymen, I will develop educational programs to inform the community, as well as opportunities to directly participate in local governance. As an attorney, I will write for legal journals, such as the California Trusts & Estates Quarterly, which recently published my article on the estate planning needs of Latino immigrants. I will work with advocacy groups, like the Patients’ Rights Action Fund – an organization I presented for on the ethical implications of the California End of Life Option Act.

Debby Ortega

Being a public-school teacher has many challenges and rewarding experiences. One challenge in particular that I have seen in my teaching career is the lack of social emotional training, which teachers require in order to work with children. I strongly believe that in order to teach a child we must first capture their heart with God’s love. The only way we can do that is by forming a strong nurturing environment for children. My mission is to advocate for social emotional programs in schools, be part of a social emotional organization for children and start a program at my school.

Stephanie Morales

I discovered the Theology of the Body teachings of Pope John Paul II in my adult life but so desperately wished I learned them earlier in my teens. There is a great need in my Hispanic community for youth to understand their identity in the modern world and the gift of self. With the help of Revelation and of the Church, I will be attending courses at the Theology of the Body Institute and initiate my leadership commitment to develop a Theology of the Body for Youth (TOBY) program in my parish. Partnering with experienced guest speakers to present these topics and igniting courage to the students to explore the purpose of their existence through themes of freedom, truth, gift, communion, dignity, and love. Discovering how we can make ourselves more in the pure image of our Creator.

Austin McElrath

For my leadership commitment I have elected to start an endowment for student scholarships at Servite High School, where I attended, and the roots of our faith took hold. I am currently sponsoring a rising senior, along with several of my classmates, and together we will ensure that this young man graduates, regardless of the financial situation facing his family. Furthermore, I will also work to endow a scholarship for the Tepeyac Leadership Initiative and to direct future participants to the program within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Orange.

Alexander Leparulo

For my leadership commitment, I would like to start a “Bible smuggling” program that ships and expedites Bibles to countries that are the fastest growing in human population. With the exception of the United States, I would want to send Bibles to rapidly growing nations such as India, China, Nigeria, Indonesia, and Pakistan. By 2050, these nations are predicted to have the highest exponential growth. This will help the mission of Christ’s Church by supplying people in those areas with a Bible of their own to read and study, preferably in their native language.

Sindy Hernandez

First, I would like to thank God for the gift of faith. My commitment is to serve him and those around me, for his glory. My long-term goal is to open a retreat center where people’s lives will be transformed through the power of prayer and personal testimonies. I experienced this four years ago. Since then, Jesus has restored my life from the pain of abortion, abuse, rape, and a broken heart. He has given me a voice and the courage to speak on behalf of those who suffer in silence. To be a leader in a broken world I have to be willing to be vulnerable with the vulnerable. I want to open the Grace Retreat Center to help those in need.

Brenda Lorena Garcia

Having been blessed with a career in the Hollywood Film Industry, it is commonly understood that there’s a lack of community. Generally speaking, there isn’t enough camaraderie as it is, but this is especially true within Catholics in Entertainment. I will develop an organization with the potential of it expanding to an active production company called “Theotokos Productions,” named after the Great Mother of God, having her as our Patroness. I chose her because there is a great need for the gift of Feminine Genius in our culture.

Alex Emanuel

Consumer media’s approach to the Christian faith today is largely either one of scorn and derision in popular film and television or bland and blithe promotion in niche productions. I want to produce content that treats our faith as a serious, reasoned, and natural part of human existence; I must learn to better develop and finance mainstream projects so that in the future I might influence their production or spearhead my own. Therefore, I commit to working in content development while pursuing an MBA, so that I might gain the knowledge and network to bring some change to popular entertainment.

Melody Cruz

TLI has exposed me to ways lay Catholics can make meaningful impacts in the modern world by answering the call of evangelization. By opening my ears to listen better, my eyes to recognize Jesus around me, my mouth to speak the truth confidently with courage, and my heart to empathize with others, I hope to bring others closer to Christ by my example of living the faith. Therefore, I commit to developing a stronger prayer life and deeper understanding of our faith, which in turn will guide me as I continue to discern the path God has chosen for me.

