|Father Terence Henry, TOR, president of Franciscan University of Steubenville, addresses the first International Meeting of Young Catholics for Social Justice.|
Father Terence Henry, TOR, second from right, and Father Michael Higgins, TOR minister general, right, with some of the attendees of the International Meeting of Young Catholics for Social Justice.
STEUBENVILLE, OHIO—“Christ-centered leadership must begin with a relationship with Jesus himself,” said Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, President Father Terence Henry, TOR, to hundreds of young adults gathered from four continents for the International Meeting of Young Catholics for Social Justice.
The conference was held last month at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome against the backdrop of the installation of Pope Francis, who took the chair of Peter the day before the conference began.
Conference planners invited Father Henry to speak at the Lateran in recognition of his leadership role in Catholic higher education, including his strong public stance against moral relativism while promoting Church teachings on the sanctity of human life, the purpose of marriage, and other Catholic beliefs.
His talk, “The Kind of Leaders Christ Is Looking For,” rooted his audience in the thoughts of Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis, St. Francis, and his favorite author, G.K. Chesterton.
He spoke at length on the dangers of the culture of death, brought on by “an increasingly materialistic, techno-secular world” that tries to find happiness in its own self-affirmation.
“We are witnessing the erosion of society because a secularist culture ‘has made God marginal in the lives of people by attempting to create a paradise without him,’” he said, quoting Pope Benedict.
He introduced his audience to the wisdom of G.K. Chesterton, who observed, “The Catholic Church is the only thing that saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.” This, Father Henry said, “is what Benedict called, ‘The tyranny of moral relativism.’”
He also recounted what Pope Francis said shortly before his election: “‘At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother, and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.’”
Father Henry urged his audience to hold firm to their faith and use the power of the Holy Spirit “to persevere and seek new methods of evangelization” to spread the Gospel, “especially in places where it is not welcomed.”
He reassured the young adults that the Catholic Church has been firmly planted in the world by Christ for over 2,000 years, and they can always turn to it for direction and mooring in their lives.
“‘Everything in our life, today just as in Jesus’ time, begins with an encounter. An encounter with this Man, the carpenter of Nazareth,’” Father Henry said, quoting Pope Francis when he was a cardinal in Argentina.
“The Christ-centered leader,” said Father Henry, “is a promoter and defender of freedom against tyranny and enslavement. The Christ-centered leader . . . recognizes that all authority comes from God—has been handed over to his Son—whose mystical body is the Church.”
The audience included young adults from Europe, Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East who listened on headsets and applauded at different times as Father Henry’s words were translated into their language.