The qualities of leaders

Over several weeks I have been exploring with you the role of leaders and leadership in teams and communities. I have explored with you the roles of coaches and captains, as well as team members.

We looked at leadership qualities and strengths, as well as the factors that sustain people as leaders. I hope you were able to consider yourself as a leader or team member and what aspect of these latest messages applied to you or to your leader/s.

During the past week I was in Gloucester at the opening of the new CatholicCare Office in which the Parish Leadership Team (PLT) will have an office and will share the administrative support services functions. The members of the PLT were at the opening and blessing of the new centre. Then, on Thursday we had our regular Lay Pastoral Ministries meeting at Hamilton, where those who are involved in Parish Pastoral Ministries gather to share their experiences, for prayer and then for a more formal business meeting. At this meeting there were people from the parishes of Morisset, Toronto, Krambach and Forster/Tuncurry. So in the past week I have encountered people from the Parish Leadership Teams of Gloucester, Krambach and Morisset. Toronto has a Pastoral Co-ordinator and Pastoral Assistant as part of their leadership model.

members of the church familyIn meeting with these lay leaders, I began to think about the qualities that are necessary for the effectiveness of these lay leadership teams.

Team leadership, where each member of the team is equal and there is not one person who is in charge, is not generally found in any normal work environment. Our team leadership is not a hierarchical organisational model.

The leaders come from each of our five foundations for parish life:

  • Identity and Community
  • Worship and Prayer
  • Formation and Education
  • Mission and Outreach
  • Leadership and Structure

The members of these PLT’s each work or minister in their area of interest/giftedness and it is wonderful for me to witness their growth in skills and enthusiasm for what they are imagining with their communities. There is either a priest-Moderator or Administrator who has canonical responsibility with them for the life of the parish.

So what qualities am I witnessing in the members of these Leadership Teams?

The Call of the Baptised - each team member has a true sense of vocation or call to minister in their community with the people of the parish. They continue to discern their call by God through the scriptures, prayer and the experiences of being actively involved in leadership. This call is discussed with others on the team as well as with spiritual mentors.

Eucharistic People – Mass and the Sacraments form an essential part of the lives of those involved in parish leadership. Our diocesan Communio/Missio charism of gathering and being sent on mission as disciples is apparent in all those who are serving on these teams. Clearly they are nourished by Word and Eucharist each week as part of the Body of Christ.

Imagining the possibilities – they listen to the voice of the Spirit and then share the creative inspirations with others on the team before taking action. Each of these parishes are attempting new ideas and inviting others to be involved in growing the life of the parish. Interestingly, not all ideas will work in a different location so the Spirit’s voice is heard in a particular place at a particular time.

Energy and Enthusiasm – in speaking with team members I am struck by their enthusiasm for the life of the parish and for their own ministries. They are keen to be the face of Jesus to those who they meet.

Capacity for respectful listening – the members of the team are growing in their respect for each other’s gifts by listening with deep hearts. This is the gift they also bring to their parish communities. There is a real care for those on the team and while there are frustrations because of the differences that exist these are managed with patience and tolerance.

Collaboration, Co-responsibility, Communication, Consensus – these elements are essential for the good of the team and for the whole parish. It is not the team’s parish but they are part of the whole parish in which others share with them, their baptismal call. Communication is critical for shared leadership to function and meetings, emails, texting, phone calls, conversations etc. are part of the everyday life of these teams.

Support from the diocesan offices – it is important that these teams and the parishes are confident that, if assistance is required, it will be provided. They are not on their own and the people from the Chancery are prepared to assist pastorally and administratively.

At the beginning of the readings in my Sunday Missal for the Twentieth Sunday in Year B were the following words:

‘Eat my flesh, drink my blood.’ In the Incarnation ‘the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’ the Word continues to take flesh in the Eucharistic species and in all of us who partake of the flesh and blood of Christ in Communion - ‘those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me and I in them.’ Through the Eucharistic community, Christ continues to be enfleshed and to dwell in our world.

I am grateful to those in parishes who are prepared to lead. For our Parish Leadership Teams this journey is new and challenging but they are continually nourished by Word, Eucharist and the Community. I also acknowledge there are those in parishes who are leading with their Parish Priest.

We know these are challenging times and yet these are exciting times for us. God is with us and we will not falter. We are standing on the shoulders of the ones who have gone before us and they are with us holding us with love. Let’s not lose sight of that great Communion of Saints. We stand in this present place because of our forebears and we stand in this place now with a future that is unfolding.

'The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and their destination'. (John Schaar)

Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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