Forum focuses on future leaders

Sydney Archdiocesan Student Leadership Forum, 12 October 2016.

Young leader: Claudia Torrisi from All Saints Catholic Senior College Casula.

The true leader is someone who says, ‘I don’t want power but I do want to help’, Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher told more than 150 young leaders at the Archdiocesan Student Leadership Forum.

Held on 12 October at St Mary’s Cathedral College, the Archbishop’s forum brought together students from Secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney, who have been chosen to be final year leaders in 2017.

Now in its second year, the event allows the Year 11 and 10 students to meet with their peers, share ideas, be challenged and encouraged before they embark on their senior leadership roles.

In his keynote address, Archbishop Fisher talked about the current US presidential race between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, and how for many people they represent a widespread disillusionment throughout the democratic world with leaders and the system that brings them to the top.

“I suggest that many of those who are offered to us as leaders are not and ask you young people, ‘how are you going to be different?’”

Following Archbishop Fisher’s address, the students discussed what opportunities they have to exercise leadership in their schools, the challenges they face in being an effective leader and their personal hopes for being a leader in their community.

“Appreciate the wisdom of the world about leadership but also the Christian perspective that includes sacrifice and doing the hard thing.

– Archbishop Anthony Fisher

As the students discussed the issues, Archbishop Fisher moved around the tables and listened to their views and at the completion of the discussion, representatives shared their ideas with the whole forum.

Responses included finding ways to give all students in the school a voice, building relationships and not just ‘being a bloke or woman with a badge’, creating school spirit by getting everyone involved, being role models to other students and being approachable.

Sharing ideas at the Student Leadership Forum.

Sharing ideas at the Student Leadership Forum.

Archbishop Fisher told the students to be realistic that they can’t do it all in their new roles and not to be afraid to ask for help and to delegate.

He said the wordly wisdom about leadership is to grab the opportunity because you have to make everything a win but that’s not quite the Christian wisdom.

“Appreciate the wisdom of the world about leadership but also the Christian perspective that includes sacrifice and doing the hard thing.

“Stand up for the right thing – the moral thing – not just for the most popular thing. Be bridge builders between official leaders – the principal and teacher and students – and between different year groups, the sporty types, arty ones and the ‘not so popular’ ones.”

Following a Q and A session, the students asked Archbishop Fisher questions on leadership including what has been the major challenge he has faced as a leader.

“Stand up for the right thing – the moral thing – not just for the most popular thing.

– Archbishop Anthony Fisher

Archbishop Fisher replied very honestly about his recent illness when he was completely paralysed, in terrible pain and thought he was going to die.

The illness occurred just one year into his position as Archbishop of Sydney and for a considerable period he was totally reliant on others. Still recovering, he said he learnt about the vulnerability of human beings; our fragility and need for each other.

“What that says to me, is if we can be there for the most vulnerable people like people were for me, that would be a great thing.”

Charbel Naoum, a Year 11 student at LaSalle Catholic College Bankstown, said they were very inspiring words from the Archbishop.

“His wisdom was great and he believes in our youth which gives us a lot of confidence.”

Sydney Archdiocesan Student Leadership Forum 2016.

Young leader: Charbel Naoum from LaSalle Catholic College Bankstown.

Other learnings Charbel took from the day were the importance of being an independent thinker, choosing the right way not the popular way and to be ‘the bigger person’.

Charbel said the forum was very empowering and he gained confidence from hearing the different perspectives and ideas on leadership from the other students.

…we felt inspired and excited to start the leadership process at our school and use what we had learnt today.

– Year 11 student Claudia Torrisi, All Saints Catholic Senior College Casula

Year 11 student Claudia Torrisi from All Saints Catholic Senior College Casula said she especially liked what the Archbishop said about setting realistic goals.

“I really valued Archbishop Fisher’s feedback and how he understood the challenges we will be going through and how it is important to know our boundaries especially in our busy year of Year 12.

“On the way home, we were all saying how we felt inspired and excited to start the leadership process at our school and use what we had learnt today – to try and leave a legacy and do things that benefit the entire school community.”

Ruby Lynch, MacKenzie Whillier, Yolande Miller and Madeline Black, four of the 2017 leaders at St Clare’s Catholic College Waverley, were similarly inspired by the forum.

Four Year 11 students from St Clare's College Waverley took part in the Student Leadership Forum 2016.

Learning about leadership: Ruby Lynch (left), MacKenzie Whillier, Yolande Miller and Madeline Black, four of the 2017 leaders at St Clare’s Catholic College Waverley.

The girls particularly valued hearing from other students, their leadership ideas and initiatives they are doing at their schools.

Madeline Black was excited to learn about the Year of Youth in 2018 and is already thinking about ways she can involve her school and wider community. The Year of Youth will celebrate 10 years since Australia hosted World Youth Day in 2008 and is an invitation for the Church in Australia to draw young people into a dialogue with Christ to share their gifts with the Church and society.

Yolande Miller found the Archbishop’s talk and feedback valuable and very relevant to all the young people in the room.

She was pleased that it was a forum where the students’ voices and opinions were valued.

“Being listened to and sharing our ideas makes us feel like we can have an impact and that we are taken seriously,” Yolande said.  “It was also great that we were able to ask the Archbishop questions – not just him talking to us.”

The forum concluded with prayer and reflection and blessing of the new student leaders.

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