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Feeding the worker

Nathan Ahearne  |  22 August 2018

Despite some misgivings at the beginning, Nathan Ahearne is a firm believer in the benefits of the Catholic Leaders Formation Network in growing faith and making deep connections with people.

After the initial tap on the shoulder, I thought ‘oh yeah, what do they have in store for me now?’ but when I realised it wasn’t about doing something, rather receiving, this new group caught my attention. And yet, I still wasn’t convinced. I was already seeking regular formation in other ministries, so I remained sceptical about the point of difference in the Catholic Leaders Formation Network and curious how I’d find time to fit in another meeting. However, after the first time we gathered I realised I hadn’t experienced anything like this before and I was hungry for more.

Over the years, I’ve sought to keep the fire in my belly alive and have been inspired by books and blogs, subscribing to podcasts and Facebook groups for Catholic educators. Yet this didn’t compare the upfront, honest, face-to-face nature of CLFN. The dialogue, presence and laughter can’t be replicated via head phones and digital screens. I also attend prayer and spiritual formation which is quite general, but at CLFN we are all doing ministry with young people and there is a clear appreciation of each other’s context.

The common ground of the CLFN group has made it easy to relate and I appreciate an opportunity to connect deeply with fellow teachers in ministry. This is something that I’ve experienced sporadically over the past 10 years, perhaps once every 12 months at a Youth Ministry conference, but I quickly lose connection with those people and descended from the mountain top experience and back into the frenetic ministry of school.

We offer and encourage our students to take up a regular, deep connection with people but it’s just as important to maintain our own internal life, to slow down and be ministered to. Sometimes I forget to feed the worker so it’s a good reminder to check in on how I’m going. While it’s great to share the faith with people in our own schools, it’s equally important to look beyond our own environment – to lift our heads up on a regular basis and see what others are doing. It’s also good to be vulnerable, to share the struggles but also be affirmed and celebrate the successes. I’m challenged to be more for my students and to grow deeper in my prayer life and relationship with God. The CLFN group has been a wonderful experience of being prayed for and I have a greater appreciation that I’m not in this alone. 

Helen Keller famously said, ‘alone we can do so little; together we can do so much’. Keller was an American author, political activist, and lecturer. She was also the first deaf-blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree in the United States. Keller’s wisdom strikes to the heart of the CLFN model which helps us to listen to the heart of the person and see beyond the superficial. Pope Francis suggests that shepherds should turn the attention of their heart towards the needs of others, so that ‘it is no longer “a fluttering heart”, allured by momentary whims, shunning disagreements and seeking petty satisfactions. Rather, it is a heart rooted firmly in the Lord, warmed by the Holy Spirit, open and available to our brothers and sisters’.

If you want to grow in your faith, be encouraged in your ministry and sustained as a Catholic educator, I would strongly recommend the CLFN small group model. I’m extremely grateful for the vision and leadership that brought our small group together, for those who have modelled a great depth of sharing and made our formation a priority.

Nathan Ahearne is Director of Faith Formation at Marist College, Canberra. See also Nathan’s blog. For more information on the Catholic Leaders Formation Network, see the website.


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