Leadership Development Program Highlights Mentoring

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

NEW YORK — As part of the implementation of the Province’s strategic plan, which calls for a leadership development program, friars participated last month in a leadership roundtable. Speakers presented information about three leadership topics. Friars shared their experiences and leadership challenges in ministry and participated in the formation of mentoring groups. This Nov. 9 HNP Leadership Roundtable, held in the Province’s San Damiano Hall on West 31st Street, was offered by the HNP Leadership Development Committee.

LDC member Christopher Keenan, OFM, said the roundtable was a good first step toward leadership development. “As friars, each one of us is a leader in church and society. This first Leadership Development Roundtable, available to all friars of the Province, was a great step forward in ‘choosing to let our own feet be washed.’ It’s a way to examine ‘How do I balance my self-care in my care for and with others?’”

“The committee used feedback from friars to build the agenda for the Leadership Roundtable,” said Christopher, a chaplain of the Fire Department of New York. “When asked how our current leadership could be more supportive to them in their life and ministry, the friars requested a mentoring program and suggested several topics be addressed.”

“We believe the program offers friars a setting in which they can participate in rich discussions that will enable them to strengthen their leadership skills,” said Dominic.

The roundtable was a “good idea,” said Lawrence Ford, OFM, of Holy Name of Jesus Parish on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. “It was a step in a new direction for us, trying to provide leadership development and guidance around values rather than tasks.”

Speakers and Discussions
The event presented content based on feedback received by the committee from a specially-tailored two-part HNP leadership development profile survey conducted last year. In the morning, speakers — one friar and three guests — discussed various leadership issues that are important to work in ministry and to life in fraternity.

After a welcome by Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, co-chair of the LDC, Monika Mitchell and Peter Ressler discussed the challenges with building bridges across organizations that do not typically foster collaboration with each other — businesses, academia, and faith communities. The speakers, who shared their experiences, are recruiters and consultants.

Former Franciscan sister Rosemary Kerr (pictured, right), a retired educator, discussed “Mentoring as a Form of Leadership — Inspiring Others.” She described the value and qualities of a good mentor and the varied roles mentors can play.

David Convertino, OFM, director of St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, described Franciscan leadership in an interactive presentation titled “Translating Franciscan Vision into Innovative Practices.”

The afternoon session included small group discussions. Participating friars were asked to reflect on the speakers’ discussions as well as to reflect on their personal interest in the leadership topics presented. 

This helped determine whether they wanted to continue their discussion in smaller mentoring groups as part of a pilot program that will run through May 2011, said Karen Siewert, a consultant who facilitated the event. “Two mentoring groups formed and will meet at the Provincial Chapter in January to continue their conversations,” she added.

The value friars placed on mentoring groups varied, depending on their interests, ministerial needs and experiences, said Siewert. She has been guiding the Province with its leadership development initiative for several years. “The smaller mentoring group discussions seemed conducive to sharing of challenges and ideas by friars sharing similar leadership issues or stages in their ongoing formation, regardless of their ministry.”

Most of the nearly 30 friar attendees said they felt that the content of the program was appropriate and informative, Siewert said. The program evaluations informed the LDC that friars appreciated the format allowing fraternal sharing of leadership issues.

Follow-up Opportunities
“Looking forward, we will focus on opportunities to weave leadership training into our ongoing formation,” Christopher said. “We are grateful to committee co-chair Janet Rizzuto, our partner-in-ministry from Holy Name Parish. As a volunteer leadership consultant on several HNP committees, she “midwifed” the friars toward this new dimension of our ongoing formation in Holy Name Province.”

The LDC members will meet next week through a conference call to discuss follow-up opportunities for leadership training and development and ways to further support mentoring and other opportunities to promote fraternal sharing within the Province. Video excerpts of the speakers’ presentations, as well as links to resources about leadership development, will be made available on the HNP Extranet.

Providing leadership development around values rather than tasks is difficult, said Larry. “It’s hard to define, let alone accomplish. Yet we took a step that got us started, one from which we can learn and build upon,” he said. “I think the idea creating mentoring relationships and groups that combine Franciscan values with specific ministry and work related tasks and leadership styles is attractive to friars.”

Members of the LDC, which was established in the summer of 2008, are pleased that several friar “mentees” plan to continue with the mentoring program.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.