The Most Reverend Nelson J. Perez, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, announces the appointment of Miguel Chavez to serve as director of the new Office of Missionary Discipleship for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. Under the direction Sister Rita Mary Harwood, SND, secretary for parish life, Chavez will lead this newly formed office and be responsible for visioning, planning, creating, and implementing programs and supportive processes which promote a culture of missionary discipleship in the diocese.
Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” offers a new vision of the Church as an evangelizing, outward-facing community, one that takes the first step, is involved and supportive, is fruitful and rejoices. The Office of Missionary Discipleship will work to guide the local Church in these processes of transformation that will provide the skills and tools to help realize Pope Francis’ vision in bringing others closer to Christ. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast.
Bishop Perez reminds us that, “‘Missionary discipleship’ is a simple phrase but it carries great meaning and direction for us. The words, ‘missionary’ and ‘disciple’ go together because you cannot be a disciple of Jesus by keeping his message to oneself. To be a disciple, we must do what Jesus asked all of us to do in his Great Commission (Mt: 28) as he said ‘Go.’ We are to spread his message, as a missionary, to every corner of the earth. That means by virtue of our baptism we are called to mission -- not maintenance. We all are charged with helping others encounter Christ and to accompany them to a conversion of heart, helping turn them toward the Lord.”
Among his duties, Chavez will be responsible for developing processes and programs that promote a culture of missionary discipleship throughout the parishes of the diocese; work collaboratively and cross-functionally with diocesan offices – most directly with Parish Life and with parishes, schools and apostolates throughout the diocese and implement a discipleship-centered vision for missionary parish ministry through formation, training, resourcing, consultation and collaboration.
Prior to his position at the diocese, Chavez served as the associate vice president for mission implementation at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio. He also served the university as the director of campus ministry and as adjunct professor of theology. He earned an MBA in 2013, a master’s degree in theology in 2007 and bachelor’s degrees in theology and pastoral ministry in 2004 -- all from Walsh University.
“Working in a ministry setting has shaped me and makes me keenly aware of the need for sound and wholesome management and servant leadership, as well as an authentic heart for evangelization,” said Chavez. I am incredibly humbled at the opportunity to learn from those throughout the Diocese who work tirelessly to make Jesus Christ known and loved in practical ways. I look forward to working with pastors, parish leaders, the faithful and everyone dedicated to helping bring others closer to Christ.”