Administrators of Notre Dame de Namur sponsored and affiliated elementary and high schools from across the United States gathered in Ipswich, Massachusetts for a Networking for Mission meeting.
The opportunity to connect Notre Dame educational leaders in order to share ideas and delve into what it means to be a Notre Dame School had been a dream for several years. When the group gathered this August for a three-day meeting, the enthusiasm and energy of the participants and SNDdeN US Office of Sponsored Ministries filled the atmosphere.
Each day began with prayer and reflection that included quiet meditation as well as sharing that helped set the positive and open spirit for the sessions that followed.
The agenda enabled the group to interact with one another and to explore what it means to be a Notre Dame School. After a welcome and a Meet and Greet on Sunday evening, each of the following three days had a theme -- Big Picture Day, Notre Dame Day and Moving Forward.
Keynote Speaker, Sister Mary Johnson, SNDdeN, Professor of Sociology and Religion at Trinity Washington University, presented the demography of Catholicism in the US, the differences and expectations of current generational cohorts and the implications for interaction with students, faculty, parents and boards. Sister Mary then spoke about the Catholic intellectual tradition and Catholic social teaching, offering an historical context as well as current issues related to the school and community/regional settings.
Sister Mary also provided a sociological view of the Notre Dame Charism. Group discussions followed each presentation and gave participants the opportunity to explore the topics and relate them to their school environments.
Meeting Facilitator, Ms. Shyrl McCormick led a discussion on the Hallmarks of a Notre Dame Learning Community, beginning with their creation and highlighted available Notre Dame resource material. Using a World Café Approach, Ms. McCormick posed questions on the Notre Dame Hallmarks and asked the participants to discuss and suggest possible answers or approaches.
A panel of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur shared resources that are available to the schools, such as the Notre Dame Virtual School, International Communications, Mission Development and opportunities to visit the United Nations.
During breaks, participants were able to see brochures and materials from each of the educational institutions and talk with one another informally. Evenings also offered time for socialization, including a barbeque hosted at the Notre Dame Children's Class, a visit to the Cuvilly Arts and Earth Center, and time to see the ocean and chat.
At the closing ceremony, one had a strong sense that this event was just the beginning of continued networking for mission among Notre Dame Schools.