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Le Chéile - Issue 29

 

Front cover of Le Chéile - Issue 29

 

Issue 29 of the biannual journal Le Chéile: A Catholic School Ethos Journal has just been published and circulated to schools in the north of Ireland. The journal, a publication of St Mary's University College, aims to celebrate and promote the vision of Catholic education locally:


• By identifying, exploring and promoting ways in which this vision can be lived in Catholic schools.
• By seeking to empower teachers with a renewed and revitalised sense of the spirituality and  
  vocational nature of teaching.
• By aiming to encourage and inform practitioners in Catholic education locally.

This edition’s editorial is entitled:  ‘Pope Francis and Leadership for Our Times’

It reads as follows:

Pope Francis is to the fore in this edition as we look forward to his forthcoming visit to Ireland to participate in the World Meeting of Families 2018 in Dublin in August. During the five years of his pontificate to date, this first Latin American and Jesuit Pope has firmly established himself on the world stage where he is noted for his simple lifestyle, stress on God's mercy, concern for the poor and commitment to interfaith dialogue. Less acknowledged is his repeated insistence that the Christian life involves a constant battle to withstand temptations. Strikingly, he seems as popular among many peoples of other religious traditions and none, as he is among the global family of Catholics.

Not without his critics, he is undoubtedly one of the most influential and respected religious leaders in the world today. But the qualities people admire in him are not those we normally associate with “leaders”: decisiveness, belligerence or persuasiveness. Instead, it seems he compels people's respect simply by the quality of his character, which, of course, has been shaped by a lifetime of discipleship and service, sometimes in the most acutely demanding of contexts. Indeed, while still in his thirties, he was catapulted into leadership of the Jesuits in Argentina (as Provincial) in 1973 at a most difficult time in that country’s history when it was in the grip of a brutal military dictatorship.

Today, at a time when political leaders—in the face of economic, political and social flux (think austerity, “America First” and the Brexit debacle)—are less trusted than ever before, and religious leaders are often dismissed as at best marginal figures, Pope Francis stands out because he offers a different kind of leadership. A recent UK YouGov poll suggests that he is particularly popular with young people and with women, not least because he is perceived to be humble, genuine and honest. It does not seem far-fetched to say that his modus operandi as head of one of the world’s biggest and most global of institutions continues to prioritise the human and the relational elements of life. Many people in responsible positions in church, school, wider society and government can learn from his example.

In his recently published new apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), he reminds Christians that the way of Christ—the way of our Christian discipleship —involves a choice made not once and for all but one which requires daily renewal and recommitment. The Catholic teacher knows this truth so very well, called as we are to the daily mission of helping to educate the young in faith and, indeed, in so many other dimensions of curriculum and life. Thus Francis can tellingly and provocatively remind us that instead of “bureaucrats and functionaries”, the church, and by extension the school, “needs passionate missionaries, enthusiastic about sharing true life”. In this way, we will “not stand still, but constantly welcome the Lord’s surprises” (GE, nn. 138-9).

In this issue, with its particular focus on Pope Francis:

  • Professor John Sweeney, pointing to the wide breadth of Francis’ teaching, explores the urgency the Pope attaches to the ecological movement in his encyclical, Laudato Si’ (2016).
  • Marguerite Hamilton, reflecting on our schools’ experiences of the changing shape of families, looks forward to the WMOF 2018.
  • Jake Magill ponders the extraordinary appeal to many young people of this particular Pope’s person and message.
  • Dr Catherine Quinn reviews a volume of essays penned by an interdisciplinary range of scholars which seeks to explore and evaluate the Pope’s important contribution to the debate on climate change in his encyclical, Laudato Si’ .