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Raising lay leaders in Sydney

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Fr David Braithwaite SJ will bring Ignatian spirituality to bear on the formation of lay leaders for Sydney parishes in an online series next month. PHOTO: Supplied

August series aims to form parish leaders across the archdiocese for the new evangelisation

A new online series to support lay leaders in parish renewal will blend the Church’s timeless wisdom with hands-on experience of engaging people on the margins and growing communities of hope and outreach.

Fr David Braithwaite SJ, the Asia Coordinator of Pope Francis’s Worldwide Prayer Network, will lead the four-week ‘Christ-centred Leadership’ series held on Tuesday evenings in August commencing with an introduction by Episcopal Vicar for Evangelisation Bishop Richard Umbers on 3 August from 7pm-8pm.

I have ideas and experience to share about a leadership approach that is grounded in the Gospels.” – Fr David Braithwaite SJ

Developed by the Parish Renewal Team at the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, it is open to all laity serving in parishes and those interested in serving their parish communities. It supports the ‘leadership’ foundation within the Go Make Disciples archdiocesan mission plan, providing formation and raising up lay leaders to support parish priests within the Church. Registration is online at the Go Make Disciples events page.

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Fr Braithwaite said the series will be concise and practical and will bring his unique experience of blending entrepreneurship, evangelisation, and leadership formation as founder of The Cardoner Project and its social enterprise projects including The Two Wolves volunteer-run bar and restaurant in Chippendale.

For the Church, the leadership model should be that of the ‘wounded servant leader’, says Fr Braithwaite. PHOTO: Supplied

The goal of all the activities was forming young leaders for the Church and society “who would love Christ and his Church, and at the same time, be innovative and entrepreneurial in seeking to do good”, he says.

“I’m not a parish priest or leadership guru but I have ideas and experience to share about a leadership approach that is grounded in the Gospels and our Christian tradition, and that stimulates a dynamic and organic environment of growth,” Fr Braithwaite told The Catholic Weekly.

“My learnings come from my years of work with young people on the borders as it were, people on the edges of the Church, and I will offer these to stimulate people’s reflections on what they would like to see happen through their leadership of their parish.

“As a Jesuit, part of what I want to share is my thinking on these things as shaped and formed out of the tradition of the stages of discernment of St Ignatius. So while I hope these sessions will be an opportunity for people to reflect on and share their own experiences and hopes, I’ll be kicking them off with input grounded in Ignatian spirituality and a Christ-centred model of leadership.

“For us in the Church I think it will always be that of the wounded servant leader.”


Fr Braithwaite said that while there is no shortage of secular wisdom about leadership that could be “translated” for use in parishes, he is always on the lookout to “mine the riches” of Catholic tradition for insights into how to meet the challenges of the Church today.

“Our tradition has much to offer that promotes true human flourishing in this area, along with safeguards against the potential for abuses of power which inevitably arise whenever people are working together,” he said.

Bishop Umbers said he looked forward to joining Fr Braithwaite in the first virtual session and hoped to see many parishioners there as well. “Formation of leaders in our parishes is vital to the mission of the Church,” he said. “This series will be of great value to all those in our parishes who seek to work with the Holy Spirit to bring more people to Christ.”

Parish Renewal Team manager Elizabeth Arblaster said she is pleased Fr David will share some of the riches of the Ignatian spiritual tradition “which can help us grow in matters central to Christian leadership: finding God in everything, growing in self-knowledge, and choosing well”.

“What I hope for people attending this course is that it will be an opportunity to grow more fully into the kind of leader God is calling them to be; someone growing in self-awareness, who strives to serve Christ in all things, who knows how to listen and discern, and who can be an instrument of the creative power of the Holy Spirit,” she said.

Fr Braithwaite said the archdiocesan plan Go Make Disciples was an exciting offering to the Church and he was “very chuffed” to have been invited to play a part in its implementation to assist parishes in their mission.


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