Jonalyn Bridgeman

After finishing TLI, I am more committed to sharing more of my Time, Talent, and Treasure in my community back in the Philippines and anywhere else I am needed. It was an opportunity for me to validate and affirm that the teachings, values, and culture that I gained in my formation years with the guidance of my family, and my exposure in our diverse Catholic church, were all aligned. My leadership commitment is to pursue the formation of our youth through J-Dator Institute. I will help to provide better education with the right formation that is guided by the doctrine of our church. This is my lifetime commitment to making a difference in making my life blessed by blessing others.

Kathryn Bodenhamer

My leadership commitment is to use the creative arts to lead those lost out of darkness, to deepen their relationship with God, and to help them see their unique Goodness and Beauty in Light of God’s Truth. I will write screenplays encouraging others to ponder their spiritual existence and commit to starting a production company dedicated to creating such projects. I will also share my religious artwork centered around revealing God’s Grace and Glory. I will complete the UNBOUND Prayer training, which focuses on helping others find healing and deliverance. Last, I hope to enter discernment to become a Third Order Dominican.

Denise Barajas

I am passionate about changing the culture from mediocrity and passive feelings to action, greatness and freedom in truth. I want our generation to understand how morals and ethics do not contradict the change we all wish to see, but rather enhance our humanity in every facet of life. I am committing to writing for TLI’s blog and enhance TLI’s online presence. I am also committing to writing a mini-series on natural law and our culture. I will seek out to serve on various boards whose mission, in some way, include faith and professional life with high integrity and magnanimity.

Raquel Arce-Benitez

The TLI experience has touched me in very profound ways. The program has invited me to use my faculties as a leader to live a more intentional witness to Christ in my professional career and aspire to live a magnanimous life.  I will strive for professionalism and high standards to become a reputable and influential professional. I commit to develop a religious after school program for kids who are unable to attend Catholic school and need a safe place to be when not at home. 

Ricardo Anguiano

Participating in TLI has helped me to enrich my faith and grow in a deeper relationship with God. In addition, it has helped me strengthen the catholic foundations necessary to face any challenges in the professional field. For my leadership commitment, I intend to join the “Ahead Leadership Program” at Tilden Study Center as a mentor or speaker to contribute to the personal development of young men in High School. I will also be joining the “Napa Legal Institute” initiative, providing my business and finance knowledge at the service of the organization in its projects. Thanks to the TLI team for giving us the opportunity to be closer to God via this program.

Cesar Verduzco

My commitment is based on my faith and participation in Tepeyac Leadership Initiative program. I’m taking action to launch myself as a political candidate based on my Catholic Values. First, I will run for a seat at a School Board to learn and gain experience. Then, I will enroll in the new American leadership program for new candidates seeking a higher office. Once finished, I will prepare the path to seek an office in the city as a city council. All this will give me the foundation to become a state representative. What comes next I put it in the hands of God.

Eileen Sullivan

I plan to reach out to other Catholic Professionals in Flagstaff and create awareness of the new TLI Online platform, soon available nationwide. As a lawyer, I am committed to representing indigent defendants with dignity and respect. I am committed to seeking justice in the cases that I am appointed. I am committed to always remembering Pope Francis’s words, “There is a need in every case for the assistance of God, who is the source of all reason and justice.” I am committed to serving as a Catechist at San Francisco de Asis, my new parish. Pope John Paul II said about catechists “The Church needs you. She needs you in order to be able to accomplish her absolutely fundamental task of forming Christ in the hearts of people, of putting people in intimate communion with Christ.” I believe my feminine genius calls me to serve in this capacity.

Jorge Sandoval

TLI has re-ignited my desire to do great things for Our Lord and Our Lady. As an executive, educator and evangelizer, I can positively impact thousands of youth in South Phoenix. I commit myself to form virtuous young leaders through educational and evangelization programs. They will be inspired to live a life of the seven virtues, collaborate on service projects for those in need, and produce good fruits in their families and communities. I will be a strong pillar for Mary Town/ESPIRITU and continue the legacy of Reyes Maria Ruiz. All for Jesus through Mary in union with St. Joseph!

Mariana Rodriguez

Pope Francis said, “Being a Christian entails promoting the dignity of our brothers and sisters, fighting for it, living for it.” Through the grace of God, I am committed to support catholic based organizations that strive to affirm the dignity and rights of migrants. I plan on donating and volunteering with these organizations, as well as advocating for just policies. Lastly, I intend to practice the virtue of courage to carry out my commitment through adversity and fear. I will keep my heart open to God’s will for me.

