In June of this year, the first cohort of CSAN’s new aspiring leaders programme gathered at the Royal Foundation of St Katharine’s in London for their first residential. The programme is designed for those who aspire to a leadership role in a Catholic setting. There were twenty participants in total drawn from a range of CSAN member organisations, and one participant from Caritas Europa. They were supported in learning groups by four facilitators, all experienced CEOs and Directors from the CSAN network.
The first sessions were about getting to know each other, sharing our ‘autobiographies’ and personal stories. It was clear from very early on that the group ‘clicked’ and enjoyed being together, very helpful in any learning environment. Our main aim on the programme is to develop an understanding of Gospel-inspired servant leadership and what that looks like in the real world of organisational leadership. Our facilitators all delivered inspiring ‘micro key notes’ on their experience of leadership, followed by Q&A. It’s amazing what you can cover in 20 minutes.
We were delighted to be joined by Maria Nyman, the Secretary General of Caritas Europa, who delivered a powerful keynote to the group on the topic of leadership, with a particular focus on women’s leadership in the Church. Maria’s faith and practical wisdom was very well received. We were also joined by Christine Allen, Director of CAFOD, who led a Q&A with the group which ranged widely over a number of leadership topics.
Another highlight from the group was the visit of Julian Filochowski, the former Director of CAFOD. Julian is currently very involved with the Oscar Romero Trust and met Romero a number of times. Since the patron saint of the cohort is St Oscar Romero, it was great news for us when we heard that Julian was able to join us. The room was rapt with attention as he described the martyrdom of Romero and played a recording of the very gunshot that killed him. Romero’s commitment to justice for the poor is the inspiration for our programme.
Our second residential was back at St Katherine’s in October. In between times, the group had met on Zoom calls and were involved in immersion visits organised by the facilitators. The focus for the second residential was the interpersonal skills of leadership and anexploration of our own habits and triggers when dealing with other people, especially in moments of heightened stress and conflict. We were led for the day by Sarah Broscombe, a leadership development consultant and facilitator with international experience. Sarah led the group into deeper reflections about their own styles and ways of workings, using expert input and interactive group work. The comments in the evaluations referred to this as some of the best training they’d ever received.
On day two we visited Romero House in Lambeth, home of CSAN and CAFOD. We were again delighted that Julian was able to join us, this time at the diocesan shrine to St Oscar Romero in St George’s Cathedral next door. He told us more about the history of the shrine including its precious relic of the saint: a blood-stained fragment of the alb he was wearing at the time of his assassination.
Our final session of the residential was a fascinating interview with Caro Hattersley, one of our facilitators, about the “first 100 days” of her new leadership role. Sarah’s thoughtful questions and Caro’s humble, heartfelt and humorous responses, provided the group with a great deal of food for thought about the lived experience of leadership. We concluded the session by making personal pledges on one area of interpersonal skills to work on.
The programme continues, with more journal reflection, reading and meeting together online, before we gather again for the third residential in March 2023. The participants are growing quickly in their understanding of leadership in a Catholic setting. It is a joy to accompany them on the journey. We are now considering when to launch the application process for a second cohort, having learned so much from this first cohort.
If you would be interested in taking part in the programme, please send an expression of interest to us at email@example.com with Aspiring Leaders in the subject box.