By Maureen Smith
CANTON – Forty-three priests wrapped up a year-long leadership development program on Thursday, March 10, at the Duncan Gray Center. The day included a formal lunch and a closing ceremony at which they could share their testimonials about their experience, receive certificates of completion and congratulate one another.
The program, called Good Leaders, Good Shepherds, is offered by Catholic Leadership Institute, a consulting company that specializes in leadership training, formation and strategic planning for Catholic dioceses and parishes. Character development and understanding interpersonal dynamics was a lynch-pin in the program.
“It helped us very uniquely understand all the levels of personality characteristics and functional behaviors,” explained Father Xavier Amirtham, OPraem, pastor of Jackson Holy Family Parish. “It was a wonderful program. It brought us an understanding of how to understand the nature of another person from the other side, to ask myself what is my dominant characteristic and how can I compromise and get the work done,” he added.
He emphasized that Good Leaders, Good Shepherds teaches leaders not to judge the people they work with, but to find the strength of each team member. “It helped us understand the leadership quality in the other person that I may not have,” he explained. “Teamwork – this is a wonderful way to understand how to work as a team – understanding each one’s ability and trying to make use of others’ quality – especially focused on the other person’s personal development,” he said.
“As a whole I think it gave us a lot of help on a pastoral and administrative level. You have to work with every person (in your parish) and different types of groups. It was very eye-opening,” added Father Amirtham.
The pastors took a personality test and went through training in how different personality types communicate and how group decision making can be impacted by those personality traits.
Another positive outcome of the program for the priests was just time spent together. Several participants said they appreciated being able to get to know one another better in the quiet setting of the Gray Center during the three-day sessions. Father Amirtham said the men were able to share their problems and just support one another. Each session included time for the priests to socialize and pray together.
For the next step, the diocese plans to offer Tending the Talents, a program aimed at lay leadership. Pastors have been invited to send members of their lay leadership teams to this year-long program.