Less than 1% of our Principals move into the role from a position outside the Catholic System [even though they may have been in our system earlier in their career]. Paulina Skerman from St Patrick's Townsville reflects on her experience:
For me the transition from leadership in a school outside the Catholic system, to becoming Principal of St Patrick's College Townsville, has been incredibly easy.
My first experience of Catholic Education was my own schooling by the Sisters of Mercy in North Qld. My old school principal from my own secondary school sits on my Board of Governance. I then boarded at Lourdes Hill for my senior years of schooling. I spent 7 of my first 10 years of teaching in Catholic schools.
The biggest transition for me was from Catholic to a non-denominational Grammar school; I missed the spiritual aspect during that time, although pastorally, students were well accommodated. After 7 years in that system I moved to Canberra Grammar which is Anglican and then to Clayfield College which is Presbyterian/Uniting. All religious schools have had Christian values at the heart of their mission. Jesus' teachings and prayer and worship have been common across all schools. The religious education programs have been different the Catholic tradition, the way we celebrate mass are clearly different. All religious schools though have given me license to talk about issues that we may shy away from in non-denominational or public schools. With Pope Francis at the helm now, I have the freedom to talk about environmental sustainability, social justice and I can denounce racism and the treatment of refugees in a Catholic school. I feel further empowered to speak of faith, hope and love, which is particularly important now when there is so much turbulence and division in the world.
The charism of the Sisters of Mercy and the example of Catherine McAuley is a major difference between the school I am now leading and the previous non- Catholic religious schools. I am inspired by Catherine McAuley every day and I am strengthened in my role by her vision and her mission. I am also doing a lot of formation work with Mercy Partners which just deepens my understanding of mission and further empowers me to make decisions that put people first particularly those who are vulnerable and disadvantaged.
Becoming Principal of St Patrick's College Townsville has been like coming home.
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