The Catholic Leaders Mission

Serving as an elected official should be more than a job. In the vision of Catholic teaching, civic leadership is a vocation—one of the most important for nourishing the true common good of all.  For Catholic leaders, proper formation is critical: the well-being and integrity of our communities is at stake. In the words of Pope Francis:

I ask God to give us more politicians capable of sincere and effective dialogue aimed at healing the deepest roots – and not simply the appearances – of the evils in our world! Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good. We need to be convinced that charity is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones). I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!

205, Evangelii Gaudium

The formation of such leaders is the purpose of our Catholic Leaders Mission: our two-day workshops offer spiritual and moral formation, methods of discernment, and practical skills needed in seeking and properly holding office.  Our graduates emerge ready to serve their communities in a spirit of political love, through commitment to the principles of Catholic social teaching and the enhancement of the dignity of every constituent –  including the unborn, the elderly, the young, families, and those who are too often forgotten by society, as well as workers, farmers, business owners, and all future generations.


Christians must be conscious of their specific and proper role in the political community; they should be a shining example by their sense of responsibility and their dedication to the common good; they should show in practice how authority can be reconciled with freedom, personal initiative with solidarity and the needs of the social framework as a whole, and the advantages of unity with the benefits of diversity.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”)
Vatican II, 1965, #75.

Our two-day workshop is open to any Catholic in Canada who currently running for election, or considering candidacy for elected office within the next two years, including those who are already in office and intend to run for re-election.  Candidates for any elected office are eligible—those running for school-board trustee positions, municipal councilors, mayor, MPP, MP, or any other office can participate. Accepted participants will also be allowed to nominate a key member of their campaign team to join them in the training, as several sessions will cover critical elements of campaign strategy and tactics.

Participants will commit to attending two virtual workshop days, during the mornings and afternoons of Saturday, May 29 and Saturday, June 5. Workshop sessions will be a mix of presentations, panel discussions, and participatory exercises touching on a range of spiritual topics and hard skills training (like voter contact, get-out-the-vote, fundraising, media training, and more).

The Rev. Dr. Andrew P.W. Bennett is Director of the Cardus Religious Freedom Institute and Cardus’s Director of Faith Community Engagement. He is an ordained deacon in the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in the Eparchy (Diocese) of Toronto and Eastern Canada.

Fr. Deacon Andrew served as Canada’s first Ambassador for Religious Freedom and led the Office of Religious Freedom from 2013 to 2016 in defending and championing religious freedom internationally as a core element of Canada’s foreign policy. He simultaneously served as Canada’s Head of Delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance -a 31-country body which leads international efforts in Holocaust education, research, and remembrance.

As Director of the Cardus Religious Freedom Institute, Fr. Deacon Andrew works to promote religious freedom and the importance of public faith to our common life. He also leads Cardus’s engagement with faith communities across Canada and Cardus’s program of public theology. Fr. Deacon Andrew is a Senior Fellow at the Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) in Washington, DC – a leading independent think-tank committed to achieving broad acceptance of religious liberty as a fundamental human right for everyone, everywhere.

Fr. Deacon Andrew holds a Ph.D. in Politics (2002) from the University of Edinburgh as well as degrees in history from McGill and Dalhousie universities. When not praying, studying, or advocating, Fr. Deacon Andrew can be found with his fly rod in a stream, listening to bluegrass or Beethoven, or reading the Church Fathers.

Bruce Rodrigues is Chancellor of St. Jerome’s University, with a rich and distinguished career in Catholic education in Ontario. He began as a teacher in the Waterloo Catholic District Separate School Board (WCDSB), later moving into the role of Superintendent of Schools of WCDSB. This appointment provided the foundation for the role of Associate Director of Education of WCDSB, and subsequently the Director of Education of the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB). 

In 2013, Mr. Rodrigues served as Chief Executive Officer of the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) where he led the modernization of all aspects of the provincial assessment program and the development of a new strategic plan. His deep understanding of education in Ontario grounded his appointment as Deputy Minister of Education for the Province of Ontario from 2016-2018.

Neil MacCarthy is Director of Public Relations & Communications for the Archdiocese of Toronto.  Neil was born and raised in Toronto. He received his Bachelor of Applied Arts in Radio and Television Broadcasting from Ryerson University.

Since 1995, Neil has worked for the Archdiocese of Toronto, in numerous roles: Director of Youth Ministry, Communications Manager for the annual charitable appeal, and, since 2006, as Director of Public Relations & Communications. In his current role, Neil is responsible for directing internal and external communications, public relations, government relations & media relations for the Archdiocese of Toronto. He serves as the lead spokesman for the archdiocese as well as the press secretary to Cardinal Thomas Collins.

From 2003 to 2014, John Milloy served as the member of provincial parliament (MPP) for Kitchener Centre, holding five cabinet portfolios. Prior to that he worked on Parliament Hill as a political adviser to a number of senior cabinet ministers as well as spending five years on the senior staff of former prime minister Jean Chrétien. Today, he is an Assistant Professor of Public Ethics at Martin Luther University College, and Director of the Centre for Public Ethics.

John completed his undergraduate education at Carleton University in Ottawa. He earned his MA in International History from the London School of Economics, and a DPhil in Modern History from the University of Oxford.

And many more!

John Yan is a communications, marketing, media and public relations professional with over 35 years of experience in the private, public (government) and not-for-profit sectors. Most recently he was the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s Chief of Communications and Government Relations from 2012-2019. In this senior executive leadership role, John acted as the Board’s official spokesperson and directed the communications, public relations, media, issues management and community engagement activities to over half-a-million Catholic stakeholders in Toronto.

Prior to joining the school board, John was the Director of Corporate Communications and Government Relations for the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) based in Ottawa, and Manager of Corporate Communications for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business group.  Mr Yan also served as Legislative Assistant to former Toronto Deputy Mayor and City Councilor Norm Kelly during his term as MP for Scarborough Centre.

Jo-Ann Davis was the Ontario Liberal Party candidate for University-Rosedale in 2018, and is former Chair and Vice Chair of the Board, and elected trustee of the Toronto Catholic District School Board (2010 – 2018). One of her many acts as trustee was to create the Catholic Social Justice committee based on the social doctrine of the Church with the mandate to advise the Board on policies, programs and services which close the learning opportunity gaps for school communities in need. She was Co-Founder of Unlock Democracy Canada, Board member of HelpAge Canada, and National Council member of Fair Vote Canada.  She is currently a consultant with the Leman Group based in Toronto, guiding successful strategic change initiatives for some of Canada’s largest corporations, as well as provincial ministries and agencies.

Jo-Ann studied at St Michael’s College, University of Toronto, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, the London School of Economics and Politics (LSE) and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.  She and her family are active parishioners and volunteers at St Joan of Arc church in Toronto.

The Catholic Leaders Mission is offered free of charge to participants.

Send a CV and a short cover letter to our Executive Director at brendan@catholicconscience.org. In your short cover letter, let us know which office you are seeking (trustee, municipal councilor, MP, MPP, etc), your political party (for those running for federal or provincial office), and why you are seeking election.

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