Inaugural Nollau Class Prepares for First Retreat


For most students, fall is synonymous with familiar back-to-school traditions. But for the Nollau Institute’s inaugural class, this year will likely be anything but routine.

The 20 participants taking part in CHHSM’s new leadership development program will kick things off with a two-day retreat Sept. 13-14 at Mercy Center in St. Louis, Mo. The theme for the group’s first meeting, “Hearing God’s Call: The Theology of Leadership,” will focus on how God’s call changes the nature of leadership. CHHSM president and CEO, Bryan Sickbert, will welcome the class.

Sister Kathleen Atkinson, a retreat facilitator and youth coach for CHHSM member Charles Hall Youth Services of Bismarck, N.D., says that in preparation for the institute she’s experiencing an energy that is passionate, creative and contemplative.

“The Nollau Institute is not a ‘10 easy steps to time management’ seminar,” she says. “It is an experience of drawing forth a depth of questions and resources which we bring to our ministry."

Participants and faculty are certainly sensing a buzz of excitement as they begin to engage with one another via a custom-made online discussion forum tailored for the class.

Retreat co-facilitator and Nollau faculty member Daniel Pryfogle, CHHSM’s senior consultant, says that he’s already seeing fruits from the program.

“Our key question in the Nollau Institute is, ‘How does God’s call change the nature of leadership?’ One answer to this question is that faithful leadership proceeds from radical trust — trust in God, trust in community, trust in each other,” Pryfogle says. “In preparing for the institute, the facilitators are practicing such trust, and it is a joy to experience.”

Pam Benz, Nollau participant and director of public relations for Emmaus Homes in St. Charles, Mo., says that aside from getting to know her classmates, she most looks forward to the study opportunity afforded by the Nollau Institute. “I’m looking forward to being able to dig deeper in my own personal faith, and to challenge my faith as it applies to my work life,” she says.

And there will be ample opportunity to do so. According to Atkinson, the initial retreat will “bring together dynamics of story, reflection, small and large group discussions, dreaming for our preferred future, practices to strengthen us on the journey, a lot of laughter and new connections with others who share our CHHSM ministry.”

Following the retreat, the class will engage in online dialogue and peer mentoring this fall, with another in-person meeting scheduled for November. The institute will conclude 11 months of study with graduation in July 2012.