In my special podcast this week, David Faber, the outstanding superintendent of the Diocese of Grand Rapids, joins me to discuss Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel. In our conversation, we explore the implications of the work on our work—that is, as superintendents.
I have modified the following quote (paragraph 31):
The superintendent must always foster this missionary communion in his/her diocesan school system, following the ideal of the first Christian communities, in which the believers were of one heart and one soul (cf. Act 4:32). To do so, she/he will sometimes go before her/his people, pointing the way and keeping their hope vibrant. At other times, he/she will simply be in their midst with his/her unassuming and merciful presence. At yet other times, she/he will have to walk after them, helping those who lag behind and—above all—allowing the flock to strike out on new paths.
Leading from the front is visionary and necessary. But if no one is following you, you can’t point the way. Leading from the middle will lead to “smelling like the sheep” and a “bruised and battered Church” but it will be a leadership of accompaniment. However, sometimes the sheep are lagging behind and perhaps even lost. In this instance, the superintendent must drop back and help.
Pope Francis shows a remarkable understanding of leadership which should impact our work as superintendents. But isn’t the same model applicable to principals dealing with teachers and teachers dealing with students. We need to lead from the front, from the middle, and from the back depending on the needs of our followers.
In paragraph 173, Pope Francis also emphasizes accompaniment and thus sheds light on the demands upon an educational leader.
Genuine spiritual accompaniment always begins and flourishes in the context of service to the mission of evangelization. Paul’s relationship with Timothy and Titus provides an example of this accompaniment and formation which takes place in the midst of apostolic activity. Entrusting them with the mission of remaining in each city to ‘put in order what remains to be done’ (Ti 1:5; cf. 1 Tm 1:3-5), Paul also gives them rules for their personal lives and their pastoral activity.
Accompaniment is based in relationship. We establish a relationship, find what they need, and then equip our school leaders with the necessary policies and procedures. And then we leave them in charge and keep listening to hear what else they might need. This is our job as superintendents but again I imagine it’s not unlike the job of a principal in relation to his/her teachers as well as a teacher in relation to his/her students.
We are encouraging people to read Joy of the Gospel as part of our re-visioning process of Catholic schools. But I find value in the leadership reflections and encourage educational leaders to read for personal and spiritual development.
Portions of this blog will appear on the NCEA Talk blog.
While I have not yet read “The Joy of the Gospel,” I have truly enjoyed your series here on Catholic School Matters. In your discussion with David Faber, I was particularly struck by accompaniment–and how accompaniment is based in relationship. I’ve always been a student of relationships, and now in my retirement from clinical and academic medicine I do some pro bono work counseling other physicians in both their professional and personal lives.
We don’t realize it, but at an early age we learn from our parents the very powerful and long-lasting quality of HIGH CONSIDERATION for others—which means common courtesy, simple kindness, basic thoughtfulness, and everyday goodness, etc. It follows us throughout adulthood into our profession and we perform these simple and basic acts without the thought of reward, yet others remember we do them. Persons of high consideration do not think about doing what is right, rather do what is right without thinking. Also, persons who have HIGH CONSIDERATION cannot be made low, and those who do NOT have it cannot be made high, until they figure it out, possess it and enjoy themselves doing it.
So high consideration for others is tenet one for healthy relationships.
Secondly is this. Persons who constantly look back at the past get “depressed,” while persons who constantly look ahead at a bleak future become “anxious.” So if we are constantly thinking about the past or the future–we become “emotionally unhealthy.” This is an important fact, because it can differentiate “emotional unhealthiness” from “mental illness.” Persons who are “emotionally unhealthy” or unhappy can simply mean “they are not getting along with others well”—loved ones, family, friends, co-workers, et al.
Thirdly, the main cause of “unhealthy RELATIONSHIPS”—is also because they are not getting along well with someone in a relationship. And the basic reason is they are trying to control someone—especially someone close to them–by criticizing, blaming, judging, complaining, nagging, threatening, and disbelieving. It’s really that simple.
On the other hand, persons who are “emotionally healthy” and happy–enjoy “themselves”
because they invest in their relationships by supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting, and negotiating differences.
I realize this all sounds so basic and simple that it is difficult to believe. Yet, it requires BELIEF and especially patience and everyday practice–until it becomes like breathing. It will be the best “investment” one ever makes in their professional and personal LIFE.
As soon as “Joy” was published, we at Muskegon Catholic walked our staff through it page by page as a guide to smile and share the joy with our students. Now at Cathedral High in Indianapolis, I continue to use this exhortation to rally the troops. I used a quote from p. 121 this morning in my monthly newsletter; “Jesus loves you; he gave his life for you; and now he is living at your side everyday to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” How uplifting! Thanks for your work and bringing this work to people’s screens.