Incoming ICC leader a ‘missionary disciple’ for Catholic social teaching

By Victoria Arthur

Statehouse Correspondent for Indiana’s Catholic Newspapers

When Alexander Mingus becomes the new leader of the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC) next month, 2,000 years of Catholic social teaching will be embodied in a 28-year-old with a deep love for the Church and a gift for bringing its message to the public sphere.

Mingus has had four years to prepare for the role of serving as the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Indiana, working directly with Angela Espada, who has served as executive director of the ICC since 2019 and plans to retire at the end of July.

In announcing the ICC leadership changes earlier this month, Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis spoke of the “tremendous blessing” of witnessing how the two “have complemented one another’s gifts and skills in service to the Church and people of Indiana.”

He also expressed his confidence in Mingus as he prepares to take on the responsibility of representing the five Catholic bishops across the state and promoting the Church’s position on critical issues at the Indiana Statehouse and beyond.

“Alexander understands the importance of being the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Indiana, and I am confident that his knowledge of the faith, strong skills and intellect, and experience at the Statehouse will be assets wherever he represents us,” Archbishop Thompson said. “Like his predecessors, I know Alexander will continue being an advocate on multiple issues that are important to our faith community, including education, families, poverty, care for creation, and the sacredness of life and the dignity of persons.”

Mingus, who credits divine providence in every major step he has taken in his life, approaches his new assignment with a sense of awe and deep appreciation.

“My overwhelming feeling is gratitude,” said Mingus, an Alabama native who at 18 had been named by the bishop of Birmingham as one of the first Catholic Agents of the New Evangelization. “I’ve always wanted to be involved in advocacy, and it is such a blessing to be given this unique role that blends so many interests and passions of mine.”

He recalls a similar sense of wonder when, at 24, he was offered the role of associate director of the ICC. At the time, he was serving as manager of ministry formation at the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Dayton, Ohio, after earning a degree in political science and human rights studies at the University of Dayton and then pursuing graduate studies there.

Upon receiving the job offer, Mingus immediately made his way to the onsite chapel at St. Vincent de Paul to offer thanks to God for this new opportunity and to seek his wisdom and guidance.

“I remember telling our Lord, ‘Thank you! I am overwhelmed with gratitude,’” Mingus said. “And I remember opening myself up to God and saying, ‘I don’t want this to be about me; I want this to be about you.’ I asked him to help me respond to his will for me in this new role.”

Since joining the ICC in 2020, Mingus has worked closely with Espada through four legislative sessions, encouraging lawmakers to shape public policy in the best interest of the common good.

His first session at the Statehouse was an unusual one, as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the normal business of the legislature. But social distancing provided Mingus the opportunity to focus on enhancing the ICC’s social media presence. He also revamped the ICC website, and together with Espada launched a regular podcast to keep the Catholic faithful engaged on important issues and legislation.

As Espada began making plans to retire, Mingus — with characteristic humility — admits that he questioned whether at his age he should even contemplate seeking the executive director role. After more prayer and discernment, he added his name to the list of candidates and went through the interview process.

Upon receiving the call from Archbishop Thompson offering him the job, Mingus gratefully accepted and then again retreated to the nearest chapel — this time steps away at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in downtown Indianapolis.

As he approaches his July 15 start date at the helm of the ICC, Mingus expresses deep appreciation to Espada for preparing him for his mission ahead.

“Angela has contributed so much to my growth, boosting my confidence being fresh out of graduate school and still in my first years of navigating the professional world,” Mingus said. “She has always been willing to throw challenges my way, and her guidance and mentoring have been invaluable.”

Espada, who is concluding a history-making tenure as the first woman to lead the ICC and the first woman of color to hold a Catholic conference directorship nationwide, says the ICC will be in great hands.

“I am so excited that Alexander wanted to take on this challenge,” Espada said. “He brings so many strengths to the role — not just his deep knowledge of Catholic social teaching, which is the foundation for all of our work at the ICC, but his gift for relationship building and his genuine love for the Church.”

‘The epitome of servant leadership’

Colleagues, lawmakers and the Catholic faithful share Espada’s enthusiasm for what Mingus will bring to the table.

“It’s been incredibly impressive to see someone so passionate about living their faith in the public arena,” said Mike Krokos, editor of “The Criterion,” the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. “Alexander and Angela had such a wonderful collaborative relationship, and I saw so much positive work that they did together as a team. There is such a strong history of leaders in the ICC, and Alexander will continue that strong leadership we’ve had as a voice at the Statehouse and beyond.”

Krokos also points to numerous intangible qualities that Mingus will bring to his new role.

“Alexander is the epitome of servant leadership,” Krokos said. “And when I think of the term missionary disciple, that fits Alexander to a T. He’s all about accompaniment, and these are obviously words and phrases that Pope Francis has used quite regularly in his pontificate. To me, that fits Alexander perfectly because he is so committed to the mission — not only of the ICC, but to the mission of the Catholic Church.

“He exudes Jesus Christ in everything he does,” Krokos continued. “When I think of someone who sees Jesus in others, and is Jesus to others, that’s Alexander to me.”

Carley Haselhorst, who serves as a liaison between the ICC and two parishes in two different dioceses, adds another descriptor for Alexander: bridge builder.

In collaborating with the ICC to engage the Catholic faithful on matters of public policy, she has witnessed Mingus address parishioners on Catholic social teaching — also known as Catholic social doctrine — and how it shapes the Church’s positions on important issues from fighting poverty to protecting the sanctity of life.

“Alexander is intelligent, eloquent and engaging, as well as considerate, open-minded and a good listener,” said Haselhorst, coordinator of young adult ministry at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis. “We’ve become so polarized politically in the United States, and then that seeps into the Church. I think Alexander knows that, and he knows that having those conversations about Catholic social teaching can help break down barriers, which will then allow us to shine a light on public policy from that more united place.”

Haselhorst, who on July 1 will become director of faith formation at St. Monica Catholic Parish in Indianapolis, said lawmakers respect Angela and Alexander and their opinions.

Rep. Peggy Mayfield (R-Martinsville) underscored that sentiment.

“As legislators, we are bombarded with so many topics and details,” said Mayfield, who has collaborated with the ICC on pro-life legislation and other key matters. “Angela and Alexander keep their eye on important issues and keep us apprised.”

Bringing Christ in

As the incoming leader of the ICC has grown professionally over the past four years, he also has taken on two life-changing roles in that time frame — those of husband and father.

For a man so grounded in and guided by his relationship with God, perhaps it isn’t surprising that Mingus proposed to his now-wife, Emily, in an adoration chapel on Easter Sunday 2019. They married the following year and are now parents to Cecilia, 3, and Gabriel, 1.

“Part of how I look at the world is, how do we bring Christ into all human relationships?” said Mingus, who along with his family are members of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Indianapolis. “There will always be a slate of issues that are key priorities for us at the ICC, but relationship building will continue to be one of my most important objectives.”

To help Mingus pursue this goal in the future, the ICC is now searching for a new associate director.

“I’m praying that God will lead the right person into the open role at this time of transition for the ICC,” Mingus said. “As we continue to build upon the relationships forged by my predecessors, I’m excited to continue with a new team that looks hopefully to a fruitful future of sharing the Gospel.”

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