Details of Thesis

TitlePerceptions of the Transmission of the Edmund Rice Charism: Changing leadership from religious to lay in Christian Brothers’ Schools
Author Watson, Andrew Michael
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2007
Abstract This study was an investigation of the leadership required for the transmission of the charism of Edmund Rice in a time of transition from religious to lay leadership in Christian Brothers’ Schools. Historically the Christian Brothers have had a significant impact on the development of Catholic education in this country through the development of a large network of Christian Brothers’ schools. However the rapidity and depth of changes over the past two decades have threatened this position of strength and the schools now find themselves at a critical time. There is the possible risk of the gradual dilution of Christian Brothers’ schools losing their special character and their God-given charism. The study investigated the means for the effective formal and informal transmission of the charism of Edmund Rice, and the influence of leadership styles and qualities on this transmission. The two main questions were asked are: What is needed for the effective formal and informal transmission of the charism of Edmund Rice? What leadership styles and leadership qualities are required of lay principals for this transmission? The study was situated in three schools that display one of the following characteristics: A Christian Brothers’ school that had a lay principal for a period of more than five years. A Christian Brothers’ school that currently had a Christian Brother as principal. A Christian Brothers’ school that had recently changed from a religious principal to a lay principal and was in the associated processes of changing from a religious to lay leadership. The methodology used for this research study, was a case study, presented in the context of general qualitative methodology and specifically social research methodology. The major data-gathering approach was a questionnaire. Two questionnaires were used to collect the required data. The construction of the items were informed by key points, drawn from the literature review which, in turn were derived from educational leadership theories. The research undertaken in three Christian Brothers’ schools resulted in: Understanding the leaders’ perceptions of the charism of Edmund Rice; Identification of means for transmission of charism; Identification of styles of leadership and qualities of leadership which assist the transmission of charism; Informed Christian Brother’s schools of possible means for the transmission of the Edmund Rice charism in the future; and Suggested the provision of a formation program for recently appointed principals. The thesis concludes that the understanding of the Edmund Rice charism by future leaders of Christian Brothers’ schools needs to reflect the contemporary context, that takes into account the need to provide access to a Catholic education by all those who seek it rather than preserving it for those who have the capacity to pay for it; and it needs to provide spiritually nourishing environments for students within these schools. Ultimately, a real and genuine attempt to engage all people in a Catholic education that is embedded in the tradition of Edmund Rice is required. Christian Brothers’ schools require leaders who can promote and achieve the vision and mission of Christian Brothers’ schools and live out the charter of Edmund Rice through example. The leaders who are able to achieve this are people who practice elements of servant, transformational and authentic leadership. The Christian Brothers’ need to ensure that they have an appropriate formation program, that addresses these areas, for leaders of their schools.
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