“We are celebrating an inaugural event in the history of the RSHM – the first meeting of the newly structured Global Network of RSHM Schools. Lay heads from some of our schools have collaborated and worked hard for two years as a Coordinating Committee to concretize the vision of an international, cohesive, truly global network of RSHM schools.

Planning such a Global Network became a priority for the RSHM as the number of our sisters is diminishing, and we no longer have the ability to have sisters in every school associated with our RSHM mission. Therefore, we became actively involved in creating something new, led by lay administrators. This transition in leadership has been planned and is effective due to the deep commitment of highly qualified professional educators who are imbued with the RSHM mission. You gathered here are the people entrusted to carry forward excellence in education while fostering in our students a personal relationship with Jesus Christ so that our young people grow in their understanding of their call and the importance of living as disciples of Jesus Christ and witnessing to this discipleship through their love and service to others.”

With these words, Sister Rosamond Blanchet, General Superior of the Institute of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, opened the Inaugural Conference of the Global Network of RSHM Schools. Jointly planned and carried out by the heads of the schools in Colombia and the Coordinating Committee, the inaugural meeting was hosted by Marymount Bogota from June 28 until July 2, 2017. The theme, “Theology of Leadership: Educating for a Peaceful World” was significant because, in addition of the many crises in the world, the peace treaty between the Colombian government and Colombia’s largest and most violent guerrilla group, FARC, had just been signed.

Eighty-eight Global Network members participated in this historic meeting, including RSHM sisters, heads of schools, and specially selected staff members. The attendees represented 20 institutions from the Americas and Europe. The “gift of internationality” inherited from the RSHM was evident in the diversity of participants who came from eight countries, 18 cities, and communicated in 3 languages (English, Portuguese, and Spanish).

The keynote speaker was Padre José Leonardo Rincon SJ, Dean of the Pontifical Javeriana University’s Dept. of Education in Bogota. Beginning with “I believe that everyone potentially has a leadership gift. . . we have to find what it is and develop it… Jesus is the reference for our conversation on leadership”, he proceeded to name and define the qualities that should characterize students who graduate from our schools.

The well-constructed agenda for the first Full Conference of the Global Network offered times for inspirational large group sessions and small group workshops, fun integration activities and delightful tastes of Colombia’s rich culture and typical food, quiet moments in the Chapel for morning prayer and a memorable closing liturgy and commissioning ceremony to thank outgoing Coordinating Committee members and welcome new ones. Perhaps the most moving events that took place were the “Who Am I?” panel with the RSHM sisters and the vertical cable car visit to Monserrate, the shrine dedicated to the Black Virgin and the Fallen Christ rising 3,152 meters above sea level overlooking the city of Bogota.