by Ben Ranieri, TLI Graduate Class of 2021

This speech was  given by Ben Ranieri, President of the Tepeyac Leadership Initiative East Class of 2021, at the graduation ceremony for the 2021 TLI East cohort.

Greetings to you all – colleagues, instructors and friends. I am honored to be speaking to you today and want to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to Cristofer Pereyra, executive director of the program and also Bret Schazenbach, my mentor, Salvador Valldeparas, and Stella Ritah whose support, dedication, and passion for the faith during TLI was invaluable in the classroom and out, and an inspiration for us to live our lives well and with selfless determination. Also, last but certainly not least, I want to thank my family and especially my dear wife Cate for all of her patience, understanding, and work with the family throughout this program.

I have greatly enjoyed getting to know all of you by sharing this educational experience with you. From the mad scrambles of finding partners during coffee meetings to the eye-opening experiences of learning about the complex and, at times, frightening new questions that are being raised in ethics and morals in today’s healthcare and education industries. The fellowship that we’ve shared has helped inform and strengthen my Catholic faith and invigorated and motivated me to more fully integrate my faith with my professional and personal life. The fellowship of working on one envisioning project with Belinda Mooney and Jesus Gomez has expanded my view of how the faith can be integrated into our daily lives in practical ways and bless even the most rudimentary aspects of our day-to-day jobs in a way that will bless me professionally and spiritually. For those who don’t know, it’s the 7 Principles of Reputation Management that will be incorporated into the TLI Curriculum next year.

In our current day and age, our Catholic faith is increasingly under attack and it is increasingly difficult to live out our faith in our professional lives. The culture in some ways has changed so rapidly that it is giving the Church a run for its money to catch up. In the same way, technology has opened up new moral and ethical questions that have Catholic apologists scrambling to keep up to provide clarity to the faithful. No Industry is spared from the increasing flurry of moral and ethical questions. These are exactly the challenges TLI addresses. The importance of this program in educating, strengthening camaraderie and community among the Catholic faithful in a variety of industries cannot be overemphasized.

It has been said that in order to be successful in many different fields, one must compartmentalize tasks. We try not to bring work home with us after a challenging day. Sometimes, it is easy to compartmentalize our faith under the category of personal life and in an effort to be professional, we unwittingly hide deep and sincere convictions of faith. This mindset is incorrect – our faith is a constant public witness; still, it needs to be professionally and tastefully lived or else be at risk of alienating others.

I was talking with a dear friend of mine the other day who wrestled with what it actually looks like to bring your Catholic faith into the office in a way that is true and genuine, not self-serving or sanctimonious. The counsel I gave was only an echo of what we learned throughout this program. That is, to take time throughout the day to pray, to bring your faith where applicable into conversation, not to be scared of sharing that you are a Catholic, do works of mercy in your personal life and involve yourself in the community, and show signs of your faith on your office/desk. He was scared. Understandably so, as there is so much vitriol and hatred for those of any faith, but most especially of the true faith. We are called to be brave for the Church. The fellowship and education at TLI teaches us how to be brave in small ways so we may one day face the bigger challenges that we will most certainly meet.

Consider this, today we all know of those evils being forced upon us in both our personal and professional lives. I don’t need to outline the perversity that is rampant, not only in our own country but throughout the world. However, we may also see small slivers of hope, truth, beauty, and bravery. For example, the present-day unnamed martyrs in the Middle East and the Catholic ministries that create bastions of sense and goodness for people to rely on. To name a few for the sake of clarity: Catholic Charities, Word on Fire, Legatus, Young Catholic Professionals, Exodus 90, Great Hearts Academy, Gregory the Great Academy, St. Paul Institute, Magis Center, Institute of Catholic Culture, Catholic Information Center, and now Tepeyac Leadership Initiative.

What’s my point? Against the terrible might of the government and massive world-consuming companies what solace may we take in such David vs Goliath movements? Biblically we know David kills Goliath, but in the real-world it often seems that David gets crushed, and Goliath rules – for example, in Nazi Germany, USSR, Mao China, North Korea, and even in the liberal agenda presented in our schools and daily society. Against such might what chance do our gadfly movements offer?

The answer is found in scripture and witnessed in history. A small religion for slaves and the unclean took over the Roman Empire itself, using the same roads created by Alexander the Great to spread the Gospel. The early Christians turned what good they found in society to the purposes of the Lord. Instaurare Omnia in Christo. “To restore all things in Christ.”

It is our job to restore all things in Christ, and in the end, we may only affect the few. However, those few will stand, outlast, and overcome as they always have. In turn, they will become many again. The purpose of TLI is to teach the few to adapt and overcome while remaining stalwart in the Faith and to the dogma and doctrine of the universal Catholic Church. TLI trains the elite to go into the den of the beast and do spiritual battle within through witness and charity. In other words, practicing Love and exemplifying intelligent faith.

We are not done with TLI. TLI sends us out as once our parents did, our Church does, to spread the Gospel. To restore all things in Christ, from the top down. Ite Missa Est. “Go you, the Church, has been sent.” This is our call as Catholics. Now… go! And do, act!

God bless you and keep you all!

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