Shelly Potter

I am passionate about my vocation as a health care provider and I desire to contribute to the common good through my profession as a Catholic Physical Therapist. My current mission is to serve those aging in Arizona through leadership and advocacy. I will do this through involvement in the American Physical Therapy Association, specifically with the Arizona chapter of Board Certified Geriatric Clinical Specialists. I will contribute to the local community through participation in health screening events for the elderly focusing on prevention of chronic disease and falls. In addition, I commit to involvement with the Phoenix Catholic Medical Association. I hope, through ongoing networking with like-minded, Catholic health professionals, I will continue growing spiritually and professionally.

Gerardo Peña

I deeply care about the sanctity of life and dignity of the human person. I desire to lead a prolife focused non-profit organization and share my acquired leadership abilities, knowledge and passion for the underserved and underprivileged. This year I will request a meeting with Bishop Olmstead and offer to serve on a diocesan committee or board in my need to develop stronger community and diocesan connections and increase networking opportunities. This will support me to successfully reach my eventual goal of executive leadership.

Refugio Payan

The Tepeyac Leadership Initiative program has awakened my desire to personally grow in my Faith, my relationship with God and Parish engagement. It has inspired me to become a Virtuous Leader. As a graduate of the TLI 2020 Cohort I will commit to help promote and grow the Catholic Faith within the Families I serve by creating a virtual networking group that will help them grow spiritually and bring awareness to honor their human dignity and support their well-being. I will also Volunteer to support the Catholic Charities mission in helping and advocating for Immigrant and Refugee families.

Elizabeth Moore

The rights of preborn children are THE social justice issue of our day. So much evil comes out of banishing their humanity from the mind of society. The innocence of children is also preyed upon in our schools through inappropriate and harmful sex education, which research shows leads to earlier sexual activity and increased abortion rates. I pledge to defend the rights of the innocent through pursuing volunteer and board service opportunities for nonprofits with this same aim. TLI has also placed the desire in my heart to serve in public office and I am beginning conversations with professionals who can help me discern the right path forward.

Fernando Marquez

Participating in TLI has opened my eyes to the number of youth that lose interest and move away from our Catholic faith, especially when they leave their family. My TLI leadership commitment is to have a stronger prayer life and better understanding of our faith, to ultimately become a mentor to youth. I commit to working with our youth by taking a more active role in my parish and joining a board that involves my commitment. 

Elvia Lish

I am blessed to work for St. Vincent de Paul. There I have experienced the true impact of what can occur when a community comes together to help vulnerable populations. Diabetes self-management education programs play an essential role in improving health outcomes in populations in need of health care resources. Yet programs like this are not readily available in the Phoenix area. Today my TLI commitment is to expand our mission to heal and become an advocate in increasing access to diabetes management programs. Thus, promoting dignity and advancing the welfare for every person in our community impacted by diabetes.

Jason Kohl

I have a passion and enthusiasm for networking with like-minded professionals in the business community, who hold their faith and values as the cornerstone of how they conduct themselves in the public square and lead virtuously. My mission is to assist fellow professionals make meaningful relationships and fruitful connections, through network introductions and referrals. I would like to help fuel the momentum and assist with the Tepeyac Leadership Society and personally strive to serve its mission. I will be a contributing member by bringing ideas for fundraising, community involvement, TLI awareness outreach, networking, etc.

Luke Kircher

TLI has provided me fortitude for Christ’s mission and a wonderful group of peers. Four pillars that I have a passion for are; leadership development, education, evangelization, and a strong conviction for the sanctity of life. My strength is the ability to build community. My goal is to introduce others to TLI to help them identify their purpose, strengthen their faith, and develop into virtuous leaders to become witnesses to Christ in our communities. As such, my commitment is to support TLI as a presenter, ambassador, alumni and donor for as long as it provides value to the organization.

Elva Hooker

I am grateful to have joined TLI at this point in my life as a mother, a wife, and a professional. I gained self-knowledge and a focused and re-ignited purpose. As a health care provider that works with the community, I commit to advocating for equitable care for the most vulnerable to chronic diseases. As a TLI graduate, I commit to using the virtues God has given me to empower the people I serve to live healthy lives, as well as those I mentor to uphold human dignity through servant leadership.

