Leading for Mission: Integrating Life, Culture and Faith in Catholic Education

Apr 19, 2014

The annual Mission Leaders Conference is a time of collective reflection on the diversity of the role of a leader in mission within the Good Samaritan Education network.  There is a high level of shared experience and wisdom that draws on the talents and skills of a committed and passionate team of women and men who see their role as more than a “role”; it is ministry and it is mission.

Helping us focus more intently on what “mission” is in 2014 Professor Therese D’Orsa lead us through a series of presentations under the heading of “Leading for Mission: Integrating Life, Culture and Faith in Catholic Education”.  Therese broke open the Word with and for us and took us through a “mission search” in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian New Testament.  What gave the presentations a particular twist was the presentation of mission found in the fourth gospel.  John is not often associated with mission, but under Therese’s tuition we re-discovered that mission is at the heart of John’s gospel, as it is as the heart of all our sacred texts.  If mission is about “being sent” in order to bring Good News, then every encounter with Jesus is a mission encounter, an encounter that, if understood, heard and seen through the eyes and heart of faith, always ends with a commission to “go and do the same”.

Sr Meg developed this further in her exegesis of Chapter 35 of the Rule of Benedict, “On the Weekly Servers in the Kitchen”, which on a first read may seem an odd choice to look at mission!  However, doing as Benedict would encourage us, we read and re-read the text and found that there is a profound and no-nonsense teaching on mission contained in this chapter. Benedict believed that every member of the community was called to be servant of all, and no one should be excused from service without good reason.  Service is at the heart of Benedict’s understanding of the common life, and is also at the heart of mission.  No matter how lowly the task or menial, if it is done for the good of the community and done with a servant’s heart, then it is noble and Christ-like.  “Go and do the same”.

It is salient to be reminded that the grounding of all our work in mission is Christ, and time spent in common prayer is as much a part of our mission as any other form of activity.  The mission leaders joined the sisters for Evening Prayer and with one voice – although with many different tones! – joined in singing the praises of our good God, listening to God’s Word and words on the Word, and linking in prayer our needs, the needs of our schools and communities and the needs of the whole world.  Again, Benedict’s words echoed silently throughout, that we should never neglect the Opus Dei, because it is this that empowers us to “go and do the same”.

In the open forums we spent time listening to one another and our experiences of living mission in our schools.  Much was shared and much was learned and all were encouraged to “go and do the same”.  Of course a lot of the learning occurred over meals and in that all-important time after dinner when good conversation, story telling and a lot of laughter echoes throughout Mount St Benedict.

I returned to Rosebank with a lighter heart knowing that I stand in a great tradition within the Catholic Christian family.  One last thought occurred to me over these days of conference, and that was the impact of Pope Francis.  There was a great sense of that joy permeating the Church, and we felt it.  Francis’ exhortation to “go and smell the sheep” resounds beautifully with Lord’s call to “go and do the same”!

Dr Paul O’Shea
Director of Mission, Rosebank College