Senior leaders embark on a spiritual retreat

Last week, the Catholic Schools Office introduced the first of a series of retreat programs for senior leaders in schools, new leaders to the diocese or new leaders to a position.

The 3-day program, ‘We are called, we are challenged’ consists of a combination of workshops to assist newly appointed leaders to explore the educational and ecclesial functions of the school.

The program framework derives from the recently launched Catholic Schools Vision Statement: At the heart of everything there is always Jesus Christ. 

Held at St Joseph’s retreat house, Kincumber, on the Central Coast, the retreat attracted thirteen new leaders along with two long-term principals who attended for personal renewal and to provide mentoring, support and wisdom. These principals will have an ongoing role in future programs in a cyclic manner.

Part one of the program is called, ‘Making Music’; the interception of the two functions is the moment of deep moral purpose where information becomes formation.

In combining our best professional self with our most mature spiritual character, through an encounter with the person of Christ, all learning becomes moral; indeed, it becomes holy.

This encounter calls leaders to move from a transactional style of leadership which is the default when under siege from the plethora of competing managerial agendas, to one which is transformational. This will ultimately free leaders to lead and ensure that learning is relevant, purposeful, meaningful and underpinned by theological reflection and the potential of a personal relationship with Christ.

The retreat invited and challenged its participants to engage in a personal, lived encounter with Jesus through an examination of conscience and exploration of spiritual practice.

Director of Catholic Schools, Dr Michael Slattery, provided input on the work of a number of researchers in the area of transforming learning by the Australian Catholic University.

The significance of this retreat was highlighted by the Director’s attendance and involvement throughout, particularly the personal commissioning of leaders at the conclusion of the retreat. The support of the Vicar General, Fr Brian Mascord, was also appreciated.

Time for personal reflection and evening prayer, engaging in professional and theological reading and being immersed in rich conversation provided moments of wisdom and insight during the retreat.

The retreat reminded us that we serve democratic, educational and ecclesial purposes. “The strength of Catholic education is that its purpose resonates with the needs of society but comes from the heart of an encounter with Jesus.” (Bezzina)

The second retreat in the series, ‘Sentinels’, will highlight the call to holiness in everyday work and life and the significance of understanding the many beautiful Catholic principles which must theologically underpin all decision-making.

It will explain the process of theological reflection, engage in the unpacking of Catholic social teaching and other core Catholic principles. It will aim to assist leaders prayerfully to apply this to the many current and complex educational issues which occur on a daily basis.

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