by Amy Rodriguez, TLI Graduate Class of 2021

This speech was  given by Amy Rodriguez, President of the Tepeyac Leadership Initiative West Class of 2021, at the graduation ceremony for the 2021 TLI West cohort.

Good evening brothers and sisters in Christ, my fellow TLI graduates. It has been a blessing and a pleasure to come to know you all through the course of our program. Thank you for journeying with me as we discover what it means to be authentic Catholic leaders. As disciples of Christ, God has given us a unique mission, to further the kingdom of heaven on earth and to make Jesus known and loved around the world. Our world is in such need of truth and hope, and I know that God wants to use each one of us to be a light to the nations.

A perfect example of discipleship is none other than Our Lady. Immediately after her accepting to being the mother of the Son of God, she sets out in haste to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. After Jesus was conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary wasted no time in bringing Him to others. The first to recognize Jesus was John the Baptist, who was still a child in Elizabeth’s womb. He leapt for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice. Encounter with Christ is a great reason for joy, and Our Lady brings Him to us! May we follow the example of Our Lady in our leadership, never hesitating to bring Christ into the world. May all that we do stem from this encounter with Him. May He be our anchor, our firm stronghold, our lighthouse amidst turbulent skies. Let us be like Our Lady and radiate Christ.

You see, it is in true encounter with Jesus that every aspect of our lives is transformed for the better. Any leadership endeavor without Christ, will be found lacking. Any human plan, devised without the guidance of the Holy Spirit will be fruitless. Rather, if we hold fast to Christ, we will bear much fruit. As Our Lord says in John chapter 15, “Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” How true these words are! Without Christ we can do nothing. Let us not be like withered branches that have been plucked from their vine. Jesus didn’t come into this world to leave us to wither. Rather, He assures us, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b)

Perhaps, you might be wondering, “How do I remain on the vine?”, “How can I have this abundant life?” “Where can I have an encounter with Jesus?”  Our Lord, Himself, tells us in John chapter 6,

Amen, Amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. (John 6:53-55)

Here we find our answer – the place of encounter is the reception of the Eucharist into our bodies and hearts. The place of encounter is adoration of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. God, Himself, has given us His beating, living heart as food for our journey here on earth. Let us cherish this gift and truly be a Eucharistic people, centering our lives around the Bread from Heaven. Let us treasure the jewels of our Faith. I encourage you to hold fast to the sacraments, to frequent confession, to attending daily Mass, to pray the daily family Rosary, to pray with scripture, and to adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It is through these treasures that we receive our strength and power to change the world for good. Of course, not through our own power, but through the power of Christ within us.

Let us make God the center of our day and our lives. We will need the strength He provides because life in this world can be difficult. Jesus never said life would be easy, in fact He said, “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” (Matt 5:11-12) Yes, we know there will be trials and difficulties as disciples of Jesus, perhaps some of us have experienced them, but never be afraid to be a light in the dark. We were not made for this world, but rather for eternal happiness in the next. Remember, sufferings endured for the sake of Christ in this life will merit great reward in heaven!

I would like to leave you with the saying of St. Junipero Serra, “Siempre Adelante!”, “Always Forward!” You see my friends, there is much hope for this world. That hope is Jesus, made manifest in you. Let us go forward with confidence, being Christ bearers in the world. To my TLI Los Angeles 2021 cohort, I look forward to all the ways in which Our Father, God, will use you to touch hearts and further His kingdom here on earth.

Thank you for your time and may the peace of Christ be with you and your families.

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