Monday, October 19, 2020
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Sister Virginia Varley: New Chair of ICA

Virginia Varley, a Sister of St Joseph of Toronto since 1947, is an educator, an administrator, an artist and a spiritual director. In May of 2006 she was elected Chair of the Institute for Cultural Affairs of Canada; she had been a member of the Board since 2000.

The ICA is an international organization that helps individuals and groups of people to get where they want to go. ICA Canada has a two-pronged approach through facilitation on the one hand and education and research on the other. In facilitation their methodology is to engage the people involved in a focused conversation about the facts of the issue with which they are faced, to help them to reflect on the facts, to surface the feelings these evoke, and to help them to move to a decision about the next step towards a solution for their issue. The basic idea is that every voice is important; every voice needs to be heard in making the decision.

Sister Virginia finds the objectives of the ICA entirely consistent with her values as a Sister of St Joseph. “I feel deep gratitude that I have been led to participate in ICA; I am grateful to work with people who are highly principled. In planning sessions,” she says, “We can disagree and probe; no one seems to have a personal agenda. We all work together desirous of helping people to make positive changes in their own situation and environment.”

The ICA process is highly participative and the work of the facilitator is to help the group move towards a strategic decision. The ICA does not have a pre-planned solution, but works locally in the belief that the group – with a little help — has within it the resources in knowledge and experience to find its own way. The facilitator helps the participants to express their wisdom, their knowledge and their resources to meet the challenge facing them. The other focus is on education for leadership, particularly education of youth for facilitative leadership.

The Toronto office has been offering this programme to employers in the Toronto area and to the youth of Georgina Township. As a result of both of these involvements, employers and others have noticed that the people who completed the programme are demonstrating their leadership skills in practical ways, which are helpful in the work situation. The related research focuses on world-views: each world-view is unique. What is your world-view? How did you come to it? How do you relate to someone whose world-view is different? You are the only one who can expand or change your world-view. The ICA Canada publication called Edges and published three times a year, deals with one theme in each issue, as well as providing information about the ICA and its upcoming programmes.

For further information, see the ICA Canada website.

By Mechtilde O'Mara CSJ


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