Catholic School Matters

March 10, 2019

Prayer & Leadership

Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of himself

Saint Teresa of Calcutta

I often hear prayer described as something we should do in order to promote Catholic identity. School leaders are often challenged to be prayer leaders and to promote community expressions of prayer. While this is certainly important, I have found prayer to be a crucial component to leadership. Prayer can form our professional practice (as educational leaders, principals, teachers), framing our work and enlarging our hearts to make our work more meaningful. The following are ways I pray and the corresponding benefits I have uncovered:

1. Gratitude: Thanking God for all the blessings and graces in my life serves as a daily reminder of all that is good. During these busy times, we can become overwhelmed with the crises and problems of the work. It is good to ground myself in gratitude. Then I will often find myself giving thanks and praise more liberally for the great people and outstanding happenings in our schools.

2. Intercession: I have a few friends who are grieving recent losses and a few others who are battling cancer. I have friends fighting addiction, others looking for work, and many, many others who are struggling. When I pray for them, I am connecting to a community and making my daily work more meaningful. It causes me to listen for the pain and despair in the voices of the people I encounter and gives me opportunities to connect.

3. Reflection: I usually look at the daily readings (and tweet out my favorite excerpt). I can usually find something that gives me pause and redirects my focus. When I truly enter into this mindset, it gives me the ability to slow down and think about what is being revealed to me during my work. I find myself asking, “What is the conflict truly about?” and “How can I help work toward a solution?”

4. Devotion/ritual: I find comfort in praying the rosary. Yes, it can be repetitive (!) and can sometimes feel like I’m just going through the motions. My work can likewise seem repetitive at times and having faith that there will be ups and downs allows me to trust that the moments of desolation will not last. In the same way, when crisis erupt, I have faith that better times are around the corner. I am often called to keep showing up, to keep plugging away in hopes that my labor will someday bear fruit.

5. Examen: St. Ignatius preached that the Examen was the most important prayer each day. Giving pause to reflect on where God was speaking to me, where I struggled, where I found joy, and where I am feeling pulled are all great exercises. If I don’t reflect on my days, I find that I repeat many of the same mistakes and miss signposts.

Prayer isn’t something I “do” in order to be a better Catholic school leader. It’s something which forms my life and professional practice in order to make me more effective. It enlarges my heart in order to make me a more capable disciple.

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Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

Leadership Scenarios

A current parent of 2 children in your school has separated from his wife and hasn’t divorced (as far as you know). Rumors are spreading about a relationship with your Kindergarten teacher. What do you do?

American Catholic News

Catholic Schools Closing, Opening & Merging

  1. Illinios Catholic school breaks away from Archdiocese
  2. Ohio Catholic school spared from closing
  3. St. Edward Catholic School in Little Rock to close
  4. Crowley (LA) Catholic school to close

Leadership Links

March CAPE Outlook

Teaching & Learning


What I'm Up To

In the picture at right, Principal Juan Guzman of Santa Clara HS (Oxnard, CA), shows students, staff, and parents how much he loves the school-by wearing a school letter jacket! It's a small symbol of his love for the school and of his embrace of school spirit.

After last week's accreditation visit, I have a couple of days in the office to catch up and then head to DC for Thursday's USSCB Committee on Education meeting. Next week, I'll head to New Mexico for a short accreditation revisit to St. Francis Catholic School in Lumberton.

On this week's Catholic School Matters Radio Hour podcast, I bring on three great guests. First Dr. Tim McNiff of the Archdiocese of New York comes on to discuss his career and the state of Catholic schools. Dr. McNiff is retiring at the end of the month so it is an appropriate time for our first podcast conversation. Then principal Abigail Akano of Sacred Heart School in the Bronx comes on to discuss the difference that the Partnership Schools initiative has had on her school. Finally, youth leader Katie Prejean discusses teaching religion, what it was like to go to Rome for the pre-summit on young people, and what she loves about her ministry.

Here is the link to the podcast. Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on iTunes and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.

  • Monday 3/11: Office (Helena)
  • Tuesday 3/12: Office (Helena); Virtual Admin meetings 9 am & 1 pm & Great Falls meetings
  • Wednesday 3/13: Travel to DC
  • Thursday 3/14: USCCB meeting on Education; return to Helena
  • Friday 3/15: Office (Helena)

  • Monday 3/12: travel to Albuquerque
  • Tuesday 3/13: accreditation revisit to St. Francis Catholic School
  • Wednesday 3/14: return to Helena
  • Thursday 3/15: meeting in Seattle
  • Friday 3/16: Office (Helena)

Miles next 2 weeks: 575 driving miles; 8,042 air miles

Miles travelled in 2018-19: 25,473 road miles; 60,712 air miles

Last 5 Books

  1. Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Master the Flow of Talent (2016) by Sydney Finkelstein
  2. Conflict, Tension, Strength: The History of St. Paul's Mission, St. Labre Indian School, and St. Stephen's Indian School, 1884-Present (2015) by Donna Peterson (dissertation)
  3. The Politics of Penance: Proposing an Ethic for Social Repair (2016) by Michael Griffin
  4. Character and the Contemplative Principal (2003) by Merylann J. Schuttloffel
  5. Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards (2005) by Richard P. Chait, William P. Ryan, and Barbara E. Taylor

Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

For Montana Administrators & Teachers

  • Here is the slideshow for the Mar 12th Virtual Admin Meeting
  • We are scheduled for the Middle School day at the Legislature on April 5th. Attorney General Tim Fox and retired justice Cotter to address the students with afternoon observations of the House and Senate in session
  • Here is the link to the survey to assess our professional development needs for this fall's Catholic Teacher Days
  • Here is the link to the documentary about the Poor Clare Monastery in Great Falls--the only monastery in Montana. Certainly this could be part of any vocation efforts
  • We are currently searching for a principal for Great Falls Central Catholic High School

Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

February 24, 2019 "Culture and Relationships"

February 10, 2019 "Leadership"

February 3, 2019 "NCEA Convention Preview"

January 27, 2019 "Catholic Schools Week"

January 20, 2019 "School Choice"

January 13, 2019 "What's Your Story?"

January 6, 2018 "Happy New Year"

December 2, 2018 "Building Community"

November 18, 2018 "Reframing Enrollment"

November 4, 2018 "Looking at Disaffiliation"

October 21, 2018 "Getting out of the Ditch"

October 7, 2018 "Truth, Mercy, and the Synod"

September 23, 2018 "Native American Experience"

September 16, 2018 "How Are We Forming our Leaders?"

September 9, 2018 "Where is Your Attention?"