Diocesan Leaders Academy


In-Person & Online Components

Program Description

In response to growing momentum for deep educational renewal among bishops and diocesan leaders, ICLE is now launching a 10-month formation program that will immerse participants in the theory and practice of the Church’s own intellectual tradition and will support strategies to lead its recovery in the dioceses they serve. It is facilitated in a small cohort model, where Catholic educational leaders benefit from one-on-one monthly consulting sessions, twice-monthly online course meetings, and two in-person retreats, including visits to successful ICLE Member Schools.

The experience is designed to cultivate leaders spiritually, intellectually, and practically to lead renewal through the pastors, school leaders, and teachers of their dioceses. Since a significant benefit of the program is the experience and commitment of the cohort, participants in the Diocesan Leaders Academy are selected through an application process. Clergy and religious in educational leadership positions are most welcome.

Participants will receive ICLE’s Diocesan Leaders Academy Certificate of Completion at the conclusion of this formation program.


  1.      The Gift of Obedience in Communion with the Bishop
  2.     Reclaiming the Identity of the Diocesan Curia
  3.    Catholic Liberal Education
    1.      The Church’s Charter and History of Educating
    2.     Content and Curriculum
    3.    Pedagogy
    4.    Formation of Teachers to See Reality Well
  4.    Founded on a Christian Anthropology
    1.      Implications for Content and Curriculum
    2.     Policy and Guidance Ordered toward Happiness and Formation, Rather than in Opposition to Ideologies
    3.    Students with Disabilities: Honoring the Imago Dei
  5.     School Pastors: Reclaiming the Fathers’ Role
    1.      Getting Authority and Hierarchy Right
    2.     Reaching the Presbyterate
    3.    Munus Docendi: Where and How Can Pastors Teach Leaders and Teachers?
  6.    The Bishop’s Role in Forming the Missionaries
    1.      Who Do We Want? Leader and Teacher Recruitment
    2.     What Do We Need to See? Leader and Teacher Formation
  7.   Ordering Choices of Accreditation, Licensing, State Standards, and Diocesan Policy toward Renewal
  8.  Leading Those We Lead: Managing the Change of Renewal
  9.    Proclaiming the Good News of School Renewal: Creating and Sharing a Vision with your Bishop to Pastors, Donors, Teachers, and Parents!
  10.     Listening to the Holy Spirit: Asking the Lord His Plans for the Renewal of His Schools


The program begins with a brief online meet-and-greet prior to our first in-person gathering, the Fall Cornerstone Retreat and Symposium. This event will be held September 17-20, 2024, at the Augustine Institute Event and Retreat Center near St. Louis, MO.

From October through June, two 90-minute online course meetings will take place each month at a time selected by the cohort. Participants will also receive a one-hour monthly private consulting session with one of the program leaders.

The Spring Capstone Retreat and Symposium, our second in-person gathering, will be held in Denver, CO, in March or April 2025 (dates TBD). This four-day, three-night event will include visits to one or more ICLE Member schools.


This program is open to those serving in educational leadership positions at the diocesan level, such as superintendents or assistant/associate superintendents, including clergy and religious. Others in leadership roles that support the diocese’s mission of Catholic education also are encouraged to apply.

Preference is given to those who display a sincere desire to learn and grow and whose experience will contribute to the collective wisdom of the cohort. Regular attendance and active participation are necessary for the full benefit of leadership formation; participants must be able to commit time and effort for their own growth.


Join us! Applications for the 2024-2025 cohort are now being accepted.

Limited seats are available. Rolling admission until the cohort is full. Applicants can expect to receive a response within three weeks.


The cost for the program is $9,000; however, all accepted applicants for the 2024-2025 cohort will automatically be awarded a $7,500 scholarship, thanks to the generous support of the St. John Henry Newman Institute.

This brings the total 2024-2025 program cost to $1,500, plus travel expenses.

The cost includes 10 months of executive-level formation and private consulting; Fall Cornerstone Retreat and Symposium programming, accommodations, and all meals; Spring Capstone Retreat and Symposium programming; ICLE Member School visits; and most meals. Not included: travel to in-person events and Denver hotel accommodations (3 nights).


