With the end of the 2016-17 school year, and preparations for the upcoming year well underway, my own time as interim principal is drawing to a close. It has been a fruitful year, and, as I reported to our Governing Board in May, it was a year where we put the emphasis on genuine teamwork, and took the liberty to try new things, both in our teaching and in our liturgies. Yet as much as I have enjoyed working as principal, I am still looking forward to August, when our new principal arrives, and when I can return to my position of Director of Pastoral Studies, a position which allows me to work closely with our students in their preparation for ministry and which I have come to understand as the better expression of my own vocation.
From the first time I took on a student in my parish many years ago, I have felt a special attachment to the work of raising up new leadership in the church. It is hard to deny that our church is on the cusp of a new self-understanding, a different sense of what it means for the church to be alive and well in this increasingly secular context. It is difficult for any of us, perhaps especially the leaders in my generation who were raised up in the church of the past, to say what the shape of the future church will be. But as I approach retirement (and I’m going to be sixty this birthday!), I am becoming increasingly confident and excited that the younger generation is rising to this challenge, and taking up the reigns of leadership in new and thoughtful ways. I am proud to have been a small part of the inevitable change, even if I am not yet sure what things will really look like.
Though once in a while, I feel I am allowed a glimpse into this uncertain future, and on Trinity Sunday, I was blessed to experience first-hand some of the fruits of our hard work together. I was visiting Christ Church Cathedral for the usual 10 a.m. service, just a week after the diocesan ordination service on Pentecost. Jean-Daniel Williams, whose McGill chaplaincy office is housed at the college, was celebrating his first mass as a priest, and what a joyous occasion it was! Our college chaplain, Jennifer Bourque, was at his side at the altar, and the preacher was a lay Roman Catholic woman who has become a vital part of the Diocesan College community. It struck me that the entire altar party was under 35, and there they were, not just “running the show”, but leading with competence and confidence. I sensed that our future as a church was bright and full of the Holy Spirit, and that Dio had played its part, by holding a space for young leaders to grow and to discern where the Holy Spirit was leading them and the church which they so love.
At Dio, leadership training is never formulaic. We have no pat answers for the church and its current struggle with numbers and relevance, but we do have faith that God is calling new leadership to the church, because we witness every year how God is equipping our students, through their study, prayer and ministry, to lead the church into a glorious future. And it pleases me profoundly to play my part in supporting the development of these new leaders, and in making Dio a place where God is present and active in doing something new.
The Rev. Dr. Karen L. Egan