CISC Conference 2019, Faith-Full Leadership was certainly full of faith and full of leaders but it was also full of life, humour, generosity, challenge and friendship. I knew that CISC was known as the friendly conference but nothing quite prepared me for the warmth of the welcome that I received and the sense of genuine camaraderie that exists between you all. This is something to be proud of and celebrated…and it was…in the bar…until the wee small hours of the morning!
These informal interactions of Conference are always as important as the more formal aspects of the Conference programme, however it’s fair to say that the keynotes and presentations set a tone and invited an ineluctable engagement. The Right Hon Lord Patten of Barnes opened the conference with a personal and moving keynote which was remarkable in its candour and the simplicity through which he communicated his experience as a political leader. This was ‘bookended’ by the closing keynote from a former fellow politician, the Right Hon Ruth Kelly. Her focus on the challenges to and the distinctive nature of Catholic independent education indicated an understanding of the sector that was all the more impressive when articulated through a personal vocation to leadership.
One element of this distinctiveness is the breadth of offer across our sector and this was ably realised by the remaining presentations where we experienced the moving power and witness of Steve Hanson/Murray’s Christian mime, which was beautifully counterpointed by Westminster Cathedral Choir School’s Josh Cleary and Nick Morrell who explored the use of traditional music in liturgy. Rise Theatre highlighted how they use drama to engage pupils with the message of the gospels and the challenges that contemporary life can offer in trying follow it and finally, our headline sponsors Stone King and Kingston Smith shared their wisdom on a significant contemporary challenge facing the sector – Teacher’s Pension Scheme (TPS). Each theme was elucidated with honesty and a high level of professional skill that ensured that everyone of us left a little wiser if not, in the case of TPS, completely reassured.
However, what was assured was the glorious celebration of Mass, celebrated by His Excellency the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Edward Adams and accompanied by his private secretary Mgr Vincent Brady both of whom set everyone at ease through their warm and friendly manner. This warmth was also shared by Neil McLaughlan and staff and pupils from Westminster Cathedral Choir School. My personal thanks to Neil, Nick, Josh and all the boys – choristers and servers – for playing such an enormous part in bringing Conference 2019 to such a full-voiced, reflective and rousing close.
Conference wouldn’t be conference without the conversations it gives us the time to have. This dialogue was powerfully realised in the screening of Pope Francis: A Man of His Word where it was as if he was speaking directly to each one of us individually. And whilst this conversation was not actualised, the inner dialogue that it engendered left a powerful impression on many of us both professionally and personally.
And the conversation doesn’t end at conference. For me, it is just beginning as I engage in dialogue with you to ensure that CISC supports your needs and aids the development of your schools in the year ahead. So, keep talking to each other and to me and I look forward to seeing you all again at CISC’s 30th annual conference on 16th – 17th January 2020 (venue to be announced) to continue the conversation.
Dr Maureen Glackin