alumni feature, fjv

FJV Feature: Discerning CLA

The 2021-23 cohort of Contemplative Leaders in Action in Baltimore.

I first heard about Contemplative Leaders in Action (CLA) when I had recently finished my JVC year and was entering the field of graduate studies, trying to figure out where God was calling me. A fellow young adult in my parish spoke of her experience in the program; I heard great things from and saw the growth in this friend. I felt drawn to engage with and learn about the topics she was describing and ways she was applying new leadership skills in her life. Fast forward 10 years: the timing to apply and participate in CLA finally worked out for me and, as I prayed about it, I still felt that strong desire and call to learn about leadership. I wanted time, space, and a community with whom I could learn about, ponder, and discuss questions like: What is a leader? What type of leader am I? How do I become a more confident leader? Where is God calling me in my life to step up and be a better leader?

As my 18-month time in the CLA program comes to an end this month, I realize that I have received answers to these questions and so many more. Leadership has as many definitions as there are leaders in this world. There are an infinite number of ways to lead; everyone can be a leader from whatever position they currently occupy, in any and every community to which they belong, including personal, professional, and spiritual communities. There is so much more to leadership than just a ‘top-down’ or ‘authoritative’ approach. Because everyone has the capacity to lead, it is imperative that we have tools from which to draw in order to be effective and reflective servant leaders. CLA has helped me to develop these tools of leadership and provided me with a strong base of foundation on which to build additional skills.

In CLA, we build these skills and tools gradually, through presentations, reflections, application, and discussion with others, all based in Ignatian spirituality. CLA provided me the opportunity to revisit and deepen my connection to JVC's four values, especially spirituality & community. In the program, we reviewed key components of Ignatian spirituality that I had learned about in college and JVC. I appreciated having opportunities to learn about and practice with new ways to pray. I spent much time slowing down to reflect on various aspects of my life, through a leadership lens. I learned to more deeply listen to God's voice, reflecting on where God is calling me and how God would like me to serve others. I had meaningful, life-giving discussions with the members of my CLA community, a community to whom I know that I will always be able to turn when I have questions about where my servant leadership is taking me. I felt called and became more engaged with parish life at my church and was equipped and emboldened to confidently take on new roles in professional settings.

If the values of JVC continue to resonate with you as you contemplate your next steps, then I encourage you to think about participating in the CLA program! It has been a truly transformative and life-giving experience for me.

Applications are open for 2023-25 cohorts of CLA. For more information about the program and instructions to apply, click here!

Amanda McCulloch

Amanda McCulloch served as a JV with St. Rose of Lima Elementary School in Newark, NJ from 2008-09. Amanda participated in the 2021-23 cohort of Contemplative Leaders in Action in Baltimore.