By Eli Pacheco  

Br. Moises Gutierrez Rivas, OFM, PhD, cannot help it.  

His love for people, especially the diversity of souls, shows wherever he goes. At age 60, he has spent half his life as a friar. He is beloved among his students, who embrace his leadership style – and Franciscan charism.   

“I consider home wherever I am,” said Br. Moises, full-time professor for the Doctoral Program in Leadership at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. “I try to create an environment in my classroom and virtual world where students can be themselves, not who I want them to be.”  

Now, in his third year of teaching in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of the College of Professional and Continuing Education, Br. Moises was named Instructor of the Year at Creighton this summer.  

“I hope that my being Franciscan is not the first thing (students) see; it is the first thing they feel,” he said. “Compassion, understanding, passion, going the extra mile. I always bring the human approach to teaching, ministering and living.”  

Moises stands among three other faculty members who received awards from Creighton University. He is smiling, wearing a dark blue shirt and holding a glass award with his name on it.

Exploring ways to motivate 

Br. Moises is one of the core faculty team for the Doctoral Program in Interdisciplinary Leadership at Creighton - a private Jesuit University - to teach leadership courses in the doctoral program. 

“People get inspired differently,” said Br. Moises, who studied intercultural and bilingual education at Roosevelt (Chicago) University before earning his master’s degree in intercultural relations, consulting and training at Lesley (Massachusetts) University. He completed his doctorate in leadership studies, with a concentration on global leadership, from Gonzaga (Washington) University.

“My work is about exploring ways to motivate people,” he said. Yet, even with his distinguished education, Br. Moises humbly downplays his status. “I’m not an academic, intellectual or a scholar,” he said.  

However, his impact on students — with a relational and adaptive approach to leadership and open discussion — has made him a favorite on campus.  

Br. Moises knows the work is more than imparting valuable leadership skills to college students that can enlighten their lives exponentially.  

Br. Moises stands among 14 people wearing bright blue shirts with

Open to connecting and learning 

Before heading to the Nebraska plains, Br. Moises taught at Gonzaga for its PhD in Leadership studies and served as the director of the Intercultural ministry Office for the Archdiocese, of Indianapolis.  

He also worked in Chile and Italy with the Franciscans. Before that, he was a computer engineer in Mexico who joined the friars at the age of 30 when he came to the U.S. Everywhere life takes him, Br. Moises is open to connecting and learning from people.  

“When I came to the United States, diversity meant different languages, different religions, diverse ways of thinking,” he said. “One of my goals is ‘how can I be a better person in my calling as a friar?’ The Gospel is calling us to do that. Francis is calling us to do that.”  

His Franciscan values in a secular setting meld so naturally that other institutions have invited Br. Moises to speak on campuses nationwide. It is part of a religious life he says he fell in love with.  

“It allowed me to discover how God was leading me to ministry as a Franciscan,” said Br. Moises, who has been invited to Briarcliff (Iowa) University, among other schools.    

“Even with my accent, my getting old, maybe people still see my passion for diversity, interculturality, leadership and ministry,” he said.  

Br. David Phan walks as part of a procession of Vietnamese clergy during a feast day celebration. Br. David is wearing white vestments embroidered with Our Lady of La Vang holding the infant Jesus.

A fresh perspective on leadership 

In his journey of religious life, Br. Moises has navigated without a plan – but with an openness to whatever God and the province have in store for him.  

 “With this new province, I am sure I will be surprised in many ways,” he said.  

Those enrolled in Br. Moises’ courses next year will come away with a fresh perspective on diversity, leadership, and a critical understanding of the individual’s worth.  

You cannot help it when you share a conversation with him. The gentle thunder of his voice, inviting smile and lively hand gestures will have you thinking in new ways and being proud of who you are.  

In the spirit of St. Francis, his is a ministry that accentuates individual strengths to empower the greater good. 

“The friars allowed me to explore how God was leading me to minister,” Br. Moises said. “Because of my journey, I learned to allow God and life to surprise me. They allowed me to come here because it seemed like a great match, to teach leadership.”