Jack Peterson, Managing for Mission
May 16, 2017
Faith-based schools exist to help students experience God’s loving, creative presence. And God’s loving, creative presence is always experienced through the love and care of the people in our lives. The tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola refers to this care as cura personalis.
When a child is born, nearly everything God desires for him is mediated through his parents. Through their love and care he first experiences God’s love and care. As he becomes more autonomous, though, it is others who refract God’s love into his life.
In school, teachers become the mediators of God’s love. The cura personalis they show frees the student and empowers him to grow, to take risks, to inquire into the purpose of his life and what God desires to give the world through him.
Part of the teacher’s care for the student is holding him accountable. Teachers in our schools will not settle for students being less than what they’re capable of. The teacher-student relationship forms the first link in a Chain of Care that supports our students.
Just as the student grows in the warmth of his teacher’s care, the teacher herself must experience cura personalis in her own life. If she experiences love, care and respect from her administrators, she will have a well of love to draw from for her students. The administrator-teacher relationship becomes the second link in the Chain of Care.
In order for an administrator to give cura personalis, he must experience it from the board, both in their support and their encouraging him to be the best administrator he can be. If he feels unappreciated, he won’t be able to draw from his own well and model care for the teachers. This is the third link.
The board itself needs to draw from the loving support and guidance of the school’s sponsoring entity, and the sponsor from the Church, and the Church from Christ. And even Jesus is part of a community of love and support, which we call the Trinity.
To have a rich, sustained cura personalis for the student, therefore, there needs to be a Chain of Care from the student, back to the teacher, back to the administrator, back to the board, the sponsor, the Church, and Jesus and the Trinity itself.
A chain works only if you don’t skip links. An administrator can’t exhaust her time or energy in direct care for the students and have too little left to support the teachers. Her best way to care for the students is to care for their teachers.
The same is true for the board. Its special responsibility is supporting the administration, including holding it accountable. The board should receive love, support and guidance from the sponsoring entity that represents the Church. It should also return that care in the form of loyalty, honesty and trust.
This reciprocity is important at every level of the Chain of Care and will lead ultimately to students experiencing, throughout their time in the school, the loving, creative presence of God in their life.
If you want to learn more about how to manage your school around this chain of care, click and follow this link to Managing for Missions’ website. I especially encourage boards and administrators to review the posts and videos on Discernment, an approach to decision-making that uncovers God’s deep desires for the school and strengthens the Chain of Care. You can also view a video version of this post by clicking here.
Achieving the aspirational mission of faith-based schools requires more than just a chain of command. The school must exemplify in its very being the care for persons that Christ modeled for us. We do this by enlivening the Chain of Care at all levels to support our students’ experience of God’s loving, creative presence in their lives.