The spiritual gift of leadership is often associated with formal titles within the Church hierarchy, such as priests and bishops. However, it’s important to understand that leadership as a charism is not exclusive to these roles. In fact, the Holy Spirit abundantly gifts both men and women with the charism of leadership.

The Vision to Empower

When we discern our charisms, we begin to recognize how the Holy Spirit is already at work in our lives. We can also see how He invites us to contribute to the growth and mission of the Church. Females within the Catholic Church often have to confront and wrestle with the idea of discerning a charism of leadership. How can they effectively exercise this gift without being a part of the formal hierarchy?

Realizing the Role

Through understanding the teachings of the Church, we see the hierarchy and priesthood for men are of divine order. However, this does not mean that women are excluded from leadership roles or the exercise of their charism of leadership. Indeed, the Holy Spirit freely bestows the charism of leadership upon women just as He does upon men. Women, therefore, have a crucial role in sharing their visions within their sphere of influence in the Church.

Faithfulness in Small Things

It’s important to remember that the path to fully utilizing our charisms may not happen overnight. We may need to exercise our leadership gifts in smaller opportunities first, before larger doors open. By faithfully serving in small capacities, we build the necessary muscle and deepen our surrender to God’s will. This journey prepares us for the challenges and responsibilities that come with larger leadership roles.

The spiritual gift of leadership knows no gender distinction. Both men and women are called to share their visions within the Church, regardless of formal titles. By discerning and embracing our charisms of leadership, we contribute to the mission and growth of the Church. Remember, if you have been given a charism, you will also be given a path to use it. Remain faithful in the small things, as they prepare you for greater opportunities to exercise your charism of leadership. Let us joyfully embrace our roles and serve the Church with humility and boldness.

Learn more at Many Parts Ministries.

Jill Simons [00:00:00]:

Hello and welcome to Charisms for Catholics. My name is Jill Simons and I’m the executive director at Many Parts Ministries where we equip the Body of Christ by helping people learn about and discern their charisms, which is really another word for spiritual gifts. When you discern your charisms, you’re able to see how the Holy Spirit is already active in your life and where he is inviting you to further build the Church. Let’s dive in. Today we’re going to be talking about the charism of leadership, which a lot of us are familiar with. We kind of know a good leader when we see them, but leadership as a charism is about empowering an individual to share their vision for growth and for change in a way that motivates and compels others to participate in that vision. And I think that that is a very specific definition that we need to lean on, especially when we look at what does leadership look like in the Church. A lot of times it can feel like leadership in the Church is based on title, right? So the Pope, the bishops, priests, et cetera.

Jill Simons [00:01:13]:

And absolutely they have hierarchical gifts that are different than charismatic gifts. So those are graces that are given for the clarity and the unification of the hierarchy of the Church. But everyone that has received sacramental grace has received charismatic gifts, charisms of the Holy Spirit. And this leadership charism is not exclusive to the hierarchy of the Church. This was something I had to confront and wrestle with very very specifically as a 19 year old female in the Catholic Church, discerning a charism of leadership and like, okay, what the heck does that look like? Because I am not ever going to be a member of the formal hierarchy. And it’s very easy and it’s kind of our secular societal view to say, well, like, oh, well, then you should be able to be in the hierarchy; if you have this gift, then that limitation should be taken away and you should be able to just serve the Church in whatever way feels natural to you.

Jill Simons [00:02:20]:

But in maturing and coming to understand why the Church teaches what it does, especially around the priesthood and things like that, it’s become very clear why this is all laid out the way it is. And it’s not to exclude women from leadership, because the Holy Spirit gives leadership as a charism just as liberally to women as it does to men. This is one of those that I see almost 50/50. There’s not really a gender difference in this particular charism. There are just about as many women as men who have been given a leadership charism. And so what does that mean? That means that just as many women as men are being called to share the vision that the Holy Spirit has given them for whatever their scope of influence is within the Church. And so that does not always come or I would argue maybe necessarily even mostly come from the hierarchical leadership of the Church. Now, I want to be extremely clear in what I’m saying here.

Jill Simons [00:03:31]:

The priesthood is rightly reserved for men. And the hierarchical structure of the Church, though filled with flawed individuals, is how the Church is meant to be laid out following that servant leadership of Christ, that the pope is the greatest servant of every member of the Catholic Church and that is how it is meant to work. Now, individuals’ inability to execute on that, you know, we hear all the time, I’m going to stick to historical, you know, just for the sake of argument. We can look back at bishops and popes who didn’t do an amazing job and that doesn’t invalidate the way that things are set up. This is set up how the Magisterium of the Church has shown us things are meant to be in both scripture and tradition. And so we have what we have on that front. And so instead of going in with kind of an anarchist like, okay, well, I guess we have to burn the structure to the ground in order to make this more accessible. We need to look at then, okay, the same Holy Spirit that gave us and inspired this structure is also liberally giving a charism of leadership to women.

Jill Simons [00:04:45]:

So what does this mean? Well, it means that there is a forum that the Holy Spirit is inviting women to lead in the Church as it is and it does not require a change in how Holy Orders is administered. So for me, a female in the Church with a leadership charism, this means that the Holy Spirit has shared with me a very specific vision for what is possible in the Church. And for me personally, this is specifically around charisms and unlocking people’s personal gifts that the Holy Spirit has given them. And I have an incredibly clear vision of a Church on fire where every butt in the pew Catholic understands that they are an invaluable cell in the Body of Christ. And the Holy Spirit has then empowered me to share about that in a way that makes all of you listening to this be interested in coming along with me, in being a part of executing that vision. That is not mine. That vision is from the Holy Spirit. And so I have then the supernatural clarity of that vision as well as the supernatural gifts of communication to share that vision with you.

