Forming Ignatian leaders for Asia Pacific

By Jesuit Asia Pacific Conference
Jan 12th, 2016

Are leaders born or made? This question has long been debated by experts around the world. Some claim that there are people naturally cut out for leadership, and others insist that becoming a leader is a process. Either way, it cannot be denied that there are no perfect leaders and that, whether you are a born leader or a leader who took time to develop, there is always room to become better at leading. This is the premise that grounds the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific’s Leadership Development Programme.

Explaining the programme’s rationale, JCAP President Fr Mark Raper SJ said that this effort seeks to fast track the formation of leaders in the Jesuit Conference, and is a response to the growing need for more capable leaders in the provinces and regions in Asia Pacific.

The first of its kind for JCAP, the Leadership Development Programme (LDP) comprises of four modules conducted over the course of 18 months.  It is run by Ateneo de Manila University’s Center for Organization Research and Development (CORD) in consultation with Fr Norris Seenivasan SJ, JCAP Delegate for Formation.

Ignatian Leaders - Asia Pacific  1 The first module, held from December 6 to 12 at the East Asian Pastoral Institute in Quezon City, Philippines, focussed on the importance of context in leadership. The 39 participants were given an opportunity to reflect on their leadership vis a vis the particular context of their current ministry, the wider cultural context of the place where they are immersed, the distinct context of the Ignatian tradition that they bring with them in their exercise of leadership, and their own personal context which undeniably affects the way they lead.

One of the advantages of having a Conference-wide programme is the diversity of experiences that the participants bring with them.  This diversity definitely enriched the discussions on context. The opportunity to share experiences, either in plenary sessions or in small groups, was thus not only a time to get to know each other, but also a chance to learn from one another.

Reflecting on his experience of the programme, Malaysian Jesuit Fr Alvin Ng shared, “Something new that I learned in this programme is the importance of context, the entire situation that one finds oneself in, and how one, after reading it, may begin to respond accordingly.”

Fr Trung Nguyen SJ from the Australian Jesuit Province added, “The module helped me to reflect and become more aware of myself, especially of my strengths and weaknesses as a leader.”

Ignatian Leaders - Asia Pacific  2Although most of the participants were Jesuits, there were also two laywomen in the programme – Ms Sokha Sam, who works in Jesuit Service Cambodia, and Ms Bernie Aton from Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan in the Philippines. Their presence provided a fresh perspective that gave the Jesuits a chance to listen to their collaborators in mission.

Speaking of her experience, Bernie shared, “What struck my heart most is the quote from Pope Francis – ‘When the Lord gives a mission, He always has us enter into a process, a process of purification, a process of discernment, a process of obedience, a process of prayer.’

“Through the weeklong module, I have realized that I am a work in progress and the LDP is a good opportunity for me to be guided into becoming a true Ignatian Leader.”

The next module will be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in May 2016, the third in Jakarta, Indonesia in November 2016, and the last in Seoul, Korea in May 2017.

The article was originally published on the JCAP website.