Michael Okinczyc-Cruz: Where Civic Life and Mystical Life Meet

“Robust commitment to civic life should be fed by a robust spiritual life, a mystical life.”

Season 2, Episode 5 of Messy Jesus Business, hosted by Sister Julia Walsh



In Season 2, Episode 5 of Messy Jesus Business podcast, Sister Julia Walsh and Michael Okinczyc-Cruz discuss how his upbringing and experience as a person of Polish and Mexican ancestry helped bring him to his ministry as co-founder and Executive Director of the Coalition for Spiritual and Public Leadership, which helps people enrich their spiritual lives and connect that to their public lives, and why that’s essential for radical discipleship. He remembers graduating from college during the Great Recession and seeking support when making ends meet was difficult.

“I remember going to this church, and the line was so long, you know, we got there and there were probably 30-40 people in line, and I remember just this like profound shame hitting me,” he said. “And I’m even sad to say that because I know that for so many millions of people in our country today, that’s the present reality…they need help…they need food on the table today. Not tomorrow, today. And I remember going and I remember this feeling like I busted my tail the last four years to get through college. This is what my parents told me I needed to do in order to make it, and I just graduated and here I am. And, what’s wrong with this picture?”

Work Rooted in Faith

They also talk about the essential role of relationship building in addressing systemic issues, and define solidarity through this lens, examining the importance of developing authentic relationships that can be transformative in public life, particularly in our current political and economic climate.

“Over time, as I’ve reflected on what keeps me in this work, I think it has so much to do with my faith, it has so much to do with my upbringing, it has so much to do with the vital importance of this work. You know, the ability to work with extraordinary people: parents, youth, elders who have so many aspirations and hopes for their community and being able to achieve some of those dreams and aspirations through hard, deliberate, intense work in public life. It’s just remarkable,” he says.

The Transformative Power of Relationships

At its heart is an inherent commitment to the importance of developing relationships. “We’re gonna move much further along if people are willing to…develop deep and authentic and meaningful relationships that can be transformative in public life,” he explains.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development

In addition, this episode of Messy Jesus Business also touches on the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development: what it is, and how you can be a part of the important work of this initiative to create vital systemic change.


Visit the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Campaign for Human Development online.

Go to the website for the Coalition for Spiritual & Public Leadership.


Michael Okinczyc-Cruz is the Executive Director and a co-founder of the Coalition for Spiritual and Public Leadership. As a faith-rooted community organizer with nearly a decade of experience, he has worked to address issues related to criminal justice, mental health, corporate bank accountability, immigration reform, refugee rights, public transportation, and economic justice at the local, state and national levels. He has trained thousands of leaders across the country on the methodologies of faith-based community organizing.

Okinczyc-Cruz is also an adjunct professor at the Institute of Pastoral Studies at Loyola University of Chicago where he periodically teaches courses on Catholic Social Teaching, Christian Ethics and Leadership in Social Justice Organizations. He possesses a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, a Master’s in Theology from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School and a Doctorate of Ministry with a concentration in Latinx studies from Fordham University. Okinczyc-Cruz’s maternal grandparents are from Guanajuato, Mexico and his father is a refugee from Poland. He lives in Chicago with his wife Joanna.


Our Contemplative Moment in this episode of Messy Jesus Business is an excerpt from Pope Francis’ General Audience on September 2, 2020.

MESSY JESUS BUSINESS is produced, hosted and edited by Sister Julia Walsh with production assistance from Charish Badzinski.

Email us at messyjesusbusiness@gmail.com


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