Retreat prepares new Catholic school principals

Participants in the retreat for Catholic school leaders in the Archdiocese of Boston are pictured Aug. 6. Pilot photo/Jacqueline Tetrault

MEDWAY -- As much as Catholic school students may not want to hear it, preparations are already underway for their return to school in only a few weeks.

As part of those preparations, the Catholic Schools Office held a retreat for school principals taking on new positions at Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston at the Betania II Spiritual Retreat and Conference Center, Aug. 6-7.

Father Ronald Nuzzi, who has worked for the University of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education for over 15 years, served as the retreat director for the third year in a row.

Superintendent Kathy Mears told The Pilot many of the archdiocese's principals get their administrators' licenses at public schools, "and they may not really understand what it means to be a Catholic school principal."

"Cardinal Seán (O'Malley) specifically said he wanted us to focus on Catholic identity, and it has to start with the top," she said. "So this program is a response to his desire that our principals understand what it means to be a Catholic school principal and what the special requirements and responsibilities are."

Father Nuzzi made it clear in one of his first presentations that those responsibilities include spiritual leadership, a dimension not found in public schools, in addition to managerial and educational leadership expected of any school principal. He compared these three areas of leadership to a bishop's responsibility to teach, govern, and sanctify, which in turn correspond to Christ's attributes as prophet, priest, and king.

Over the course of the two-day retreat, Father Nuzzi gave presentations centered on four of the central pillars of the Catholic faith: the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Paschal Mystery, and the Eucharist. For example, he connected the Incarnation with the idea that "Every job somehow manifests Christ's presence to us."

Father Nuzzi told The Pilot, "I've been suggesting that those are touchstones for their leadership and things they can always come back to, how God is present in ordinary things, relationships, our ups and downs and our dying and rising, and how that all comes together in the Eucharist."

Mears also encouraged the principals to use the Catholic Schools Office as a resource as they begin their new assignments.

Several principals in attendance expressed approval and appreciation for the program. While they took a break to eat lunch, many exchanged stories and advice relating to running their schools.

Andrew Malionek, from Immaculate Conception School in Marlborough, said he feels "supported" and "reassured" to know there is a network to help them.

Bailey Magazzu from St. Patrick School in Stoneham acknowledged that when Superintendent Mears and others at the Catholic Schools Office say they will provide help, "they walk the walk."

"The overall purpose (of the retreat) is to support their leadership ministry," Father Nuzzi said.

"We certainly hope they form a bit of a community among themselves, so they have good colleagues to rely on. We're also trying to model what good leadership looks like and give them an experience of that ... to take the seriousness of their role in a way that is compelling, attractive, helpful to them," he said.

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