Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Mission Driven

During my time in the University of Notre Dame's ACE Leadership Program, one of the enduring understandings that I gleamed was that everything done within a school should be driven by the school's mission statement. Fr. Ron Nuzzi, the Director of what's now called the Remick Leadership Program, reinforced this concept in making every facet of the program influenced by the ACE (Alliance for Catholic Education) Mission Statement:
The University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) sustains and strengthens under-resourced Catholic schools through leadership formation, research and professional service to ensure that all children, especially those from low-income families, have the opportunity to experience the gift of an excellent Catholic education.
We had to memorize these words during our first week in the program. Furthermore, even though it could not be found in the program's handbook (it's in the Bible), regular attendance at Mass and evening prayer was expected out of participants. The rigor and length of assignments and course loads forced participants into community, one of the program's pillars. The program places emphasis on Catholic identity (the curriculum includes a study of all Church documents on education), excellence in academics and adherence to a school's mission. Practically every class mentioned the importance of allowing the mission statement to drive the actions, decisions and day-to-day operations of the school.

As a result of my attendance in the program, I became a more committed Catholic. I also started to see my role within Catholic education as much more than a career path; I saw it as my vocation.

Dusting off Incarnation's Mission Statement, therefore, became one of my top priorities in 2010 - 11. In 2011 - 12 Incarnation received re-accrediation and as a result of that process refined that statement. It now includes the word "Catholic" and more precisely defines the school that we aspire to be. I have leaned on it as a way to direct decisions and decide directions. I have strived, and will continue to do so, to be mission driven in all that I do as a Catholic school leader.

Pope Francis I seems to invoke a similar mission driven approach. One of the most striking aspects of what will become his very public past is his commitment to living simply: he rode the bus to work, he cooked for himself, he embraced opportunities to be among common people and connect with them. Even his choice for a papal name, Francis, aligns with this spirit of humility; St. Francis of Assisi lived simply, humbly, compassionately, heroically.

Pope Francis I asked for the crowds in St. Peter's Square to pray for him before praying for them. He addressed the Church with humor, humility, grace and what seemed to me to be a healthy fear of his new vocation.

I am excited for our Church and for Pope Francis I's papacy. He is the first Jesuit to be named Pope. He is the first Pope from the Americas. He is the first pope to take the name Francis. He represents the fastest growing portion of the Catholic Church: Latinos. He is the successor of St. Peter. The 266th successor.

May he drive our Church with the same grace, humility, humor, courage and respect that he has shown within these early hours of his time as Pope.

May he continue to allow Christ to drive him.

May God bless Pope Francis I.