Senior students enjoy Leader's Retreat

Last week incoming Year 12 Student leaders from nine secondary schools around the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle gathered at the Quest Apartments in Newcastle for the annual Diocesan Senior Student Leader’s Retreat.

For the first time, students from St Bede’s Catholic College, Chisholm joined eight other schools including: St Joseph’s Aberdeen, St Paul’s Booragul, St Mary’s Gateshead, St Francis Xavier Hamilton, St Catherine’s Singleton, All Saints Maitland, St Joseph’s Lochinvar and St Clare’s Taree.

Hosted by Diocesan Administrator, Fr Greg Barker and organised by members of the Catholic Schools Office (CSO) Religious Education and Spirituality Services team, the retreat was the first time the student leaders were able to gather physically since early March 2020. The previous two retreats were online via Zoom, so it was wonderful to be able to gather face-to-face.

Students participated in a number of sessions and workshops on ‘What is Leadership?’, about Jesus’ model of servant leadership, ‘Leading Catholic Social Action’, about applying Catholic Social Justice teaching to real-world issues and ‘Self and the Leader’, about the importance of self-awareness and our own giftedness impact on our ability to lead. The students also participated in Mass with Fr Greg in the Cathedral and a Formal dinner in the Victor Peter’s Suite, accompanied by their school Principals and other Diocesan leaders.

Two special guests presented:

  • Br Damien Price, a Christian Brother from Brisbane, who is a leadership expert on youth and service learning.
  • Sam Clear, an adventurer who walked around the world for Christian unity (Walk4One), author, speaker and Leader of Youth Evangelisation, Archdiocese of Hobart.

Br Damien presented about leadership of ‘encounter’, as Jesus did, so that we are present with people and walk alongside them as ‘guest’.  Sam presented about the lessons of leadership learned from his incredible (and sometimes dangerous) walk around the world.

A highlight for the students was to participate in hands-on social justice immersion experiences at agencies or social justice initiatives supported by the Diocese. These included Mum’s Cottage, Holmesville, St Dominic’s Centre Mayfield, the CatholicCare Refugee Hub, Mayfield, Hamilton South Community Garden, St Vinnies Distribution Centre, Cardiff and Mission to Seafarers, Wickham. The students loved the opportunity to find out about the wonderful work of these initiatives and lend a hand to sort clothing, make care packages, plant seedlings, care for garden beds, and visit with young students with a range of disabilities. 

Another highlight was the way the student leaders from different schools bonded and networked with each other in a time of intentional Christian community. Friendships were formed and ideas shared, that will no doubt inform the way student leadership councils will function over the next year. We look forward to seeing the students undertake projects in their schools following the See, Judge and Act model and applying Catholic Social Teaching as possible examples of the ‘Church Without Walls’ in 2023.

Special thanks to Fr Greg Barker for his presence and input with the students, Mary-Anne Deluca and Brendon Mannyx from Pastoral Ministries, Ryan Gato, Education Officer (Formation), Bernadette Gibson and Jenny Ismay from RE and Spirituality Services, Gerard Mowbray, Director of Schools, CSO, Max Noble, Youth Minister from St Pius X Adamstown, Helene O’Neil, Curia Chaplain, staff from each of the nine schools who accompanied their student leaders and of course the student leaders themselves who showed that we will be in safe hands with our leaders of the present/future.

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