This week marks a new beginning for Cande de Leon. The Diocese of Phoenix’s Executive Director of Mission Advancement has just accepted an appointment as the first Chief Advancement Officer of the National Eucharistic Congress Corporation.
“Cande brings with him to the National Eucharistic Congress apostolate not only deep experience and an incredible track record in diocesan and non-profit service, but also a deep faith—a love for the Church and a heart on fire for evangelization,” said Bishop Andrew Cozzens, chairman of the board for the National Eucharistic Congress. “He is an incredible relational evangelist, whose wealth of personal experience from his time in the Marine Corps and Hispanic cultural roots gives him a profound perspective. We are thrilled that he is joining our small team to help us make a generational impact through inviting thousands to experience a transformational encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist.”
Cande’s incredible life journey had a humble beginning. Growing up in a first generation Mexican-American family in Corpus Christi, Texas, his parents worked hard with the resources they had to provide a life for their family. When his father started a tire shop, Cande worked alongside him. “My dad started the shop with literally nothing, not more than a set of four tires, people skills, and street smarts. From that small beginning, he built four retail establishments and a wholesale division, and I was a part of it all.”
After serving in the United States Marine Corps for four years, Cande and his wife Rosemary found themselves on an unexpected faith journey. Rosemary, formerly a Baptist, came to love the Catholic Church through the testimony of the Blessed Virgin Mary. “We were reading the Hail Mary, the words straight out of the Bible, and my wife started crying and said ‘The blessed Mother carried Jesus.’ She was pregnant, so she was holding her stomach, and she said ‘I get it; I understand why she’s so important. I want to be Catholic.’”
“I understood that what I was seeking was wisdom, but since I didn’t fear the Lord, I recognized that I was the fool.”
Through Rosemary’s witness and the words of Sacred Scripture, Cande found himself embracing a deeper walk with Jesus, too. “I was reading Proverbs 1:7—‘Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and knowledge.’—and I understood that what I was seeking was wisdom, but since I didn’t fear the Lord, I recognized that I was the fool.”
With each step Cande took toward Jesus and the Church, he realized more deeply that his gifts and passion were given to him to serve God’s mission. He brought his gift for business, with a focus on parish vitality, to his local church. “Priests got into ministry for the Sacraments, to bring people to the Lord, to evangelize, but oftentimes they get pulled into payroll, bills, and putting out administrative fires. I knew that I could help them.”
This mission expanded when Cande was invited to lead development efforts at the diocesan level in Corpus Christi. He supervised the largest capital campaign in the history of the diocese, raising 38.7 million dollars—over double the original goal. For the last seven years, Cande has been the first Executive Director of the Office of Mission Advancement for the Diocese of Phoenix, overseeing the Together Let Us Go Forth Campaign, raising $120 million to foster evangelization and missionary discipleship in the parishes and schools of Phoenix.
“Christ has been preparing me for this all my life.”
Now Cande finds himself on the threshold of a new beginning. On October 1, 2022, he’ll assume his role as the National Eucharistic Congress Corporation’s first Chief Advancement Officer. “I was truly humbled to receive the invitation from Bishop Cozzens and Tim Glemkowski, Executive Director of the National Eucharistic Congress Corporation. I never imagined myself serving in this way, but as I look back, I can see how Christ has been preparing me for this all my life. I am very excited to begin working with our bishops, as well as our strategic partners who understand mission within the Church, to bring more people to Christ.”
The National Eucharistic Congress, set for July 17-21, 2024, aims to gather 80,000-100,000 people from across the country in Indianapolis. As a major gathering and high point of the National Eucharistic Revival, the Congress will be a visual sign of the communion fostered through the Revival as well as a source for launching Eucharistic missionaries back into parishes and dioceses all around the country.
“Cande is someone I have admired for quite some time, and it is a dream to have him accept our invitation to come serve this mission,” said Tim Glemkowski, Executive Director of the National Eucharistic Congress. “God wants to do something big through the Eucharistic Revival and Congress. With his rare combination of gifts, experiences, and prayer life, I believe God truly has chosen Cande to help us see lives transformed through this Spirit-driven movement.”
The National Eucharistic Congress, Inc. was formed by the United States Catholic Bishops in February 2022 as a key outreach of the missionary call of the Church. Its mission is to host the first National Eucharistic Congress since 1941 and a National Eucharistic Procession leading up to this milestone moment. It will then plan to continue the missionary transformation of the Church by perpetuating the grassroots movement of the three-year Eucharistic Revival: continuing to form leaders, send Eucharistic missionaries to the margins, spread Eucharistic processions and adoration, and re-establish National Eucharistic Congresses as key opportunities for Catholics in the United States to encounter Jesus Christ and be sent on mission “for the life of the world.”