As I looked at the sculpture (pictured above) in front of the state capitol in Des Moines, I tried to picture the historical context. What was taking place? What were the relationships between those depicted in the piece of art? What was the central figure looking to see off in the distance? How did his vision differ from the other two?
There are many details bouncing around in my mind as we approach the start of the new school year. Is everything ready? Have all of the maintenance things been accomplished for a bright and fresh start to the year? Has all of the paperwork been completed for new hires? Did these individuals complete safe environment training and other aspects of orientation? Is everything ready for the students--books, class schedules, lockers, etc.? Are all of the things needed for Fall Sports in place? Have we attended to the details of other extra-curricular activities that will be starting soon?
There are a lot of moving pieces involved with getting a school year up and going. Just as we have our responsibilities at the school, the parents are also busy getting uniforms, school supplies, physical check-ups for their children, and a whole list of other things as well. I am sure a few are squeezing in some last minute fun too. Awesome!
After being involved with Catholic education for almost two decades now, I am convinced of the relevance of John Maxwell's quote listed above. Our Catholic schools need solid leadership to thrive. I have spent my adult life studying leadership. What works? What does not work? How do effective leaders function? What makes a good boss versus a bad boss?
Studying leadership is only step one. Step two is putting that knowledge into action. If knowledge is not applied, it is only a compilation of information. I want to implement the many good things that I have learned through the years so that we can build a thriving organization. The mission of Christ and His Church deserves no less than our best.
I read something many years ago that said you cannot expect to lead people unless you have spent time praying for them first. Since I agreed to accept this position as executive director nearly five months ago, I have been praying for the St. Albert Catholic Schools community. I decided to bump this up a notch last week.
Have you ever heard of the 54 Day Rosary Novena? A novena is nine days of prayer. The 54 Day Rosary Novena is six consecutive novenas. The first three are novenas of petition. The second three are novenas of gratitude. Multiply nine days by six times and you get the resulting 54 days. A typical time to pray this 54 day novena is from the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15, through the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7. I am only into the fourth day of the novena, but I am lifting St. Albert up in prayer each day with a definite purpose of asking God's favor upon us. Please Lord, give us fervor and joy in our ministry.
Mediocrity and complacency can destroy any organization. This is especially true in nonprofit organizations where success is based upon the willingness of people to invest in the mission of the organization. Thus, Catholic education must demonstrate the pursuit of excellence if it is to be successful. In that regard, I have generally found that people are excited and willing to support a winning endeavor. People appreciate being involved with something that is making a positive difference in the world. Leadership that inspires others will set the stage for making that happen.
When I accepted the position of Executive Director for St. Albert Catholic Schools earlier this year, I recognized the responsibility that was attached to such an agreement. I want you to know that it is a responsibility that I do not take lightly. We are entrusted with educating and forming children as followers of Christ from "Cradle to College". It is no small mission to build the Kingdom of God here on earth. My leadership impacts the lives of the faculty and staff, the students, their parents, the alumni, and all the supporters of the school. Quite frankly, our school impacts the city of Council Bluffs in a fairly significant manner. We actually have a much wider reach when you think about graduates making an impact wherever they go after leaving St. Albert. It matters what we do here. Please lift me up in prayer on a regular basis that I fulfill this mission with God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Thankfully, I am surrounded by some fantastic people sharing in these leadership responsibilities. I pray for them every day to be guided by God's grace and mercy as they carry this burden of responsibility with me. I invite you to pray for them as well.
The support staff has been magnificent all summer long. Their attention to detail has been deeply appreciated. Our successes will owe each of these people behind the scenes a debt of gratitude.
We are also supported by many people serving on boards and other entities providing guidance, input, and financial assistance. I am grateful for each of them, and I remember them in my daily prayers as well.
What is the vision for what we do here at St. Albert? We are pursuing academic excellence in a Catholic Christian environment that proclaims the Good News of Salvation. Wow! It is clear why I wake up each morning looking forward to another day. This is a beautiful purpose and mission. I am blessed to be a small part of it.
Faculty meetings start on Monday. First day of class is Friday. Here we go!