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  • May 28, 2019

    Listening, Learning, Vulnerability, Growth, Courage, Discernment: A New Leadership Program from the Society of Jesus

    Leaders from Le Moyne, Georgetown and ESADE partnered for the initiative

    Six years into the pontificate of Pope Francis, the Jesuits are running a leadership program in the General Curia in Rome to reflect on the hallmarks of discerning leadership, the new paradigm of Pope Francis, a paradigm that emphasizes listening, letting go of control and leaving room for the Holy Spirit. The program runs from May 27 to 31, with a second module in October 2019.

    The initiative comes directly from the curia of Jesuit Superior General Arturo Sosa, S.J. “We want to contribute to a Church as a discernment community open to be led by the Holy Spirit. We start by creating the conditions to grow ourselves in discernment in common. That is why a key element in our program is a commitment to prayer and to sharing in small groups. Engaging in contemplative dialogue – or ‘spiritual conversation’, as it is called – is a rich way to bring a team together, to create community and to discern in common. Discernment and spiritual conversation imply a whole way of living, a sense that the Spirit speaks through each person and enables us to enter in communion n the body whose head is Christ.”

    “The meeting brings together people from Vatican Dicasteries, Superiors General of different Orders and Congregations, and some of Father Sosa’s own General Council” said meeting organizer John Dardis, S.J., from the Discernment and Planning Office of the Jesuit General Curia. “They will reflect on the deep experience of leadership that they have already had in the company of experts from some of the best Jesuit institutions. They come from almost 20 countries around the world.”

    David McCallum, S.J., Le Moyne’s vice president for mission integration and development, is also involved with the effort, along with four professors from Georgetown University and a professor from ESADE Business School in Spain.

    “We will bring together the best insights from the world of business, ensuring that they are integrated into a strong process of discernment. The aim for us all is to grow in freedom and to find ways to develop our capacity for prayerful judgement” said Father McCallum, who stressed how modern leadership insights and our Catholic tradition can enrich each other. “Letting go is not easy for any of us but it is the way of Jesus. It involves letting go in order to let come. That requires enormous courage; this is necessary if we want to build the church that God desires. We are not in charge, God is.”

    Insights on listening and a new way of taking part in spiritual conversation are foundational inputs on the first day. “I believe that the way we speak and listen can bring true transformation.” said Professor Jeanine Turner, one of a team of four professors from Georgetown University in the USA who leads a special session on listening. Her intervention is timely given the stress Pope Francis has again placed on listening in his recent address to Caritas Internationalis:

    "Humility is born when, instead of talking, one listens, when one ceases to be at the centre. Then it grows through humiliations. It's the way of humble service, which Jesus followed…It's always important to listen to the voice of all, especially of the little ones and the least. In the world those who have more means speak more, but among us it can't be that way"

    Using Theory U of Otto Scharmer, Father McCallum will emphasise and expand on the call of Pope Francis when, again speaking to Caritas he said: "God purifies, simplifies and often makes one grow by taking away, not by adding … To follow the Lord, it's necessary to walk fast and, to walk fast, it's necessary to lighten oneself, even if that costs … In reforming ourselves we must avoid window-dressing, namely, pretending to change something while in reality nothing changes…"

    “In an often turbulent world, both secular and religious organizations cry out for leadership” says Professor Paul Almeida, dean of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown. “Leaders, in turn, need to continuously grow as individuals and with each other. This program facilitates this growth process by allowing church leaders, through deep reflection and rich interaction, to acquire the tools and the mindsets to move their organizations into the future”.

    Representative of ESADE Business School in Barcelona, Professor Carlos Losada said “I see the Ignatian tradition as bringing great potential to the way in which our Church can address serious issues today, including the issue of abuse which has been so challenging. We see so many populist leaders today around the world who are basically serving their own agenda, serving themselves. The Christian message is radically different and places the poor at the centre. We want to help the Church live this even more deeply. The Church has so much to offer; ESADE wants to help”.

    A new web site on Ignatian leadership can be seen in beta version at www.pilgrimleadership.com
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