On Monday I worked with a school with a unique heritage. Over 100 years, four religious congregations had been involved with running the school. Often schools can say, “we are a school in the (for example) Good Samaritan tradition” and even though the Sisters, Brothers or Priests of the founding group are no longer present, key values from the charism or patrimony of the congregation are recognised and promoted in the community. For this particular school, the situation was more complex. I’ve decided to share with you an outline of the staff day and a copy of the slides. Who knows, it might just save someone else some work!

So what is the ‘hook’ that could inspire staff to reflect on their school’s spiritual heritage? I started with stories of incredible financial inheritance, for example two homeless brothers in Hungary who inherited a share of a £4 million fortune. This was followed by a structured discussion about inheritance stories that members of the group knew of, some of the things (including features, talents, objects and values) that each had inherited.
I used a challenging quote to invite reflection “We have a great wine cellar within yet visit it too infrequently”. (Meister Eckhart) Participants grappled with what meaning this quote had in their own lives. I proposed that it had meaning for them as a group too and they acknowledged the challenge to draw on their shared wisdom and on the wisdom of the parent community more often. As this school has a history of four religious groups contributing to their history, I suggested that the quote also suggested that they have a vast and rich inheritance that is largely untouched and unrecognised, a generous wine cellar that is just waiting for them to visit.
They made a quick evaluation of which charisms (for them it was Jesuit, Marist Brothers, Josephites and Sisters of Mercy) were being acknowledged and celebrated in the life of the school and which were not. In groups they then researched (using ipads was a great help) the four charisms and prepared to share this knowledge with the whole group. The guiding questions were simple, who, what, when, where, why. They added an image to their report to enable story telling about the essential features of the particular heritage.
While listening to each report, staff considered what is the essence of this charism and what is relevant to today and to their students. After gathering this data they brainstormed numerous ways that the spiritual heritage could be communicated to the students.
At a future staff meeting, the group will decide on which of these suggestions will be implemented.
Do you think your staff or organisations could benefit from a similar reflection? Give me a call if you’d like support with facilitating the event or adapting it to your context. You are unlikely to understand all my slides either …if you’d like me to explain just get in touch.

Befriending our Heritage from Andrea Dean

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