Marist180 is unique. It is unique in the Marist world and family, and unique in the coming together of the range of services, programs, children, young people, adults and families that are located in the Marist180 orbit.
This uniqueness presents a very specific opportunity and challenge when considering the needs and desires of staff, and their formation. For some years - pre-COVID, and on hold for that time - thoughts and ideas were shared, aimed at an offering, a formation program for our Middle Leaders. On October 25/26, this program came to life and fruition.
Br Tony Leon did a wonderful job in making this happen. Drawing on his diverse experiences of life and ministry, including time served at Marist Youth Care, Tony met with staff, asked questions, heard their responses, insights and suggestions, floated ideas, and crafted and facilitated a two-day experience that was a first for Marist180.
What Tony provided for the group of 34 Middle Leaders who gathered was greatly appreciated and warmly received. Tony introduced the time thus:
‘Our leadership roles call us to engage with those whom we work, and the art of listening is crucial. This workshop explores the skill of listening through the three Marist virtues of Humility, Simplicity and Modesty. These traditional virtues of Mary will be seen through the contemporary lens of some current leadership thinking which sees the Leadership superpowers today as: Humility, Empathy and Mindfulness. This workshop will include a moment of practising some realistic guidelines in the hard skills of mentoring. However, it is the ‘soft skills’ of leadership which engages relationship and connection with those whom we serve at Marist180. As a creative means of consolidating the theoretical ideas, the workshop will include a chance to make and eat vegetarian dumplings. It is also a chance to get out of our heads and enjoy a hands-on experience which involves hospitality, nourishment and community.’
Initially disappointed that our dates and timing found the Hermitage full, the welcome, space, setting and hospitality that the Mount Carmel venue and staff provided was first class. As with any time of Retreat, the input and the sharing with colleagues was just as valuable and important as the time to stop, breathe, reflect, be given permission to move beyond the busyness and the demands of caring, supporting, leading and managing of children, young people, colleagues… as well as family, friends and all those in our respective worlds.
Tony skilfully and invitationally offered us great sources of wisdom, research, ideas and practice from a very diverse range of sources and thinkers, new and ancient. The gifts of humility, simplicity and modesty, considered in being and doing, in and with self, others and spirit, in our work and relationships - personal and professional - provided a deep well for people to draw from - at this time, and in time to come.
Tony then, practically and metaphorically, applied simplicity, humility and modesty - in the making, and later eating, of dumplings. The dumpling, and its various diverse and derivative forms across countries and cultures, invited us to focus on and celebrate teamwork, attention to detail, creativity, and the valuing of what lies within... as well as savouring the culinary delights produced, and gifting some steamers to staff to return to their houses, and engage the children and young people in their care with an opportunity to do the same.…
Day 2 began reflectively, allowing some distilling and ruminating over the content and experience of the previous day. Following this, Directors Julie Collier and Jonathan Raja both lead workshops with those assembled, focussed on other valuable ideas and perspectives that our Middle Leaders may wish to engage with for growth and capacity building - focussed on coaching and mentoring, and the importance of teamwork, language and influence. Although developed entirely separately, there were clear and distinct resonances with what Tony had presented, and it opened up thinking and opportunities for future Middle Leaders formation.
Many positive, affirming words emerged from participants. Colleagues were grateful for the time and space, opportunities to connect and get to know each other beyond work and roles, spend time meeting colleagues from other regions and programs/services. Having forged this path, we look forward to future times where formation opportunities for staff can be offered and embraced.