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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Jesus “Chuy” Diaz de DeLeon



Gordon: When did you attend Columbia College Chicago, what degree did you earn, and what is one of your favorite memories when you were there?


Jesus: I graduated from Columbia College of Chicago in the year 2000 majoring in the art of communication. My major focus was film and radio production. However, I also graduated with a minor in comparative religions. Who ever knew there was a minor on that subject at this school. Here I learned the skills of communication while opening my eyes to God’s relationship with us, His children, throughout the different religions of the world. I became a volunteer of the Parliament of World Religions, where I not only experienced the beauty of human spirituality but came to love and appreciate more of the depth and beauty of my own Catholic faith.


Gordon: When did you attend Catholic Theological Union, what degree did you earn, what was your favorite subject, and why was it your favorite?


Jesus: I attended Catholic Theological Union later in my career after some years of working at the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese of Chicago. I knew I had to return to academic formation, especially if my role was to help guide leaders of our local Church. Plus, I also came to realize that, as a Latino in a society that, in many cases, expects more of you to be credible, achieving a masters degree became more important to me and my family. I graduated with a Masters in Pastoral Ministry through the Oscar Romero Scholars Program. I was the first in my extended family to earn a Master's degree. My favorite subject was Christian History. I love history.


Now I am working towards my MDiv, if God permits.


Gordon: When and where were you a Radio Host and Producer and what are some of the issues that you addressed?


Jesus: I started working in radio during my college years between 1995-2000. I worked in radio stations like “La Tremenda 560 AM” and “La Ley 105.1”. Both were Spanish Radio stations. In just a few years I went from being a board technician to an On-Air talent. I had my own talk show every morning at 11 AM. There I addressed key issues of our Latino community and had people talk it out as if they were sitting around a table. I also had my own Cultural show on Saturdays. I would present music, food, stories, and people of different Latino countries. Children began to listen to my show for school purposes as teachers were asking them to do it as homework. It was during this time that I learned to discipline and prepare my voice in a way that it had to inform, inspire, and engage others. I also learned at this early stage of my life that money and fame was not for me. Many national products wanted to sponsor my shows. However, I was not in much agreement with some of these products who were abusing the trust of my Latino people. I resigned the moment my producers were obligating me to promote these products. I knew then that God and the Gospel was the truth I had to promote and share.


Gordon: When did you serve as Area Parish Coordinator of Youth Ministry and what were your primary responsibilities?


Jesus: I served as Area Parish Coordinator of youth ministry when I was a teenager. I was asked to be the Coordinator of a youth group at Providence of God Church when I was 18 years old. From there, we founded the “Emaus” [Spanish] youth group, which spread its services and mission to all the six Pilsen parishes at the time. I was coordinating close to 20 youth ministers and 40 teen peer ministers with hundreds of members, all as a volunteer. Eventually, Bishop John R. Manz, may he rest in peace, noticed my work and invited me to join his team in 2004 as Vicariate Coordinator of Youth Ministry. It was during this period of my life that I found my calling. I remember the moment as if it was yesterday. One night, during Eucharistic Adoration, I felt God asking if I was willing to commit my life to Him. I answered with a profound, “yes”.


Gordon: When and where did you serve as Child Advocate and what were the issues that you most often addressed?


Jesus: My first full time job, right after graduating from college, was as a Child Advocate of a homeless shelter for women and children. This was my first hands-on, eye-opening experience of the suffering of God’s people. This is the experience that gave me the skills for advocating with purpose and strategy. There was a moment in which I had to stop an ex-husband from stabbing one of our tenants who was hiding from him. I remember not being afraid during this situation. My trust in God was maturing.


Gordon: When and where did you serve as Supportive Housing Associate Manager and what was most rewarding about you work?


Jesus: When TRP saw the work I was doing as a Child Advocate, they promoted me as an associate manager. Thanks to this experience, I gained more confidence in managing and supervising a team. What was most rewarding about this work were the moments in which we had the privilege of witnessing the success stories of our participants who either graduated, received an award, a job, or moved on to live a sustainable life living in their own apartment.


Gordon: When did you work as “Community Organizer” for The Resurrection Project and what were your primary responsibilities?


Jesus: Throughout my time working at the Resurrection Project, aside from having my main roles already mentioned, I also was a part-time community organizer. My role as community organizer was to help youth groups in Pilsen be able to organize and serve the community as one. Throughout my whole experience at The Resurrection Project I learned the essential skills of community organizing, which now I have been able to adapt as pastoral organizer in practical theology.


Gordon: You have held several positions at the Archdiocese of Chicago. Please list them, when you served in that position, and your primary responsibilities.


Jesus: Vicariate III Coordinator of Youth Ministry 2004 to 2013.


The Archdiocese of Chicago is currently mourning the loss of one of the greatest and beloved Bishops of our local modern Church. He is known as “The Bishop of the People.” This role as Vicariate III Coordinator of Youth Ministry, was my first full time position working for the Archdiocese of Chicago. It was Bishop John R. Manz who personally invited me to join his team. It will always be a blessing for me to say I was part of his vicariate team for many years. I miss him and he will always be in my heart. Bishop Manz, when realizing that I had organized an area youth ministry as a volunteer, said to me, “Chuy would you like to do what you are currently doing for 53 other parishes as a full time paying job?” I was so excited and overjoyed by his invitation. He not only gave me the freedom to innovate, but empowered me to do pastoral organizing that was truly “grass roots”. I like to say that these are, so far, one of my most innovative and productive years of my ministerial career. My role here was to lift, form, and empower a community of Youth Ministry leaders, equipping and supporting their efforts of strengthening and sustaining their ministries.


