RSHM Leadership Conference 2019

RSHM Leadership Conference 2019

From September the 24th to the 28th, two 8th Grade students and two 10th Grade students attended the 2019 RSHM Leadership Conference in Rome. RSHM Schools from Lisbon, Paris and Rome attended this enriching and unique experience. All students were able to develop their leadership skills and reflect on important and pressing current world issues throughout the trip, such as homelessness and modern-day slavery.

On the day of departure, students had a bright and early start. Accompanied by Mrs Burke and Mrs Symons, they arrived in Rome just in time for a delicious lunch at a traditional Italian restaurant. The first day consisted mainly of ice breakers and a session explaining the leadership qualities of the founders of the RSHM that led to their successes.

The second day was by far the most vigorous out of all the days in Rome. The students attending had the opportunity of being able to tour the picturesque city, whilst simultaneously learning about certain leadership qualities. One of the sites that stood out the most was St Peter’s Basilica, famous for being the largest church in the world and holding great liturgical functions, in addition to being a place of pilgramige throughout history. The students were able to learn about Saint Peter, among other Saints, and admire the leadership qualities that they had, and thus learning from their experiences. However, the highlight of the day by far was having an audience with the Pope at the Vatican, which was as expected a truly remarkable and once-in-a-lifetime experience.

On the third day, students continued to explore local treasures, such as the incredible Pantheon and Colosseum. Another highlight of the day was when students also had the opportunity to reflect on the leadership skills that they accumulated at this stage of the trip. Through an organized activity, they managed to apply these skills by finding ways in which they could improve their school community. The students from Marymount London decided to focus on Fair Trade products, as the topic surrounds a serious problem of global injustice. In fact, Marymount London is proud to announce that they are currently in the process of becoming a Fair Trade school. This transition will take but a few months. Along with selling only Fair Trade products and educating the students on the importance of Fair Trade, the food products within the school will only be used if they are classified as Fair Trade. Furthermore, students will be educated in class and through activities raising awareness on what they can do to help.

On the final day, all Grade 10 students attended a conference on modern slavery. Professor John Donoghue (Associate Professor of History at Loyola University Chicago), Dr. Ruth Van Dyke (Senior Lecturer at South Bank University and Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery at St. Mary’s University) and Sister Eugenia Bonetti (Founder and Chairperson of ‘Slaves No More‘,a non-profit organisation) were the three featured speakers of this conference. Professor Donoghue was the first speaker, offering a short history on slavery which gave the students present an understanding of the roots and background of this global crisis. In her presentation, Dr Ruth Van Dyke developed on the ideas and themes discussed in the previous speech from her colleague, discussing how the topic affects our modern society. She explored different types of slavery, including child labor, sexual exploitation, contraction and agricultural labor in her speech, concluding that everybody can make a difference by becoming educated and aware of this problem. The final speaker was Sister Eugenia Bonetti, a Consolata Missionary Sister who has dedicated a large part of her life to helping victims of human trafficking. She delivered an emotional account on the hardships that enslaved women face, inspiring her audience members to continue with their dedication on becoming leaders that can make a difference.

I attended the trip, and can say that Sister Eugenia is a truly remarkable woman. After her speech, my friends and I went to talk to her, bringing her to tell us a story about her childhood and her journey to where she is today. Apparently, she decided that she wanted to be a Sister when she was thirteen in order to help enslaved women improve their lives, knowing that it would be the right thing to do. When she fished talking, Sister Eugenia took our hands and said ‘May God bless you’. I was very touched by her heartfelt words. A classmate of mine who went on the trip, Inés Costa Garcia, said that she “learned so many things, academically and religiously” and that it “was an extremely enriching experience”.

According to the Marymount Rome website, “The mindset that the students developed throughout this experience can be seen throughout the school’s own history. An example would be when Fr. Jean Gailhac, the founder of the RSHM, began his work with the city of Béziers’ marginalized women, eventually creating a shelter for them followed by an orphanage and school to provide an education for their children.” This Leadership Conference was truly an incredible experience that has allowed student leaders of the RSHM schools to grow and develop into better versions of themselves and continue having a passion for change.