Learning Your Way into Leading
The Art of Animating Communities

You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process for as long as he lives. –Clay P. Bedford

Learning is like embarking on a journey. The further you go, the further the horizon recedes. Learning is a continuous process and teaching the methods of effective learning is an art in itself.

An educationist with a hunger for learning, Father Joe Thannickal SDB has developed a course to meet the growing needs of leaders in the making, especially as animators of religious communities. Community Animation Comprehensive (CAC) is a course for people who are seasoned with experience but have to rise to new challenges.

Leaders provide direction and support to the members of their community. They enliven their Communities with their presence. Being internally animated, they exude energy that moves others. With these and more in mind, the course is a comprehensive charter devised to address the training needs of those who are appointed to take on the mantle of leadership.

CAC was rolled out to 13 students in 2009. The results were encouraging and provided valuable inputs to enhance the curriculum. This was offered again to another batch of 18 in 2010, when a special 3-day induction session was added to introduce the paradigm shift in the teaching methodology. From next year, another three days will be devoted to wrapping it up in order to facilitate a more comfortable closure to the residential course.
CAC encompasses three preexisting courses centered on personal growth, helping skills and counseling. The 79-day repackaged programme covers all these and more with a stronger focus on Personal Development, Leadership and Spirituality.

“In this course the participants learn to learn. They are here to teach themselves”, says Father Joe. It is a programme that lays more emphasis on learning and less on teaching. It demands greater personal responsibility to identify and address potential areas of improvement. CAC explores the art of making adults learn using a self-directed study format. Classroom sessions are enhanced with innovative learning techniques, aided by up-to-date teaching technologies. With access to the Internet they can use online libraries extensively. Public speaking and other skills are practiced and evaluated through videotape analysis. Managerial skills and leadership best practices have a central focus.

Presentations are widely used. Through all these the course provides an opportunity to discover oneself and others in the group leading to intense experiences in transformation.
Father Thannickal, Program Director of the Don Bosco Renewal Center in Bangalore, holds several academic credits including a PhD in Psychology and Religion. He says that the idea of the course grew with him gradually as a result of exposure to several traditions like the Don Bosco tradition in his early training, the Jesuit tradition through St. Xavier’s College in Calcutta and Santa Clara University in CA, the holistic and Integral tradition of the California Institute of Integral studies, and the Oxford/Stanford experiences through the Graduate Theological Foundation. Assisting him in the programme are Fathers Joe Mannath, Jose Kuttianimattathil and Rosario John, all of whose academic achievements and competencies are enviable. Sister Bernadine Joseph RNDM who was the superior general of her order and provides a vital presence throughout the course, brings with her many years in leadership ministry and specialized training from Loyola University, Chicago.
The participants themselves bring in different perspectives and skill levels. The group works together to learn and assist one another in optimizing learning curves. Feedback from peers constitutes an irreplaceable instrument for identifying areas for development. All told, CAC provides an effective platform for the grooming of the leaders of religious communities. It is a course that is relevant to this time and age when the only thing that remains constant seems to be change.

NB. Fr. Thannickal has now written out a preliminary description of the course in a pamphlet titled, “Community Animation Comprehensive: A Training Program for Leaders of Religious and Clergy Communities”. Those interested can get a free copy from Program Director, Don Bosco Renewal Centre. SOS Post – Bannerghatta Rd, Bangalore 560076 India.
Email: jthann123@yahoo.com Mobile: 9449823718

Shalini S. Babu