At the top of the agenda for Lumen Christi’s new director of development is seeking funding for the radical growth plan the institute’s founding director, Thomas Levergood, had communicated months before his untimely death in August.

John W. Buchmann, named development director Aug. 1, said securing Levergood’s vision and legacy is among his priorities for the coming year. A former Lumen Christi staffer, Buchmann returned to Lumen Christi earlier this year at Levergood’s invitation.

Buchmann had worked for Lumen Christi for four years during his graduate studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School. During that time, Buchmann said Levergood grounded him in the vision of the institute and trained him in all facets of the organization.

However, upon completing his doctorate in ethics and Catholic social thought, Buchmann sought positions at institutes modeled on Lumen Christi in his home state of Pennsylvania. He served as associate director and scholar-in-residence at the Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture at the University of Pennsylvania (2017-2019). He was then executive director of the Beatrice Institute in Pittsburgh (2019-2020).

Throughout this period, Levergood accompanied Buchmann as a trusted friend and mentor, eventually inviting him to return to Lumen Christi. Buchmann quickly noted how his old colleagues had mastered their respective spheres of responsibility since his departure, branched out into new areas, and perfected the planning, funding and execution of online and in-person events.

“Lumen Christi is the strongest I’ve ever seen it,” said Buchmann. “It definitely punches above its weight.”

Like Levergood, Buchmann embraced the Catholic faith as a young man and he found at the University of Chicago the opportunity to grow in his faith.

Thanks to Lumen Christi, said Buchmann, “I was given the opportunity to study the Catholic intellectual tradition with the greatest Catholic minds available, despite the fact that I was at a secular school.”    

“Thomas is the reason I am doing this work and not working as a professor,” Buchmann added about his mentor’s formidable influence.

Buchmann understands his new role as inviting others to connect their values and their desire to do good with Lumen Christi’s programming that is both concrete and impactful in promoting the Catholic intellectual tradition at the national and international levels.

“You’re giving people the opportunity to live within their values in a very concrete way,” he said. “That’s important work, and I’m grateful to be able to do it.”