Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 27, 2000
'Help!' - the prayer of a leader
Collins warns trustees to be aware of their need for God
By LELLA BLUMER
Special to the WCR
With power, "there is always the danger of corruption." But Catholic school trustees and other leaders can avoid that danger by becoming "shepherds after the heart of God," said Archbishop Thomas Collins.
"We must tend the flock, whether it is one person or millions," and it must be done eagerly, not for shameful gain, Collins said in his keynote talk to the annual general meeting of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association.
True leadership involves frailty and an awareness of one's need for God, the archbishop said.
"Help" can be the most important prayer of leadership, Collins noted, as in when we ask for help to see God's will.
"If the environment of the Catholic school is not rooted in this -- what is the will of God -- then it is worse than useless.
"We can't just talk pretty words about Jesus and put banners on the wall; we must observe what he commands us or it is shallow."
Catholic education involves more than knowledge and skills, he continued. It must involve the search for wisdom, tempered by compassion and love of neighbour.
"In Catholic education we are forming leaders. It would be terrible if we form a generation of leaders who are skilled in computers, and who are extremely eloquent . . . but have no direction."
The archbishop's three presentations to trustees were part of an ongoing Leadership in Catholic Education certificate program, developed five years ago by ACSTA, together with educators from Newman Theological College, St. Joseph's College and St. Mary's College in Calgary.
The program focuses on different aspects of the Catholic trustee's role, including spirituality, the sacraments, Sacred Scripture and morality, along with the history and governance of Catholic schools.
Collins said leadership is not something entrusted only to the perfect.
"All of us are in positions of leadership. . . . Leadership is the service of the common good, and to the extent that each person seeks the common good, that individual is a leader."
But we are also disciples, inherently called to live in community, not as isolated individuals, he pointed out. And as disciples "we are called to experience community, to come to know the Lord and have that deeply rooted within us."
That discipleship is what legitimizes leadership and leadership requires legitimacy if it is going to be effective.
"When the leadership is separated from the discipleship, we don't know where we're going, and that's dangerous."
Tending to ourselves as disciples means going to Confession, praying, and serving the Lord, he said, adding "if we don't tend to the foundation, the rest will crumble."
Responding to questions from the delegates, Collins acknowledged that schools today are working with "exceedingly frail realities" of students and parents who are not active Catholics. But he warned against the possibility of elitism.
"We are not a small perfect system. We must always remember to bring in the crowds," even if we risk leaving our frailties exposed, he added.
It's part of the reality of a constantly growing discipleship. Catholic education is "more like the growth of a plant than the building of a machine."
"It's a slow, long process, and none of us have completed it."
But in order to be leaders, and shepherds according to the heart of God, we need to "stop, look and listen," he urged.
"If we are to be salt in this world that so often becomes stressed out and strained and lifeless, we need to be in touch with the life force. We need to take time every day to read a little, reflect and pray.
"We need to be attentive to the source."