Held at the Quest in Newcastle West, formal proceedings began with a Leaders’ Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral on March 2, the first day of Catholic Schools Week, and a dinner followed where students learnt formal etiquette.
Students had the opportunity to spend time with Bishop Bill and other diocesan and school leaders, and to see the crucial role faith plays in forming great leaders for our community. Leadership takes on a deeper dimension when informed and inspired by the way of Jesus.
Jesus's leadership was one of service and self-sacrifice, especially for the vulnerable and outcasts of his day. To get a sense of this, student leaders visited Mission to Seafarers, St Vinnies, CatholicCare, Mercy Services, St Nicholas Early Education and Mums’ Cottage.
The retreat allowed the senior students to discover more about ways in which their own unique personalities could be a gift to their leadership.
They heard from Vic Alhadeff, chief executive of the Jewish Board of Deputies, on the importance of speaking up when people are treated unjustly. And they were inspired by renowned author and speaker Sam Clear’s presentation about his Walk for One mission around the world to pray for Christian unity.
Importantly, they enjoyed getting to know each other and building new networks and friendships.
Bishop Bill affirmed and encouraged the students in their leadership roles and was impressed with the way they articulated their plans. The Diocese is confident the students are now leading their school communities with faith and determination.
Director of Schools, Gerard Mowbray, challenged the student leaders to boldly make a difference, especially in the areas of growing inclusive and accepting communities so that no one is left out.
The students were also challenged to leave a legacy for future leaders and year groups to follow so their hard work this year carries on.
Sarah, a Year 12 leader from St Joseph’s High School, Aberdeen, is aiming to counteract or balance her own leadership to fit other people’s needs within society. John also a Year 12 leader at St Joseph’s, is keen to apply the skills he learnt at the retreat in a proactive way and understand more clearly the positive effect he can have on his school.
John hopes his leadership legacy will be to have fostered an understanding of what’s required of students, as well as a focus on mental health and wellbeing. “School can be quite stressful in the senior years,” he said. “I think it is important that students understand what they do in the junior years really builds the foundation for their senior years.”
Sophie, a Year 12 leader St Catherine’s Catholic College, Singleton, hopes to be remembered by her younger peers. “I remember peers before me who were leaders,” she said. “I would like to achieve the wellbeing of students. I know a lot of schools are working on that right now and I feel like we could work on that a bit more in our school.”