WelCom February 2021
Fr Mark Walls SM, Young Marists
Marist Youth Leader, is a leadership programme for students entering their last year of secondary school. This year we celebrated its 20th year with the programme conducted over a week in January at Hato Pāora College, Feilding.
Participants are drawn from the nine Marist Fathers and Marists Sisters schools throughout Aotearoa New Zealand that make up the National Network of Marist Schools. One hundred and thirty-five students took part, and were accompanied by over 40 staff members and principals from around the network.
Marist Youth Leader is presented and run by the Young Marists organisation of the Society of Mary, made up largely of young adult volunteers, themselves all graduates of the programme. The 10 members make up a high-quality team that models the very things taught – principle-centred, proactive servant-leadership. Their tenure as team members is usually three to five years, coinciding with their time at university. The programme is presented each year in Australia as well, and has been presented, on invitation, in the United States and Fiji.
The Marist Youth Leader programme centres on input from the presenting team on topics such as Making a Start, Principle-Centred Living, Courage, The Ability to Fail, A Passion for Excellence and Servant-Leadership. The students then work in their 12 community groups to put their learning into action through a variety of indoor and outdoor activities, learning the principles of leadership and teamwork through solving problems, creating and presenting various events and liturgies, and taking part in numerous skill-building interactive dynamics.
The presenting team introduces each Leadership Key with a short and confronting drama, setting the tone for that particular session.
Marist Youth Leader is a week-long residential programme, and the environment of Hato Pāora College, coupled with the care and devotion of the college whānau who feed and care for the participants, again modelling the whole concept of servant-leadership , adds a vital dimension of learning and experience for students less familiar with Te Ao Māori.
The pinnacle of Marist Youth Leader is the Graduation Meal and Eucharist. The meal is a formal occasion at which each school group presents – based on their experience during the week – their vision for leadership for the year, as well as an item illustrating their school’s cultural identity. The Eucharist follows, featuring outstanding music and singing, culminating in the Anointing for Mission and the bestowal of the Marist Youth Leader cross. This year, 80 of the 135 students were involved in presenting music, singing and readings at the grand ceremony and Eucharist.
Marist Youth Leader is one of a number of programmes presented each year by the Young Marists. Others include Young Marist Neighbours, a seven-times-a-year programme based on Catholic Social Teaching, which takes students from the network into some remote communities in Te Urewera, and Growing New Principals, a programme that prepares teachers for future senior leadership positions in schools.
The programmes are supported by the National Network of Marist Schools Trust (NNMS), founded in 2008 to preserve and enhance the Marist charism across the network of nine schools. The Trust provides funds and services to enhance Marist principles through leadership courses and staff at the Marist network of schools.