Accepted applicants will be asked to complete the $1500 payment within three weeks of acceptance.


All payments are non-refundable.


For any questions, please contact Elisabeth Sullivan, 


Abriana Chilelli, Diocesan Liaison

Abriana Chilelli believes deeply that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man’s last end (Pope Pius XI, 1929). After nearly a decade of teaching and curriculum writing, she served a variety of leadership roles at the archdiocesan-level in the Archdiocese of Denver, including Assistant Superintendent, as well as Associate Superintendent for Academic Renewal. As ICLE’s new Diocesan Liaison, she will lead this program by drawing on a wealth of educational leadership experience, from the classroom to the archdiocese. In addition to her work at ICLE, she also serves as the Assistant Director of Catholic Education for the Archdiocese of Portland. Abriana has an undergraduate degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Colorado, and a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Notre Dame. She and her husband currently reside in Denver with her favorite students — their four children who all attend Catholic schools steeped in the Church’s charter for education.

Danny Flynn, Director of Diocesan and School Relations

Danny Flynn taught for six years at St. Jerome Academy after it became the first diocesan school in the country to adopt a classical liberal arts approach; he then stepped into the principal’s role in 2016. Under his leadership, the Pre-K through 8 school has continued to thrive and expand. Since 2021, Danny has been leading ICLE’s Aspiring School Leaders Program, a six-month online school leader training program. He will join the Institute full-time in early summer as the Director of Diocesan and School Relationships to share his expertise with dioceses and a growing number of Catholic liberal arts schools across the country. He holds a BA from Franciscan University and an MSE from Trinity University. He is happily married and the father of 14.

Elisabeth Sullivan, Executive Director

A former journalist, Elisabeth joined the Institute in 2010 to advance this vision and train educators in its philosophy and practice. As Executive Director, she develops ICLE’s programs, content, and publications, designs the annual national conference, and promotes ICLE’s mission through speaking engagements across the country. Elisabeth is a CiRCE-Certified Classical Teacher who has taught middle school writing and literature, served on Catholic school boards, and served as director of communications for a liberal arts school in the Catholic tradition. She holds a B.S. in Humanities from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and an M.S. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She and her husband live in North Carolina. They have three sons and two sweet grandsons.

Peter Crawford, Dean of Academics

Peter Crawford was the founding headmaster of the St. Jerome Institute, a private liberal arts high school in the Catholic intellectual tradition located in Washington, DC. A graduate of Ave Maria University, he received his Master’s and MPhil degrees in philosophy from the University of Leuven. He taught ancient, medieval, and modern European history and humane letters at Glendale Preparatory Academy, a classical charter school in Phoenix, Arizona, from 2009-2013. In 2013, he founded two Great Hearts Academies in San Antonio, Texas. He grew both the lower school (K-5) and the upper school (6-12) enrollment to serve 700 students of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Peter and his beautiful wife have seven children — four girls and three boys.

Dr. Ryan Messmore, Director of Catholic Educator Formation and Credential Program

Dr. Messmore brings to ICLE a broad range of educational leadership and teaching experience grounded in a theological framework. He will join the Institute on June 1 after completing his service as the President of Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in New Hampshire. Previously, he served as President of Campion College in Australia. Dr. Messmore has also worked as Senior Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, Executive Director of the Millis Institute (Australia), and Assistant Headmaster for Academic Affairs at St. David’s School, in Raleigh, NC. He earned a D.Phil. in Theology from the University of Oxford, an M.Phil. in Theology from the University of Cambridge, an M.T.S. from Duke Divinity School, and an A.B. in Public Policy and Religion from Duke University. In 2017, he authored the book In Love: The Larger Story of Sex and Marriage. His commentary and analysis have appeared in newspapers such as The Washington Times and The Australian, online venues such as and, and in national magazines such as First Things, Touchstone, and Comment. Dr. Messmore has four children (two in college) and lives with his wife and two daughters.