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7 Questions with Eamonn J. Fitzgerald
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Eamonn J. Fitzgerald
Name: Eamonn J. Fitzgerald
Current title: Student
Current organisation: University of Central Florida
My background in the Church comes from my involvement as a student in running what are called Nights of Fellowship, monthly meetings in which there is a short service focusing on some aspect of the Word followed by a shared meal and an activity. I’ve also volunteered in youth groups and in the community through food drives, beach cleanups, and Christmas shoeboxes for active military personnel overseas.
Originally from South Florida, I am currently a senior at the University of Central Florida pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Industrial/Organizational track and a minor in Statistics. My study so far has focused on deepening human understanding of LGBT issues in the workplace, job turnover, and various statistical data projects. I am anticipated to graduate December 2021, and I look forward to employment following graduation in Healthcare, Banking/Finance, and/or consulting, before continuing on to graduate school.
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
I would say the most challenging aspect of being a church leader was reconciling my faith with my sexuality. I was raised Catholic and until recently there was a great stigma and religious dogma against gay and other lgbtqia+ people. I think that I struggled a lot with this when I was first coming to terms with my sexuality and gender identity; however, it was the words of another religious leader in our church that helped me. He said that so long as you are a good person, that Heaven is in your reach. He also stressed the importance of walking with those traditionally ostracized from religious life, not shutting the door in their face, but rather continuing conversations based in Godly love. Of course, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
My path to becoming a leader in the faith started as a child. I was raised Catholic, my Irish immigrant parents wanting to endow me with the same values that they had growing up. So, I attended Catholic school from PreK-3 to eighth grade. I can remember wanting to become a priest in the 3rd grade after connecting greatly with the local Irish clergy members of the church. I was an altar boy and sang in the choir, as well as attending youth group meetings after Saturday service. I then continued on to a Catholic high school where I continued my service, joining the campus ministry and campus ministry band. This is where I had the bulk of my church leadership.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I must admit that I have distanced myself from the Church since attending college; however, my faith in God persists. I make it a point each day to make time for meditation, gratitude, time with family/friends, and service for others. I often meditate in the morning, first connecting to the breath and letting thoughts pass through my mind, then working on bringing awareness to the goodness of the different parts of the body, and then finally choosing a mantra or feeling to focus on. Often this mantra is to focus on “getting lost in love” or “peace for my busy day”. The other aspects I believe are self explanatory. I often practice gratitude before bed; however, I try and bring mindfulness and gratitude into all aspects of my day.
4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
While I have to admit that most of my leadership has come from understanding the best and worst of leaders I’ve had in the past and the work I’ve put into understanding my own gifts through leadership experiences, I’m currently reading Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. I find his perspective on leadership to be very inspiring and insightful, as well as being rooted in his connection to family and his public service.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The most recent leadership lesson I’ve learned is that you may not be the best leader for everyone. I find that, while there are traits and values that all humans share, it is also beneficial to have your followers be able to see a part of themselves in you, and if they are unable then perhaps someone else may help them better. This falls into the need for representation at all levels of leadership, not only in race and sexuality but in goals, beliefs, fears, work style, etc.
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
I come from a Catholic background in which there is a large emphasis on hierarchy. I think in recent years that hierarchy has been called into question as more malfeasance comes to light from all levels, whether it be the misallocation of church funds to the atrocities of predatory behavior. I think that in order for there to be a healthy leadership pipeline there needs to be firstly Godliness, merit in why that person has been elected or appointed as a church leader. I think there also needs to be trust. Trust not only in their Godliness but trust that the leader is taking into account all their followers’ different relationships with God, Scripture, and teachings. I also think that everyone, at all levels whether papal or lay, should foster a relationship with God and study the Bible themselves. I don’t believe in blind faith, but rather an educated faith fitting with the teachings of Jesus about compassion and love.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?
I think I am very privileged to say that I have many meaningful and positive stories in relation to my leadership experience in the church; however, I will leave you with this. I started this discussion of sexuality and the church very positively, giving the example of my former leader walking with those of us who were coming to understand aspects of yourself that in the Catholic dogma at the time branded our names automatically on the walls of Hell. Before I had those conversations and before I was comfortable walking as myself with God and the congregation, the actions and judgement from others had me feeling doomed to eternal damnation for love. I think there is a misconception that LGBTQIA+ people turn their backs on God, that by choosing to live their truth, instead of suffering in silence, that it is they who walk away. However, as someone who has lived the experience and thankfully made it out the other side with pride, the feeling is rather that God turns His back on us, smites us for our truest love or only made us to be clergy members, taking away our free will. While I understand now that that is not the case, that God will love me forever and through anything, it was His People who forced that unGodly belief onto me. It was by the actions and human judgement of supposedly loving individuals who believed they acted in God’s name that showed sometimes the most devilish hatred and violence. God is love. And I suggest a study of the Word in its original languages and it’s original contexts. The world we inhabit today, while very similar to the one Christ walked 2000 years ago, does meet us with new understandings of human nature. And if we are to believe we are created in His image and likeness, how can our reasoning, our compassion, and our love not also be divine.