For leadership there is only one road: service. There is no other way. If you have many qualities — the ability to communicate, etc. — but you are not a servant, your leadership will fail, it is useless, it has not power to gather [people] together.
(Address of Pope Francis to Rectors and Students of the Pontifical Colleges and Residences of Rome, 2014)
In April, the directors of CSAN charities met together at CCLA offices. This was the first time CSAN members had gathered officially since the rebranding of the ‘Directors’ Forum’ into the ‘Leaders’ Alliance’. The Alliance facilitates leadership gatherings within the CSAN Network, allowing members to meet and collaborate on innovative solutions that can help them realise their goals.
Avril Baigent, representing the School of Synodality, delivered a keynote talk entitled ‘Synodality and the Social Mission of the Church’. The talk highlighted the application of the synodal process in Scripture, using New Testament accounts and the tradition of the early Church to act as a guide in the current deliberations of how the Church communicates the truth of the Gospel in the contemporary world. Avril also facilitated the space to have ‘spiritual conversations’ which prioritised listening over speaking, as an exercise to orient leaders towards leadership ultimately best exemplified in Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:1-1). Our conversations are most fruitful when we approach others with humility (recognising that we do not have all the answers), in freedom (to be open to what God might be teaching us), and with joy (the commitment to seeing God in all things and the resultant peace that follows from this).
The second keynote talk, ‘The Grace of Failing’ was delivered by Andy Keen-Downs, CEO of PACT. Guiding us through 3 examples from his career, Andy reflected on how occasions professional failure can allow us to grow. Speaking in the context of charity leadership, he suggested it is those we are called to serve that will remind us of our role and purpose and encouraged listeners to be intentional about building a team that helps fulfil the charity’s vision. Andy also shared details of a recent PACT project exploring the impact of parents’ incarceration on children and young adults. Responses from focus groups had been dramatized as a way to acknowledge and communicate young people’s experiences to wider audiences.
CSAN also expresses heartfelt thanks to Carol Hill, Director of Catholic Care (Diocese of Leeds), our outgoing Chair who has served in this position for many years and to CCLA for hosting the event.