Maria Gonzalez

Participating in TLI has broadened my vision on what kind of leader I want to become within my profession. The topics taught in the program have shown me what it is to truly be a virtuous leader in today’s society. It has shaped my views on how a leader should set an example by faith. In gratitude for being able to experience this program, I am committed to taking my leadership role more serious than I have in the past. My profession in the medical field will challenge me, as there will be procedures that I will not partake in. I am committed to following the health directives that the Catholic faith teaches to protect and preserve every human life including life in the womb.

Page Goetz

TLI has provided me with a greater understanding of the virtues and the importance of cultivating them in both the personal and professional life. With the persistent encouragement of St. Teresa of Calcutta, who said that: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family,” and my desire to make a difference, I am excited to make a commitment to loving my family more intentionally. I will also work to develop virtue, knowledge of the Catholic faith, and my talents and gifts to be able to love and serve my community more authentically wherever life leads me. 

Edmundo Garcia Fimbres

I commit to living a meaningful Catholic life and build and share those values around me through living my vocation and the exercise of the virtues at the workplace. I commit to the use of my charisms through service, as member of these lay apostolates: the Holy Family Institute, the Knights of Columbus and our parish marriage preparation program. I further commit to re-arranging my life activities, simplifying and organizing them, to better serve this purpose, with the help of God’s grace, calling the assistance of the Holy Family. In addition, by truly living the liturgical seasons and good traditions of our Catholic faith, developing a culture of work-family balance, I will leave a Legacy on my family and inspire others.

Ana Gama

In the Catholic Social Teaching session, we learned one of the ways to achieve the common good is by ensuring the social well-being and development of our communities. What I’ve learned during my time in the TLI program has encouraged me to take a closer look at what it means to pursue the common good. I feel called to contribute to this effort by serving the youth in my community. My commitment is to volunteer in a non-profit that provides mentorship programs to our youth population, be able to share my experiences and learn from theirs.

Parker Fox

As a state attorney for the Arizona Department of Child Safety, I advocate for the interests of neglected and abused children on a daily basis. From this experience I see the overwhelming need for volunteer foster families. Because Catholic social teaching uniquely positions Catholics to care for the young and disenfranchised, I believe our diocese has the potential to become the gold standard in foster care. My commitment is to coordinate a diocese wide effort to inform Phoenix parishioners of the need for volunteer foster families and to provide parishes with information on how to become a foster family. 

Jose Luis Escobedo

My leadership commitment is to create a supplemental retreat as a capstone to the Exodus 90 program designed for men. The retreat will give participants an understanding of the need to be an active Catholic and what a properly ordered and excellent Catholic life entails. It will be helpful in discerning God’s will for them. This retreat will build on the rigorous formation found in Exodus 90. This will act as a catalyst for Catholic men to begin or continue their call to a virtuous Catholic life. This retreat will also allow me to discern where I will be fulfilling my board service.

Juan Carlos Duran

Like many immigrant families, mine came to the U.S. looking for better economic opportunities. We have been blessed to have started a successful family business, and at the same time, I have been blessed to have had a great business education from some of the top schools in the country. My leadership commitment as part of the TLI class of 2020 is to serve God by helping other Hispanic businesses achieve their potential by providing business advice and helping them make a better life in this country come true.

Monica Diaz

TLI has allowed me to think on a grander scale about the impact I want to have on society. It has shown me what qualities are necessary to become an effective and virtuous leader. Through TLI I have learned to appreciate and become more confident in the skills and opportunities God has blessed me with. My plan is to leverage those skills and opportunities to pursue my Master of Science in Dietetics, then a doctorate degree with an emphasis in diabetes research to be able to better serve God in the Hispanic population in the prevention and management of diabetes.

Alvaro Davila

Supported by the TLI education and community we have gained, I commit to serving both life and the family, two values that are under special attack today. In regard to the defense of life, I will volunteer my research experience to the Scottsdale-based Bioethics Defense Fund. I hope to find ways to apply my current studies in Data Science to the pro-life movement. In regard to the family, I commit to facilitating recurring Consecration to St. Joseph groups for men in the Diocese of Phoenix, yearning to promote his magnanimous example of fatherhood and sacrificial love.

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