Created the Common Effort Campaign, which networked 27 parishes, and created a Vicariate III Youth Ministry Council, whose members have, over time, become Parish Coordinators of Youth Ministry, Archdiocesan Coordinators and Directors and even coordinators of Catholic national federations. This Campaign was mentioned in Catholic New World


Facilitated the development of a formation program for young parish leaders known as the Teen Peer Ministry Formation Program, which later became Archdiocesan.

Facilitated the development of a Getting Started in Youth Ministry Process, which helped start youth ministry programs in 16 parishes and eventually became an archdiocesan program


Facilitated the development of the first World Youth Day Chicago Style


Facilitated the development of the confirmation retreat known as "Spirit Day". This retreat eventually became Archdiocesan, serving 69 parishes and thousands of kids every year. It is still being implemented by many parishes today.


Vicariate II Catechetical Ministry Coordinator, serving under Bishop Kane 2013 to 2015.


My responsibility in this role was to lift, form, and empower a community of Catechetical leaders, equipping and supporting their efforts of strengthening and sustaining their ministries.

  • Created the Common Effort Campaign, which networked 27 parishes, and created a Vicariate III Youth Ministry Council, whose members have, over time, become Parish Coordinators of Youth Ministry, Archdiocesan Coordinators and Directors and even coordinators of Catholic national federations. This Campaign was mentioned in Catholic New World

  • Facilitated the development of a formation program for young parish leaders known as the Teen Peer Ministry Formation Program, which later became Archdiocesan.

  • Facilitated the development of a Getting Started in Youth Ministry Process, which helped start youth ministry programs in 16 parishes and eventually became an archdiocesan program

  • Facilitated the development of the first World Youth Day Chicago Style

  • Facilitated the development of the confirmation retreat known as "Spirit Day". This retreat eventually became Archdiocesan, serving 69 parishes and thousands of kids every year. It is still being implemented by many parishes today.

  • Vicariate II Catechetical Ministry Coordinator, serving under Bishop Kane 2013 to 2015. My responsibility in this role was to lift, form, and empower a community of Catechetical leaders, equipping and supporting their efforts of strengthening and sustaining their ministries.


Director, Office of Lifelong Formation

Archdiocese of Chicago - Chicago, IL

2015 to 2018


This role was one of the toughest experiences I have had in my ministerial career. I had to exercise leadership in uncharted territory as the Archdiocese was going through many transitions. I was asked to direct a newly created office known as “The Office of Lifelong Formation”, which combined several Archdiocesan agencies into one. During this experience I learned the importance of community building, pastoral organizing, and strategic planning. I also learned about the importance of listening and accompanying not only those who we serve but also those who we lead. It became very clear to me that to be an Archdiocesan Director was to accept the call of Simon of Cyrene, who accepts to carry the cross of and for our Lord and His people. To be a Director is to serve and be the voice of those who are working in the field. I did the best that I could and I hope that God is satisfied with the work I did there.


Gordon: When did you start serving as Executive Director Blessed Sacrament Youth Center and what are you primary responsibilities?


Jesus: I am now currently serving my Lord as the Executive Director of Blessed Sacrament Youth Center (www.bsyc.org) . This youth center is right on the border of two Chicago neighborhoods plagued with street violence and gang activity. God has given me the opportunity to be creative once again by reinventing this Catholic Youth Center with innovative methods and models for doing holistic evangelization with youth using pastoral accompaniment that has soft entry points and leads to engagement in parish life and mission. I am wearing many hats in this role, using all the tools and experiences I have gained throughout my career. It is as if God had me go through the various learning experiences of my life just for this moment. My mission here is to develop a hub that will support the youth ministry efforts of our surrounding parishes. I want this youth center to revitalize our local efforts of evangelizing youth. I truly believe that the more we inspire young people towards God’s presence, the less young people will be lost in the streets. What is the answer to youth violence? I want this youth center to prove that part of the answer is “to lead young people closer to the presence of God through pastoral accompaniment, formation, prayer and social service.”


Gordon: You are also Adjunct Professor at University of Saint Mary of the Lake. What courses to you teach?


Jesus: As Adjunct Professor of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, I have been invited to teach courses like:

  • Evangelization, Catechesis, and Culture

  • Pastoral Leadership: Leading in Uncharted Territory

  • Catechetical Leadership

  • The Ministry of Lifelong Formation: Methods and Models

Gordon: You have strong interest in music and music composition . Who is you favorite composer?


Jesus: I have had the blessing to compose music for Jorge Rivera through WLP. My favorite composer actually is Yanni. His concert at the Acropolis simply blew me away and marked my style of composing.


Gordon: Tell us about the Quarterly Award that you received.


Jesus: This award is very special to me being that it was Bishop John Manz and his team that nominated me for this award. I will always keep this award close to my heart. May he rest in peace.


Gordon: Thank you for an exceptional and inspirational interview.

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