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Archbishop Costelloe expounds servant leadership to primary schoolers


Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB shared valuable insight on the topic of servant leadership to Year 6 pupils of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School Hilton, St Patrick’s Primary School Fremantle, and Our Lady of Fatima Primary School Palmyra on 11 September. Photo: Matthew Lau.

By Amanda Murthy

In Christianity, being a leader and being a servant naturally go together, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB told Year 6 pupils of three Perth southern-suburb schools last Friday.

The Perth Archbishop’s keynote presentation set the tone for the annual Leadership Day’s theme of "Servant Leadership – A willing heart and a kind spirit" at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Hilton on 11 September.

This year’s joint Leadership Day was an opportunity for OLMC’s Year 6 cohort to collaborate with pupils of St Patrick’s Primary School Fremantle and Our Lady of Fatima Primary School Palmyra to form valuable friendships while learning about the values and characteristics of a good leader.

“The world in which we live doesn't often give us great examples of leaders who are servants. For us as Christians, we understand that servant leadership comes from Jesus himself,” Archbishop Costelloe began.


A young leader of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School Hilton lights a candle to kick-off proceedings for a three-school combined annual Leadership Day on Friday 11 September. Photo: Matthew Lau.

“When we recognise Jesus as our leader, another way of saying that is that we're recognising Jesus as the model that we're going to try and follow. He's not the only person that we might think about as a model that we want to follow, I'm sure all of you have lots of people who you look to as models that you'd like to follow.

“One of the things that we do as Christians is to say: How close is the way they exercise leadership to the way Jesus exercises leadership? And often, the answer will be: ‘very close’,” he continued.

“I'm sure that if you looked at your teachers and your principals, and you looked at the example of Jesus, you'd see so many things in common, and that's fantastic. And it would be true of your families, your parents, hopefully true of each other.”

Archbishop Costelloe reminded the children that Jesus walked the Earth some 2000 years ago, a long way from Australia, living in a culture and society different to ours.

“When we talk about following Jesus as our leader, we don't mean imitating exactly everything he did. Following someone as a leader is about working out what was going on in their mind and in their heart, and then seeing how that can translate it to my mind and into my heart.”


A Year 6 pupil of St Patrick’s Primary School “elbow bumps” Archbishop Costelloe as a show of gratitude for taking time to speak with children of the three southern-suburb schools. Photo: Matthew Lau.

His Grace then used an example from the Gospels of how Jesus dealt with Zacchaeus the tax collector.

“The kind of heart that Jesus must have had, that could enable him to respond in that way to Zacchaeus as a servant leader, will always be trying to understand the people he's leading, so that he can find a way to touch their heart and help them to move forward a little bit.

“As leaders, it's not your role to boss everybody around, tell everybody what they have to do, point out all the faults to them all the time. Your role as a servant leader is to find a way to touch someone's heart, so that that person can begin to be the best person they can possibly be,” Archbishop Costelloe added.

“I've got no doubt that that's exactly the kind of leadership you experience every day in your schools, from your principals, from your teachers, at home, and many other places as well.”


Present for Archbishop Costelloe’s keynote address on 11 September were (from left, seated) Lieutenant Commander Amanda Folkes, OLMC graduate teacher Yasmin George, St Pat's Freo Aboriginal Teaching Assistant Thairon Jansen, OLMC Principal Kevin Duffy, OLOF Principal Paul Hansen, and St Pat's Freo Principal Bernadette Higgins. Photo: Matthew Lau.

Upon reflection of the day, Our Lady of Mount Carmel School Principal Kevin Duffy said Archbishop Costelloe’s presentation provided insightful messages, anecdotes and context for the day’s learning and sharing.

“Having Archbishop Costelloe present to the students, many of whom will undertake the Sacrament of Confirmation in Term 4, was another wonderful opportunity for the students from all three Catholic schools,” Mr Duffy expressed.

“The Archbishop was very generous with time and concluded his presentation with a Q&A opportunity that allowed the inquiring minds to ask many and varied questions. Reflections on Archbishops Costelloe's own choice of Confirmation name [Dominic] was one such question and provided a wonderful opportunity for the students to gain greater insights from their Archbishop.

“Whist recognising the potential in all of us to lead, the idea and understanding of servant leadership and what it entails was enhanced by the Archbishop’s keynote.”

Archbishop Costelloe’s presentation was followed by Lieutenant Commander Amanda Folkes, who helped the pupils to understand themselves better and overcome their fears as they approach the end of their primary school years and begin their secondary school journey, and OLMC graduate teacher Yasmin George showed pupils the importance of teamwork and trust because “Believers are Leaders”.