Weekend for Benedictine School Student Leaders – November 2013

Leadership Weekend for Heads Schools of EBC Schools

By Karl Glynn (Captain) and Rory Hogan (Vice Captain)


   Following the BeNet Benedictine Educators Conference in Manila, Philippines, both Karl and Rory attended a meeting in London of Year Heads of Benedictine Schools in the British Isles which was hosted by St. Benedict’s School (Ealing Abbey). For the first time ever all five Benedictine schools were represented. The schools that attended were Ampleforth College, Worth School, Downside School, St. Benedict’s (hosting) and for the first time ever, Glenstal Abbey School. All schools, bar Glenstal were represented by a Head Girl and Head Boy given that Glenstal is the last all boys Benedictine school left in the British Isles.

This meeting has been organised for the past five and was originally hosted by St. Benedict’s. It was initiated to promote links between Benedictine Schools in the British Isles. Previous to this there had been no such connection between all five schools, with little or no contact amongst each other from a schools perspective. All five schools shared things in common, especially the Benedictine Ethos which echoed throughout our three days in each other’s company.

Rory and I departed Glenstal on the morning of Friday 8th November flying from Shannon to London Heathrow. From there we hopped on the Tube which took us almost to the front door of Ealing Abbey which is situated in Ealing Broadway in West London. We were greeted by Mr Cleugh, a warm and hospitable man, who is Headmaster of St. Benedict’s School. Mr Cleugh gave us a quick tour of the school grounds and took us to the guest house where all the Year Heads would stay. Shortly after we arrived in the guest house, the other Year Heads arrived and we were all introduced to each other.

That evening we had our first session on Benedictine Leadership led by Mr Foley who is head of sport in the school. In this session we reflected on leadership qualities and examples of prime leaders in the wider world. Mr Foley presented to us, the Charism of leadership through the adoption of servant leadership. One of the quotes in Mr. Foley’s presentation remains in my mind which he reiterated to us throughout the session: “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn”. It is true and relevant and he applied this thought to us as the younger generation and as leaders advancing in an ever-changing world where we must adapt and respond to our surroundings.

Following the leadership session we all made our way over to the Abbey Church to attend Compline with the monastic community. The Abbey Church was almost a replica of our church here in Glenstal Abbey. After this quick prayer session we returned to the Guest House where we rested for the night.

On Saturday morning we began the day reading Morning Prayer from the Glenstal Book of Prayer led by Mr Cleugh. We then had our second session of Servant Leadership as Vocation. In this session Mr Cleugh put across to us a way of Christian thinking in the form of RUAH. RUAH stands for Respect, Understanding, Affection and Humour. RUAH takes each person into the mystery of a shared life and away from that brittle independence that is celebrated so much in secular culture. Acting upon these four animated gifts as one, can teach someone a way of living which benefits oneself and more so those around them.

After a quick break we resumed our session, this time giving a presentation on our schools. Having prepared a PowerPoint we were surprised to learn that only one other school had in fact prepared one too. So with this we came to the unanimous decision that we would give a short talk about each school in terms of daily life, brief history of the school, its Benedictine Ethos and a comparison of similarities and differences amongst each other’s schools. As I previously alluded to, one trait which echoed across all schools was the strong sense of Benedictine Ethos which holds a place in daily life across all aspects of school living and is seen as a contributing factor to the friendly, welcoming environment in which we live in.

Given that it was Remembrance weekend in Britain we attended a short mass in the Abbey Church to remember those who had given their lives in war. We then congregated in the Benet Bar (the parish local) for a quick lunch, courtesy of the Old Priorian Association, before heading into Central London.

We made our way in on the Tube, accompanied by Mr Allott, to Piccadilly Circus. After making our way out of the busy station we literally walked across the street to Jermyn Street Theatre. Here we saw the Potsdam Quartet which was a short comedy drama on the personal problems of a quartet who played to Stalin and his associates in the 1940s.

Later we were treated for dinner in Ealing by St. Benedict’s school. Least to say the food went down well! We all had a social in the house that evening with Jack and Chevaz (GAP Students) which was very enjoyable.

Sunday was the final day of the meeting. After Morning Prayer, again read from the Glenstal Book of Prayer, we assembled for the last session led by Mr Cleugh. In this meeting we discussed what we had done, what we had learned and what we could take back to our school communities. Everybody agreed that the weekend was thoroughly enjoyable and that each Year Head had greatly benefitted from the modules on leadership. In addition each school benefitted from learning about each other and from ideas that each school brought to the table. Hopefully these ideas can be implemented in coming months and in coming years in our school. As well as this, we hope that links between the Benedictine schools of St. Benedict’s, Ampleforth, Worth, Downside and Glenstal will be developed and strengthened. This thought was greeted with eager intention by all involved and we hope to maybe see each other again in the near future.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to St. Benedict’s for hosting the Leadership weekend. Special thanks to Mr Cleugh, Mr Allott, Fr Thomas and Mr Foley for organising and hosting the event. Also, to Jack and Chevaz (GAP students) for looking after us in the guest house. Finally we would like to express our thanks to Br Martin and Fr William for organising this unique opportunity presented to us.