I've been going for quite a few years now (my linear time deficiency prevents me from saying precisely how long I've been going) to Ireland to help lead the Making a Difference Workshop. I just got back yesterday from the '13 workshop. This was the one when the Irish team of leaders did most of the work and my role became, for the most part, their guide and coach.
The workshops are part of my heart. The one I went to as a participant over a quarter of a century ago, transformed my thoughts about leaving the priesthood into giving me my priesthood all new. And since then, being a priest has done nothing but enliven me and give me joy. The difference before and after the Making a Difference workshop for me was that 'before', I was 'doing priesthood' and 'after' I was 'being a priest'. All the difference in the world, I assure you.
Since then I've helped lead between 30 and 60 workshops (I have a deficit in remembering numbers as well as being confounded by linear time). It has been a huge part of my life and every time I helped lead a workshop I came away with a deeper commitment to myself and my ministry. This time is no different.
I squirmed uncomfortably in the back of the room for much of the workshop, longing to be up front leading, until I realized the possibility I needed was to 'be coach' rather than 'be leader'. As far as I can tell, there are only three to five of us still active in leading who have mastered the role. We need more leaders. So my focus needs to shift from 'leading' to producing new leaders.
This workshop at Dromantine--home of the African Missionary Society of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland and one of the most beautiful spots on this planet or any other--was one of the five best I've ever been a part of...and here's the thing, it was my coaching (difficult as it is) that made that possible, not my leading skills.
There were a remarkable diversity of folks, lay and ordained, in the workshop. Five RC priests--one in religious life, the others in parishes--, a church of Ireland (Anglican) retired bishop and a CI priest and layperson. The lay folks were in all sorts of roles from a chef to a minister of Youth to a member of the Larch community (who work with those with special needs both physically and mentally) to a social worker to folks who work in 'the Living Church' movement (seeking to re-imagine Catholicism in Ireland after the scandals and pain) and several nuns from different orders.
Over the years, I've come to think of the Irish as being like people from Minnesota, somewhere in the upper mid-west of this country. They are friendly (but not overly so) mostly quiet and eager to learn and share. But this group was entirely too boisterous and wild to be from Minnesota. They were great, really.
It was one of the top five of all the workshops I've been around. No kidding.
I've never been to an Irish workshop that didn't include gatherings at night after dinner for music and poetry and jokes and stories. That doesn't often happen in the US. The Irish are intoxicated by language--spoken and sung--which is one of the reasons the workshop goes so well there since Making a Difference is, in large part, created in languaging (an awkward word at best and one my spell check doesn't recognize. But it is true that the workshop lives and creates with 'language'. And language of story and joke and poetry and song is something dear to the Irish soul.
That's enough for now.
I'll write most of this week about the transformation and growth and learning and deepening I garnered at the Irish workshop. Stay tuned.
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