More than one hundred leaders from our Catholic schools, colleges and multi-academy trusts gathered at the Met Hotel in central Leeds for a two-day Leadership Conference on the theme of ‘accompaniment’ and processed through the streets for Mass at the Cathedral.
The opening Liturgy of the Conference was led by Louise Robinson, Head Teacher of St Joseph’s School in Bingley, part of the Blessed Christopher Wharton Catholic Academy Trust (BCWCAT). School leaders who presented on the theme of ‘accompaniment’ were Mark Cooper (Mount St Mary’s, Richmond Hill), Sarah Tolson (St Joseph’s, Bradford), Dominic Kelly (Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School), and Philip Dore and Lay Chaplain Carmen Pearce from St Wilfrid’s in the Bishop Konstant Catholic Academy Trust.
In addition to the many bureaucratic and statutory elements of any leadership role, is the Catholic school leader’s belief in keeping Christ at the Centre of education and school life. Therefore, at the end of the first day, in a symbolic action of accompaniment led by Diocesan Director of Education, Kieron Flood, the school leaders processed together from their conference venue up to Leeds Cathedral, where Bishop Marcus celebrated Mass, along with outgoing Episcopal Vicar for Education Canon Tim Swinglehurst and his successor, Mgr Paul Grogan. Music at the Mass was led by the Cathedral Girls Choir, many of whose members have come through the Diocesan Schools Singing Programme delivered by Diocese of Leeds Music in partnership with our Catholic schools and multi-academy trusts.
The Bishop joined his school leaders for the whole two days of the Conference, where the keynote speakers were the renowned teacher, catechist and author, David Wells and Keri Goddard who is a senior solicitor and Legal Advisor to the Catholic Education Service (CES), and who led presentations on day two exploring scenarios and issues facing Catholic Education in these challenging times.
Diocesan Director of Education Kieron Flood said: ‘This was a great opportunity for us to be together in solidarity with all our Diocesan Leaders in Education. The power of this opportunity cannot be underestimated. Catholic Leadership is the key to who we are and how we serve and how accompany in our communities.’
The conference closed with a Liturgy led by Canon Tim Swinglehurst.
There was very positive feedback from attendees, including: ‘Thank you for accompanying us on the tough leadership journey. Now, more than ever, we need to stand shoulder to shoulder for collective strength. The conference empowered me and refilled my spiritual cup to enable me to have the courage and confidence to journey on in Christ’s love along my chosen path.’
…and a comment from another delegate was: ‘Really well organised and everyone was made to feel like they belonged, that they were doing a good job and they were valued. There’s not too many institutions that can claim that; it made me proud to work in our diocese.’
That sense of pride and unity across the diverse parishes, schools and trusts which together comprise the Diocese of Leeds was also reflected by Diocesan Deputy Director of Education Rachel Rouse, who described the Conference as: ‘A wonderful opportunity to unite our leaders as one diocese and one Church with the shared vision and mission of accompanying one another on this fantastic journey of Catholic education.’