Wednesday, 03 July 2024 13:19

UK's first Catholic mission strategy produced for Leeds Trinity University

Dr Ann Marie MealeyA consultation with Leeds Trinity University staff and students has led to the UK’s first Catholic mission strategy being produced.

This has been welcomed by staff, students and governors at Leeds Trinity, which is one of four Catholic universities in England. 

Consultation and open psychologically safe listening revealed that some staff and students did not fully understand the Catholic nature of the university and how it can be expressed in a competitive higher education marketplace. 

The inspiring story of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion and CES, who opened the university in 1966 to widen access to education and skills for marginalised groups in society, was the catalyst for a renewed understanding of why the Catholic mission of the university can and should continue to be articulated. 

The story of The Most Venerable Elizabeth Prout also inspired the Leeds Trinity community to see themselves in the story of the foundress of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion order — and as part of the continuation of her mission to provide education for all.

Dr Ann Marie Mealey (pictured), the university’s Director of Catholic Mission, said: “The founding vision of transformation of lives through education informed by faith still resonates on campus today, including with non-Catholics. We always need to find new ways of aligning our Catholic mission with sector demands because Catholic education has always made a significant contribution to ‘teaching from the margins of society’ with faith and love. And this is still credible in today’s world.

“I am so proud of the Leeds Trinity staff and student community. They found our foundational story and raison d’être so inspiring once it was explained to everyone that each and every person is a part of a mission to offer education as hope for a better future for everyone. Our motto of education for hope is used positively by many staff and students and is a sign of renewed engagement with who we always were since 1966.”

The university reaffirmed its mission inspired by the guidance of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion as follows:

  • learn respect for self and others
  • learn the meaning of an inclusive community which celebrates difference and acknowledges mutual interdependence
  • develop a love of learning and appreciation of their talents
  • read the signs of the times and respond to the crying needs of the world today
  • share their gifts and resources in a spirit of compassion for the building of a more just world

The strategy includes an emphasis on providing skills outside of the classroom to students in ethical leadership programmes and workshops, inspired by the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. It also capitalises on the global network of Catholic higher education, of which England’s four Catholic universities are a part.

The strategic pillars of the new strategy align with Leeds Trinity’s strategic plan and demonstrate how each and every person is invited to develop their full potential. This is achieved through sustainable education; ethically informed student experience; support for Catholic multi-academy trusts; research and knowledge exchange; as well as in international and national collaborations with sister Catholic schools, colleges and universities that make up the Catholic family of education providers.

Leeds Trinity’s recent Catholic mission work has branched out into areas including Beyond The Dark Clouds, a free online lecture series and internationally-known podcast on Catholic approaches to topical issues; an annual conference on Catholic education; designing an ethical leadership programme in association with CAFOD; and hosting a mosaic of Biblical scenes by an award-winning artist at the university’s chapel.

Part of the mosaic depicted Alan Kurdi, the two-year-old boy washed up on a beach in Turkey while crossing the Mediterranean from Syria. Dr Mealey said that non-Catholic staff and students visiting the exhibition were impressed to hear of the Bishops’ approach to migration, as articulated in Love The Stranger.     

She said: “Some staff and students said they didn’t know that the Bishops engaged with the ethical challenges of our times. But being guided to learn more about the intellectual side of the Church helped those who are not Catholic to come forward and speak about our university’s Catholicism in a positive light and to understand more fully that the social teachings of the Church invite everyone to consider what is deeply human about education and human living.

“I’m so grateful to everyone for their contributions and engagement in this process and hope that our work inspires other universities to design their own strategies for hope.”

Find out more about Leeds Trinity University’s Catholic mission

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