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23 September

Saint Padre Pio of Pietrelcina

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Marist leaders as prophets and mystics



Marist schools leaders gather for Marist Leadership Institute

05/10/2009: United States

From July 19 through July 23, 36 Marist school leaders from the United States in Ireland gathered at San Alfonso Retreat House in Long Branch, New Jersey to discuss their roles in leading the Marist schools of the 21st century.

Participants at the Marist Leadership Institute were: Bro. Tom Schady and John Sherry (Archbishop Molloy), Jeanne Burns, Dave DeFillippo, Doreen Keller, Rick Nault, Bro. Rene Roy, and Chris Sullivan (Central Catholic), Bro. Michael Brady, Pat Call, Pedro Garcia-Casals, Bro. Kevin Hadndibode, and David Pugh (Christopher Columbus), Bro. Steve Schlitte and Bob Slaski (Marist-Bayonne), Alex Brown, Bro. Pat McNamara, Kelly Mulcahy, Beth O’Neill, Don Pirkle, and Larry Tucker (Marist-Chicago), Bro. Larry Gordon and Anthony Miserandino (Mt. St. Michael), Aiden Clarke and Maurice Hartigan (Moyle Park College, Clondalkin (Dublin), Ireland), Bro. Owen Ormsby (Roselle Catholic), Bob Brescia, Lindsay Irwin, and Lucy Williams (St. Joseph Academy).

Also part of the MLI were Vince Andiorio, new director of Marist Evangelization and Bro. Hank Hammer outgoing director of Marist Evangelization, Bro. Don Bisson, Bro. Ben Consigli, and Bro. David Hall, MLI Presentation Team, Bro. John Klein, Provincial and Bro. Richard Van Houten, the new director of the Office of Marist Education.

Brother David Hall, a presenter from the 2007 Marist Leadership Institute was a week-long presenter on the topic of Marist leaders as prophets and mystics. Brother David, a member of the Sydney, Australia province of the Marist Brothers has served as a school leader in various capacities and as the director of the Marist Ministries Office for the Sydney Province.

Brother David was joined by Brother Donald Bisson, an American Marist Brother and nationally known speaker of Jungian psychology and spirituality. Brother Don brings years of classroom experience as well as experience in his current ministry of spiritual and retreat direction. Brother Don is well known to American Marist Educators who have participated in the Sharing Our Call and Embracing Our Call programs.

Brother David spoke about St. Marcellin Champagnat as a prophet. He spoke of Marcellin as someone who did not accept the status quo of educational practice and theory of his time. Instead, he challenged his early Brothers adopt innovative methods of education that met the needs of the students of their time. Most importantly, Marcellin did this with the understanding that the primary purpose of Catholic education is evangelization. In that sense, Marcellin was a prophet, and as a prophet the misunderstanding and criticism that prophets have faced down through the centuries.

David challenged all the participants to see Marcellin as a mystic as well as a prophet. David called Marcellin a mystic because he was someone who had a deep and intimate union with God. How else could he have accomplished what he did?

Brother Don Bisson addressed some of the issues faced by those in leadership in Marist schools. At its best, Brother Don said, leadership encourages us to find and follow the best in ourselves. As is often the case, personal growth is challenging and sometimes painful. In addition, the practical demands and challenges of daily ministerial leadership can be as stressful as personal growth.

Don explained that for Marist Educators the ultimate challenge of our leadership is to leave a legacy rooted in ongoing, life-giving service.

Brother Ben Consigli, Director of Education for US Marist schools spoke on the empathy and compassion of St. Marcellin Champagnat, founder of the Marist Brothers of the Schools. Brother Ben pointed out that Marcellin’s academic experiences were significant and difficult. These challenges helped shape his vision of the education of young people. Brother Ben pointed out the wonderful irony that a person who had so many difficulties in school would turn around and found a religious order of teachers.

Throughout the Marist Leadership Institute, a number of our current school leaders spoke on a variety of topics related to their ministry as Marist school leaders. Lindsay Irwin of St. Joseph Academy in Brownsville, Texas and John Sherry of Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood, New York led reflection sessions on presentations by Brother David and Brother Don.

Doreen Keller of Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, Massachusetts spoke of her understanding and experience of her vocation as a Marist Educator. Beth O’Neill of Marist High School in Chicago, Illinois spoke of the challenges involved in balancing her family life with her Marist ministry. Anthony Miserandino of Mt. St. Michael Academy in the Bronx, led a discussion on the Notre Dame Study on the Future of US Catholic schools.

Held every other year since 2005, the Marist Leadership Institute is a forum for Marist school leaders to grow in their understanding of their call to be Catholic school leaders in the tradition of St. Marcellin Champagnat and the Marist Brothers. This year’s gathering was a fine testament to the vision, commitment, and spirituality of the lay women and men and Marist Brothers who lead our Marist schools in the United States in Ireland.

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