The theme of the 2009 Céifin Conference is ‘Who’s in Charge? Towards a Leadership of Service’.  It takes place November 3-4th in Ennis.  Read article by Fr Harry Bohan.

Leadership

Reinventing leadership in the modern Church

This article made available by kind permission of Irish Catholic editor

We are encouraging parishes across Ireland to consider sending delegates to this conference, especially people who are exercising leadership roles in our parishes.

We are now aware of the need to move to a different way of being Church, with a new kind of leadership, writes Fr Harry Bohan

The Church in Council at Vatican II, expressed a desire to engage in conversation with the modern world. It agreed that the Church must recognise and understand the world in which we live. It committed us to engaging with a world in the midst of huge social, economic, technological and cultural transformation.

Since its first conference, over ten years ago, this has been the whole thrust of CEIFIN: to provide a forum for conversation about what is happening in the world around us, a space to reflect on the enormous change we have experienced in our time, and an opportunity to address the values and vision which underlie it.

As Church people, it is imperative that we be engaged in this conversation and that we offer to it the leaven of the Gospel.

This year the focus of the CEIFIN Conference is ‘Who’s In Charge? A Leadership of Service’. This question comes from a deep sense that there is widespread disillusionment about leadership in many of our institutions, the Government, the banks, corporate leadership, etc. People are confused, and even angry, about the collapse of our economic system, and about how we came to be where we are now. The conference aims to tackle these issues as well as addressing the core questions of the vision and values, and the kind of leadership we require for recovery.

The question of leadership is also crucial for us as a Church. We too are living through a time when there is distrust of the Church as institution, and a calling into question of the way we have exercised leadership. However, as a Church we are now aware of the need to move to a different way of being Church, with a new kind of leadership, and we are investing a lot of energy and commitment to it.

We grew up in a Church where leadership was invested solely in the bishop at diocesan level, and the priest at parish level. This model of leadership was of its own time and suited to a Church which, for the most part, saw its role as ‘maintenance and management.’

We are moving now to a model of Church which aims to discern the real needs of people and tries to respond. This requires the participation of the whole parish in listening to needs and using the gifts and talents of the parish in responding. A whole new set of skills is required here, the ability to listen, to reflect, to plan, to prioritise.

It also requires a very different type of leadership, a shift from the top down model of leadership where lay people did what the priest said. Among the skills of leadership required in today’s Church are the ability to motivate, to inspire and animate others, the ability to work collaboratively with women and men, the ability to nurture and foster lay leadership.

Indeed, the kind of Church we are working towards cannot flourish unless we develop committed, active and competent lay leadership. It is one of our most pressing needs now.

We are rapidly moving towards a new situation where parishes are without resident priests. The development of local lay leadership will be vital if these parishes are to continue as vibrant Christian communities into the future.

It is timely then that this year’s CEIFIN Conference is addressing the issue of leadership.

We are encouraging parishes across Ireland to consider sending delegates to this conference, especially people who are exercising leadership roles in our parishes. In these difficult economic times it is well to remember that lay people may need the financial support of their parishes to enable their participation.

Fr Harry Bohan is Director of the Ceifin Centre for values-led change.
The Céifin Centre
Unit 1, Westgate Business Park
Kilrush Rd, Ennis, Co. Clare
Telephone: (+353) 065 6824094
Fax: (+353) 065 6840833
Email: admin@ceifin.com
Web:  www.ceifin.com