Jill Simons [00:06:02]:

And that is me fulfilling my role in the larger Church. And that is not something that would be available to me in the forum of the traditional hierarchy. And so we see that people are where they are, having the opportunities that they’re supposed to have, even if it’s not something that fits into kind of our societal ideas of how things should work. If you have been given a leadership charism, you are going to be given a path to use it. I really, really want you to understand that. It is never the cross to have a charism that you’re not allowed to use. This was my internal narrative for a long time. I have this gift of leadership and the cross is that I’m never going to get to use it, that I’m always just going to have to sit on it and be frustrated and annoyed and that is my cross. That is dumb. That is not true.

Jill Simons [00:07:07]:

That is not how things work. I wish somebody had shook me and been like, no, you’re stupid. That is not correct. I had to find out very slowly over a very long period of time and I don’t want that for you. So that’s why I’m making this episode. We’re going to just circumvent that kind of path for you. If you’ve been given a charism, you will be given a path to use it. Now, that doesn’t mean in this exact moment right now, you are going to be using at its fullest extent.

Jill Simons [00:07:37]:

There is always a possibility that there’s a journey aspect of this that you’re moving towards some area where you’re being called to lead. And that was very much my story, is that there were small opportunities to build this charism before a big door opened to use it in a very large way. And so we see that faithfulness in small things really is what shows the Lord that you are invested in being a good steward of what you’ve been given. And so whether you are leading the committee that brings meals to new moms in your one parish or you are leading an international ministry, you’re going to need to have that clarity of vision that the Holy Spirit wants to share with you. And doing that in whatever way is put in front of you, even if it feels really small, is what is going to build that muscle to be able to do that in bigger ways. Not because the Holy Spirit is inadequate to do those bigger things right now, but because you might not be ready to give up that much control. You might not be in a place where you are able to surrender to the extent that he’s inviting you to surrender. And so you’re getting these smaller opportunities to practice this surrender.

Jill Simons [00:08:51]:

So when the big moment comes, you are ready to really give that all to him. And leadership is one of those charisms that’s very public. It’s something that you are doing in front of a lot of people. And so it can be very intimidating to stand in that charism publicly and it can feel at odds with humility. And so that’s one other thing I really wanted to touch on with this leadership charism. A lot of people in the interest of, in their minds, humility, will deny this charism. So say, well, who am I to lead? I couldn’t possibly have this charism. I see this desire in myself to lead.

Jill Simons [00:09:33]:

But that’s definitely wrong because who am I? I am not that great. And that always comes with this kind of internal conflict. If you have this charism, but you feel this draw towards this kind of false humility, when in actuality true humility is the yes of the Blessed Mother. And we turn to that constantly. But do we think about what that really is? She says yes to being exalted above all women, to doing something that is so unique and so special throughout all of history that she is going to be remembered for that. And she does not say, oh, well, who am I to carry Him? No, no, I couldn’t do that. No. It’s her total allowance of God to set the agenda.

Jill Simons [00:10:25]:

That is her beautiful fiat that made the way for salvation to come into the world. And, in a smaller way, this is exactly what happens when we say yes to a charism that scares us. And again, this applies to all of them. But I see this a lot in the leadership charism, where people will be afraid to say yes to it because they feel like that will lead them into pride. And that’s possible. That’s totally possible. You could have a leadership charism. You could move into it from a bad place, be looking to amass some kind of power.

Jill Simons [00:11:03]:

But as I would argue with all the charisms, if you go into it earnestly seeking the Lord and earnestly seeking to build his Church and do his will, even if that flavor creeps in there sometime, your docility to the Holy Spirit is going to help you catch that. He’s going to point that out to you quickly and you’re going to realize, okay, no, not like that, let’s recenter but not leave the mission. That is kind of the easy way out. And there’s not a lot of virtue in just denying what God is asking you to do. There’s no virtue, actually. The virtue is in recognizing what God is asking you to do and answering the call to rise to the occasion even when you don’t feel equal to it. And so I endeavor to lead from a place of recognizing that for whatever reason, this is what I’ve been asked to do.

Jill Simons [00:12:06]:

And I cannot live my life without doing what I’m asked, if I’m trying to be in true intimate relationship with God. I can’t live in the house without doing my chores. And I love that this is what my chores are now. And I think that that’s something that invites us into the fruits of the Holy Spirit when we’re able to be in that freedom of recognizing, this isn’t because I’m so awesome. This isn’t because I’m better than anybody else. This is what I’ve been asked to do. And that’s really fun for me. I really, really enjoy what I’ve been asked to do.

Jill Simons [00:12:43]:

And again, that’s true of all the charisms. When you let yourself be filled with the joy, peace, love, fill-in-the-blank fruits of the Holy Spirit through the use of your charisms, then you’re really in the right place. You’re really doing what you are meant to be doing. And so I encourage all of you that have a leadership charism but might have some hangups about the fact that that’s your charism. How that’s supposed to look? The idea that it’s going to be prideful inherently to use it, to just really explore with the Holy Spirit. What does it look like for me to lead from a place of surrender, lead from a place of that same energy as Mary’s yes to the angel at the Annunciation. To really take this elevated role with humility in recognizing that this is what you’ve been asked to do and you can’t do anything else in obedience and faithfulness to God. Thanks so much for joining us on today’s episode of Charisms for Catholics. If you would like to learn more about your charisms or begin your own discernment journey, head to our website at manypartsministries.com where you can download our free PDF guide to all 24 charisms and also begin your own journey by taking our charism assessment.