Young Adults Growing Closer to God

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A group photo from CLA’s first intercity retreat, 2011

Contemplative Leaders in Action (CLA) was founded in 2008 as a two-year faith formation and leadership development program rooted in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. CLA is a program of The Jesuit Collaborative, a Jesuit ministry that helps the people of the Maryland, New England and New York Provinces grow closer to God through prayer, retreats and spiritual formation.

A small group of participants – primarily graduates from Jesuit schools and other Ignatian spirituality programs, along with parishioners from Jesuit parishes – meet monthly during the first year of the program. Guest speakers, presentations and community-building exercises focus on discernment, Ignatian spirituality, Catholic social teaching, leadership models and spirituality in the workplace.

Program participants lead busy lives in a wide range of fields, but they quickly find practical ways to integrate their faith with their careers. They also develop a deeper understanding of Ignatian spirituality and its implications for personal and professional decision making.

“There are teachers, lawyers, doctors and social and civic workers taking part in the program, but we would say that they’re all involved in ministry,” said Mary Tracy, CLA director. “They all have a desire to grow closer to God and are faced with the challenge of finding ways to incorporate faith into their daily lives.”

Second-year participants design capstone projects that apply their enhanced skills and encourage them to discover their personal leadership style, oftentimes in collaboration with Jesuit institutions or their own professional or personal circles. The projects come in many shapes and forms. One participant studied homelessness in Washington, D.C., by partnering with a mobile soup kitchen service, another coordinated a faith sharing group for new parents, a third organized a Just Faith seminar on immigration at the Romero Center, in Camden, N.J.

Program graduates are emerging engaged and eager to share the lessons they have learned.

The proof lies in the list of accomplishments from the growing number of CLA alumni who have leadership positions on Nativity School boards, have spoken with New York City’s new mayor on the impact of Catholic social teaching and were recently featured on the pages of America magazine for a feature on women of faith.

“There really isn’t anything else like CLA,” said Mary Tracy. “When people hear about it, they’re interested, and we’re seeing so many ways the spiritual and professional lives of program alumni are just blossoming.” CLA is currently operating in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Syracuse and Atlanta.

To learn more about CLA visit:

Adapted from JESUITS magazine, Spring 2014. To read the full magazine online, click here.

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