Students grow in faith and leadership through European immersion experience

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6 December 2023

Nine Year 11 students from Catholic schools across the Archdiocese of Melbourne have this month joined peers from Sydney Catholic schools on the Australian Catholic University (ACU) School Leaders Program in London and Rome.

Students on the School Leaders Program in Rome

The three-week program, offered to students moving into Year 12 leadership roles in 2024, aims to enhance leadership skills and deepen faith through a range of experiences focused on an increased understanding of the development of Christianity, western civilisation and culture.

Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS) Director of Catholic Mission and Identity, Dr Nigel Zimmermann says MACS is pleased to sponsor such a rich opportunity for the students to travel with other young leaders, and experience firsthand some of the sites and stories that have shaped our faith and society.

‘The program includes structured learning components taught by ACU academics accompanying the students, along with visits to significant sites in London and Rome.’

‘We believe the program will not only serve as a foundation for the students’ leadership and service in their school communities in 2024 and beyond, but also sharpen their intellectual curiosity’, Dr Zimmermann said.

Students on the School Leaders Program in Rome

Student leader Jeff Liang from Emmaus College said: ‘The combination of fruitful lessons and journeys into the places of religious importance within Assisi and Rome have immensely deepened my relationship with God.’

Emma Gorry from Our Lady of Sion College said: ‘I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about St Francis’ upbringing and how he became so influential within the Church. Exploring the cobbled streets of Rome filled with such rich history was magical.’

‘I was never fully aware of how many buildings, relics and artefacts Rome contains. I was made most aware of this when we visited the Basilica of St Clement, where there is a 16th century building laid on top of a 6th century church, built on top of a pagan temple from antiquity’, said Antony Catanchin from Xavier College.

Students on the School Leaders Program in Rome

Isabelle Devadass from Sacred Heart Girls’ College focused on a young saint and role model, saying a highlight was seeing Blessed Carlo Acutis in his resting place.

‘It was a deeply meaningful experience. This was an encounter that left me with a renewed commitment to living a life guided by faith, modelling the behaviour of this inspiring modern-day saint’, she said.

India Jade Phillips from Avila College said: ‘It was quite stirring to see the Santa Maria Maggiore Church, where remnants of the crib of baby Jesus were, and a painting done by St Luke. I found this site the most impactful due to the touch-ability of the relics. It made everything feel more real. I believe that my faith has grown stronger through this immersion experience.’

Pope Francis

The London segment of the immersion included visits to the Cabinet War Rooms, the Australian War Memorial, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, and memorials to St Thomas More and St John Fisher, along with a walking tour of Oxford University and seminar on St John Henry Newman.

The program concludes on Friday 8 December with a Mass at St Patrick’s Church, Soho, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and a farewell dinner.

Students on the School Leaders Program in Rome

Students participating in the 2023 ACU School Leaders Program are: