Flexibility, Foundation, and Faith on the Frontier

How online leadership training enabled the Diocese of Cheyenne to continue fulfilling its mission during the COVID-19 pandemic

As one of largest dioceses by land mass in the United States, it can take hours to trek across portions of the Diocese of Cheyenne in Wyoming. Among Catholic leaders in the Diocese, the vast, rugged terrain of the state has long presented challenges to meeting in person. So when the COVID-19 pandemic further limited in-person gathering, the Diocese needed to find a flexible way to continue working with Leadership Roundtable to equip pastoral leaders with the best practices to serve and fulfill their missions, without meeting face-to-face.

“Moving to online training has worked very well for us,” said Tammy Skala, director of Human Resources for the Diocese. “It has really opened our eyes, has allowed everyone to attend, and allows us to spend less time on the road and more time in ministry.”

At 98,000 square miles, the sheer geographic size of the Diocese of Cheyenne can leave priests and lay leaders both isolated in their communities and burdened when needing to travel long distances across a region that Cheyenne Bishop Steven R. Biegler described as “the frontier.”

Before the pandemic, some leaders were planning to take several days away from ministry to travel and attend Leadership Roundtable’s Catholic Standards for Excellence training. Being able to attend the training virtually in October allowed pastoral leaders in the Diocese to remain in their ministerial locations and spend the time they would have been traveling on their mission.

A Solid Foundation

“Because of the pandemic, we have had to be a stronger team,” said Bishop Biegler. “The work we’ve done with Leadership Roundtable has strengthened both our team and our structure, and has helped us lay the foundation so we can weather this pandemic.”

Leadership Roundtable reached out to all those across the country who partner with us to understand their needs during the pandemic and how we could help them best respond to the challenges they now faced. Our partners emphasized that continuing with our consulting and programs was needed. The best practices and practical applications were critical for Catholic leaders adapting to the pandemic while continuing to fulfill their missions.

We moved quickly to ensure our programs and consulting could be delivered virtually, moving resources online, and offering services and programs through online platforms. We now offer virtual access to all of our programs and trainings including:

  • Catholic Leadership 360
  • Catholic Standards for Excellence
  • Leadership Coaching
  • Customized Consulting
  • Mission Management Model
  • Toolbox for Pastoral Management workshops

A Wyoming native, Fr. Carl Gallinger likened Leadership Roundtable’s ability to continue providing our programs during the pandemic to ice hockey, a popular sport in the region. With good, solid ice, hockey players are able to skate well and fans enjoy the game, he said. The training from Leadership Roundtable is like that solid sheet of ice, providing Catholic leaders with the foundation necessary to fulfill their mission and serve those in need in a time of crisis.

“The work we’ve done with Leadership Roundtable has raised the bar and called forth the very best of us in pastoral ministry,” said Gallinger, who serves as pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Cheyenne and vicar general for the Diocese.

Stronger Stewards of Faith

Across the Diocese of Cheyenne, the flexibility of virtual gatherings has given leaders both more time to reflect upon the materials and to integrate the best practices into their ministry.

“We get so focused on what we’re doing ourselves, that we don’t realize what others are experiencing,” Skala said. “We found during these virtual training sessions that individuals were more willing to open up about their positions, what they do, and what their struggles are. The trainings are making us continually work to better ourselves. We don’t just do the trainings, we put it into practice.”

Due to the increased flexibility, Bishop Biegler said the Diocese hopes to maintain a virtual component of their work with Leadership Roundtable into the future.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about mission,” Bishop Biegler said. Because of the virtual trainings, the Diocese of Cheyenne, its parishes and Catholic organizations have been able to continue to move explicitly toward excellence in practices throughout the pandemic and “that supports the mission,” he said. “As a result, we are better stewards of the Church and of the mysteries of God.”

This piece was originally published in Leadership Roundtable’s 2020 Annual Impact Report.

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