The true spirit of leadership

Ignatian Spirituality is a major component of leadership.
Senior representatives from Jesuit and Companion schools
attended the first session in a new two-year course.


By Barbara Watkins, Executive Director, Jesuit Education Australasia 

The inaugural Ignatian Leadership for Mission program commenced this year, in the last days of February. This new program is a distinctive Ignatian leadership program designed for senior leaders in Jesuit and Companion schools.

Seventeen senior leaders from ten of our Jesuit and Companion schools came together for the unique experience in Sydney for the first of the four sessions offered throughout 2024-2025. The group members were energised to be together for the journey ahead and brought with them their individual context from their College and region, as well as their diverse experience formed over many years in education and leadership.

Each session for the course comprises two modules. Module 1 – Ignatian Spirituality was facilitated by Fr Ross Jones SJ and focused on the foundational insights of Ignatian spirituality and how they define our personal and professional identity. This module was very well received by the group, and it provided a great deal of insights to reflect upon in group discussion and in quiet reflection time.

Module 2 – Leadership for Mission was explored in a variety of ways with different presenters. The focus was on the insight that leading for mission means promoting human excellence, defined by competence, conscience, compassion and commitment. Three speakers from Australia and beyond spoke to the group about how they might understand leading for mission.

  • Fr Jose Mesa SJ (JESEDU Secretary of Jesuit Education) joined the group from Chicago. He challenged the group to think about focusing on the “important over the urgent” and to think about an integrated perspective based on the global network of the Jesuits.
  • Fr Chris Gleeson SJ joined from Melbourne and he asked the group to reflect on the need to have “an experience of God, otherwise our actions will be empty”.
  • After a walk and talk in pairs and some further unpacking of the rich input, Jesuit Education Australasia Executive Director Barbara Watkins gave the last piece of input on “Embedding Mission”. The participants eagerly engaged in robust, worthwhile discussion with the entire group regarding their opportunities and challenges in embedding mission in our Jesuit and Companion Colleges.

Part of the Leadership for Mission experience over the two years is that each participant is accompanied by an experienced leader, a Companion, who has encountered Ignatian Spirituality, knows how it impacts leadership and organisational operations and works with the participant to discuss the ways the Spirit moves them over this journey of discovery. The Companion engages in conversations with the participant about their experiences, their insights, the questions that are raised for them and the ways in which the participant may be able to increase the depth of their leadership. These Companion relationships are a true demonstration of accompaniment and are integral to the success of the Ignatian Leadership for Mission course.

The feedback for the first session of the course was very positive, with participants expressing their gratitude for their involvement in the course, their enjoyment in working across the whole Jesuit and Companion Schools Australasia (JACSA) network and the richness of Ignatian Spirituality.

Over the two years the program will articulate the shared mission of providing Catholic education within the Jesuit and Ignatian tradition; invite participants into a deeper engagement with the Spirituality and explore ways in which the Spirituality is expressed and developed in the leadership styles of our participants. JEA acknowledges the support of the participating schools for committing to the program.

The few days were filled with moments of joy, connection and camaraderie and this final quote from one of the participants expresses a clear takeaway from the days spent together during the first session: “I leave here with a restlessness to deepen my leadership of the mission in my context.”

Session 2 will occur in mid-November 2024 and will be held in Melbourne.

Banner image by Andrey Popov, Canva.