Leadership for a Pandemic 

Apostolic linkage and unity are foundational tenets of those who validly occupy ecclesial leadership. Scriptures teach that a divine mandate to propagate Jesus' project was extended to the apostles.[1] Pope Pius XII (1943) in his encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi (The Mystical Body of Christ) said,


          The Church becomes the society of those baptized, and who profess the faith of Christ, and who            are governed by their bishops under the visible head, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome.


The Roman bishop acting as the successor of St Peter serves as the Grand Chief and custodian of sacramental praxis. P. Turner (2006), in his work entitled, Confirmation; The Baby in Solomon's Court, explored this component of apostolic leadership, exposing spiritualists to other hermeneutics circulating throughout Christianity. In paying attention to the Orthodox and Protestant-Anglican branches of Christianity, he suggested that leadership could benefit most from reflection. The scholar tackled chronic religious disagreements, that even past pandemics seemed unable to mobilize. Will COVID-19 finally be the social calamity that delivers collaborative and servant leadership across both secular and religious divides?


The experiences of Saints Peter and Paul, two of Christianity's most influential leaders, illustrates a tri-lateral model that connects sacraments and ministry to Christ. St. Paul was a religious zealot who underwent spiritual conversion and then assumed a ministerial approach. In contrast, Peter's relationship began in ministry and gradually deepened to new levels of sacramental insight. The spiritual trajectories both these founding apostles journeyed, infers that well-developed sacramental acumen and ministry operate in a symbiotic fashion, interlocked with pastoral leadership. Could COVID-19 be the agent that steers secularism (science and theology) into a more complementary approach with spiritualists, when dealing with fundamentally human concerns?  


The Apostles, anointed with the Holy Spirit, soon ventured into the world to advance the Gospel of Christ. Selected individuals continued implementing the project's objectives, by establishing a fellowship among themselves akin to the Twelve Tribes of Israel.[2] Attraction to the new movement was swift and quickly overwhelmed a conciliar leadership model, that soon recognized a need to delegate. After replacing Judas, the betrayer, the apostles drafted presbyters, deacons, and lay faithful to help administer the affairs of an expanding pluralistic community.[3] The modern bishop's office emerged from this apostolic context, to assume collegial responsibility, for souls at a constituency level. The bishop of Rome acts as Christ's vicar, St. Peter's successor, and the Council's Chair. Secularism looks to parliaments and legislators, while spiritualists turn sharply to God for inspiration and hope. The pandemic shows a requirement for spiritualists to not overlook the needs of secularism, of which both, are conjoined and interdependent.  

As Christianity emerged from Judaism, it too experienced an uneasy reception within its founding territory and across levels of that ancient society. Disturbances caused by new social movements hold countercultural messages, placing spiritualists and secularists, square in the path of conflict. Humanist, P. Jarvis (2007) said,


          Human learning is more than just transforming bodily sensations into meaning; it is the process            of changing the whole of our experience through thought, action, and emotion and thereby                    transforming ourselves as we continue to build perceptions of external reality into our                                biography. [4] (p.9)

Self-serving and achievement-based, leadership describes an approach to governance, resisted by the Apostles. N. Entwistle, P. Ramsden, and J. Biggs (1983) also negatively depicted this leadership mode using the adjectives, superficial and temporal.[5] Temporal leaders, operating in this paradigm, cling to credentials, titles, rules, and other extrinsic motivators, devaluing more sacramental ways of knowing. Shallow and incomplete secular methodologies, dismiss the sacramental methods of knowledge keeping, predisposing all humankind to repeated failures.


Before print and digital storage, leaders relied on their memories, storytelling, and artistic skills to communicate sacred narratives. Jesus's teaching style also reflected that of an expert storyteller.  Pedagogy, familiar to the early Church, again becomes necessary throughout today's domestic and universal church.[6] Long before COVID-19 arrived, Jesus and his followership communicated, a vision for their movement, that was inclusive and global. Leadership even referred to the budding movement as the "Kingdom of God." First leaders believed, on multiple levels, that heaven and earth, spiritual and physical, divine and human, converged and integrated, with the person of Jesus. The founding apostles became traveling catechists, which resembles individuals on a super-spreader mission. Apostle, is a word imported from Greek, which translates to English as "one sent forth." Ministry calls for an apostolic commitment to transform the world, different from secularism motives. Discipleship draws towards, whereas apostleship sends forth from a pivotal leader. Both these actions are only meaningful when tethered tightly to their centrality. The same principle holds valid for catechesis during this pandemic, which calls upon them to rediscover servant leadership.[7]  Sacramental leadership strives to enliven humankind's spiritual workshop, whereby mind, body, and spirit act in ways, like mechanical gears, churning out meaning for people's lives.

Vatican II called upon the faithful to reengage the sacraments with full and active participation. 

Competent leadership, in these frightening moments, is vital to uplifting spirits throughout this health crisis. The council's decrees connected liturgical action more intently to followership, who have now greater opportunity, to unpack Mother Church’s wisdom. APOSTOLICAM ACTUOSITATEM, (1965) Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, says,


          The laity derives the right and duty to the apostolate from their union with Christ the head.                         Incorporated into Christ's Mystical Body through Baptism and strengthened by the power of the            Holy Spirit through Confirmation, they receive an assignment to the apostolate by the Lord                        Himself. Baptism consecrates individuals for a royal priesthood and the holy people (1 Peter 2:4-              10). They may offer spiritual sacrifices in everything they do and witness to Christ throughout the            world. The sacraments, especially Holy Eucharist, communicates and nourishes charity, which                lives at the very soul of the entire apostolate.[9]


[1] From the Gospel of Mathew, chapter 28:18-20, “Jesus said to them, all authority on heaven and earth have been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”

[2] The division of property after deliverance from Egypt and named for the son’s of Jacob.

[3] From the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 1, 12:26. The replacement of Judas with Mathias brings a full compliment of twelve overseers to the college of Apostles. From the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 6, 1:15. Deacons are chosen later to attend more temporal matters. Presbyters are Elders who later become known as priests.

[4] From Jarvis, P. (2007). Lifelong Learning and the Learning Society. Globalization, Lifelong Learning, and the Learning Society (Vol. 2). Page 9

[5]From N. Entwistle, and P. Ramsden, (1983). Understanding student learning.

[6] Jesus (The Prime Sacrament) uses metaphor, simile, and parable extensively throughout the Gospel discourses.

[7] Servant leadership modeled by Jesus on the eve of his crucifixion. See Jn 13, 1-17.

[8] From Lumen Gentium, (1964) The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, chapter II article 9 (c)

[9] From Apostolicam Actuositatem, (1965) chapter 1, Article 3.