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CaSPA President elect attends Education Executive Symposium in Rome

Posted by Loretta Wholley on 16 September 2018
CaSPA President elect attends Education Executive Symposium in Rome

Above: Catholic Education Commission, Canberra Goulburn at the General Audience in St Peters Basilica, Rome. [l to r] Loretta Wholley (Commissioner), Ross Fox (Director), Vanessa Gibson (Deputy Chair), Patrick McArdle (Chair) Greg Walker (Commissioner)

I was recently fortunate to attend the Education Executive Symposium, hosted by Australian Catholic University in Rome. We had the opportunity to hear on issues of governance, Catholic identity, and Church and Mission. Presenters included:

  • His Eminence Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, Prefect for Congregation for Catholic Education,
  • Dr Timothy J McNiff, Ed.D, School Superintendent of New York,
  • Ms Barbara Coupar, Director, Scottish Catholic Education Service
  • His Grace Archbishop Vincenzo Paulina, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Whilst each shared their experience and story of being Church in the modern world, for leaders in Catholic Education the challenge of creating a living Catholic community remained. Directors of Diocese,

Board members of Commissions, Catholic Education Office staff, Principals and Congregational representatives from across Australia were called to rediscover the joy of education and learning, preserve Catholic identity, be open to dialogue that bridges faith and reason and provide quality professional learning opportunities for staff in our schools to experience faith and participate in the life of the Church.

In addition to the keynote speakers and breakout sessions; all those in attendance were able to:

  • explore the catacombs at San Sebastian,
  • meet Ms Melissa Hitchman: Ambassador to the Holy See and Dr Greg French: Australian Ambassador to Italy
  • attend prayer with the San'Egidio Community in Trastevere and a workshop with Br Julian McDonald at the CBC Generalate.

Walking through the streets of Rome in our free time and stumbling across Basilica, Church and Chapel were also grace filled moments.

A personal highlight for me was a General Audience with Pope Francis. Whilst my Italian is a little rusty, my reflection on his address went a little like this. The reading was from Deuteronomy and based on the 3rd commandment - keep holy the Lord's day. Pope Francis encouraged us to ensure we rest on the sabbath. He believed that all the negative vices in our lives can only be overcome by being connected to God, especially through the Eucharist, for it is only when we remember, in thanksgiving, the suffering of God that we find freedom. He reminded us that every day when we look in the mirror, what we should see is something bigger and greater than our ego and that we need to have the capacity to love - for true love is real love. It transforms us, liberates us and overcomes our limitations.

None of the presenters shied away from the current issues and concerns in the Church:

  • child sexual abuse
  • clericalism
  • same-sex marriage
  • the list was open for discussion.

We were encouraged -challenged even - to be strong leaders: committed and prepared to discuss the difficult issues in the spirit of the Gospel message. We were told to listen but be able to provoke. But most of all, we were told to be beacons of hope and members of the Catholic community that return to the Heart of the Gospel.

It is our role, as leaders in our Catholic schools to defend the mission of Jesus and the heart of the Gospel. We must have, as our main purpose, the conviction to preach the Good News. We acknowledge that we are sinners, we grieve with the victims that have been failed by our Church, but still focus and follow Christ's word and example in our daily lives. Continually looking forward with Mary the Mother of our Church in hope, joy and wonder.

Loretta Wholley

Author: Loretta Wholley
About: Principal, Merici College, ACT
Tags: Leadership Identity Catholic Secondary Principals Australia

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