Leadership Training for CSJ Associates
Sister Grace Sauvé is one of three Sisters — the others being Sisters Virginia Varley and Marie MacNamara — who designed and implemented a leadership-training program for the CSJ Associates. On April 13, 2008, five associates ‘graduates’ from the course will take on the leadership of the associate program. Here, Sr. Grace answers a few questions about the training…
Who are the CSJ Associates?
They are women and men who desire to live out their Christian vocation in association with Sisters of St. Joseph and their particular mission in the Church.
How do they do this?
The Sisters of St. Joseph (CSJ) and their Associates live out their vocation in ways that are both different and the same. They have different ways of life, the one of vowed religious women and the other as single or married, lay men and women. But all participate in the same mission according to the particular gift of the Spirit, which is called a charism. This is the charism of active, inclusive love expressed as unity and reconciliation.
Where does leadership come in?
Leadership is exercised on several levels beginning in the small groups, which meet regularly for an experience of community united in prayer and apostolic activity.
Each group has an appointed leader or coordinator who is aided by an assistant. They are responsible for the life of the group by keeping before the members an awareness of their mission and commitment and ensuring implementation of the goals of the whole Associate Program. Every member shares in this responsibility according to individual gifts and abilities. Leading the group in the Prayer of the Church and in reflection and faith sharing is expected of all. Helping to plan and carry out activities for the whole body such as retreats, workshops and social gatherings is another form of leadership. In addition, a Leadership Team consisting of a director, assistant director and three or more Associates is responsible for the entire Association. The Congregational Leadership appoints the director and assistant.
What kind of leadership training do they receive?
The first is the experience of leadership in the local group and in planning events for the entire body. Through a three-pronged program, formal leadership training builds on the knowledge and experience of the CSJ history and spiritual heritage first gained in the small group. It offers a deeper perspective on the story of the Sisters of St. Joseph and their spirituality and mission.
Study, reflection and sharing on the writings of Jean-Pierre Médaille, SJ, a co-founder of the congregation in 1650, as well as Ignatian contemplative prayer and personal journaling, help to immerse the potential leader in our CSJ heritage. Because the style of leadership of a spiritual association differs from that found in most other organizations we are teaching, not how to manage the group but rather, how to facilitate the life and mission of the group. The skills that are taught are designed to help leaders understand the normal life cycle of an organization, the responsible use of power, leadership styles, etc. and to facilitate a focused conversation and reflection on an experience, with opportunities to apply these skills.
How are the knowledge and skills being used today?
Graduates of the Leadership Training Program are using their knowledge and skills in a variety of ways. Some have accepted responsibility as group coordinators. Others have helped their own or another group set goals, or review and evaluate their year, or carry out a review of a common experience such as a retreat in order to make changes based on new or improved ideas for the future.
The next adventure and challenge is to take on the leadership of the whole Associate Program, a role held for the past twenty-five years by a Sister and Core Team of Sisters and associates.
Five of the graduates of the Leadership Training Program are preparing to assume this new role on April 13, 2008, when the present director retires. They are Carole Sauvé, Shannon-Lee Maguire (new director and assistant director), Ursula Matthews, Mary Duffy and Eva Bowman. Sisters Virginia Varley, Grace Sauvé and Marie MacNamara, who designed and implemented the leadership-training program, will continue to mentor the team as they move into new territory. We wish them well and pledge our support and cooperation.