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“After today your life will never be the same…”

Audrey Scott on Thursday, 28 February 2019.

Jocelyn Pierre-Antoine Catholic School Leadership

“After today your life will never be the same…”

A young teacher from California sat listening intently to her professor on her first day of class in Notre Dame’s Catholic school leadership program. “That has been very true for me,” says Jocelyn Pierre-Antoine. “When I went into the program in 2005, I was in my late 20s with no desire to be a principal. I was being called to leadership in a way that I didn’t anticipate, expect, or even want…and all of that led to this position.”

Jocelyn Pierre-Antoine The program has grown into the nationally recognized Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program, and Pierre-Antoine is now associate superintendent for Leadership for Mission and Professional Learning in the Diocese of Oakland. She embraces her new role supporting 39 schools in three major areas: Catholic identity, which includes mission and catechetical formation, the Western Catholic Education Association (WCEA) accreditation process, and professional development. Pierre-Antoine says, “I find it life-giving to work collaboratively with our Department of Catholic Schools team to create systems and structures to ensure that our Catholic schools thrive for years to come.”

Pierre-Antoine’s parents emigrated from the Philippines in the 1960s, and she is the only person from her family to graduate from college. “It was because of the generosity of the Dominican sisters that I graduated from St. Edward (Catholic School),” she says. Pierre-Antoine remembers the sisters helping with tuition and support when times were tough for her family. “I was not only formed by the Dominican sisters when I was a student, but then when I became a teacher at my alma mater, they took me in. I was a teacher, and they saw potential in me. I believe in the mission and how it formed me to be the person I am. So, in gratitude for that, for the people who sacrificed, for the people who really helped shape me… in gratitude, that’s the reason that I am committed in what I do.”

Jocelyn Pierre-Antoine Catholic School Leadership

At this critical point in Catholic education, Pierre-Antoine welcomes the exciting possibilities of the new role she began last July. “It’s cerebral, it involves a lot of critical thinking, and it involves a lot of intentionality,” she says. “At the same time, these answers and these solutions are only going to come if I stay rooted in prayer. There’s no other way. How do you address some of the significant needs in Catholic ed nationwide without centering yourself on Christ? There’s no other way to do it. When we are fearful, when we are wanting to control how things will look—then we’re in the way of the growth. The spirit is going to move and be in the people who are committed to Catholic schools. We have to trust that the spirit knows what it’s doing—that God knows what God’s doing.”

"How do you address some of the significant needs in Catholic ed nationwide without centering yourself on Christ?"

Pierre-Antoine believes it’s important to allow God to inspire people to be the next wave of leaders the Church needs. “I appreciate the fact that ACE has really been on the forefront of trying to revitalize Catholic education. I value the efforts made to really take a stance, to really begin programs and initiatives to address the needs that we have,” she says.

The program’s emphasis on spiritual leadership was an essential aspect for Pierre-Antoine. “Our workloads were intense, just like they are now, and yet (the program) forced us to stop what we were doing, to say it really doesn’t matter what direction we’re going in curriculum, it doesn’t matter how much money we have in the bank or don’t have… let’s make sure the faith piece is the most essential part. This is why we attended Mass together every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday during our program. There’s value in that.”

She also believes the program distinguishes itself by valuing a diverse thought community. “When I was in the program, there were grandparents, principals, teachers— I appreciated the diversity of thinking and experiences because it gave me new insights,” says Pierre-Antoine. “And because it’s during the summer, it’s not a commuter program. You’re pulling educators from throughout the nation—you’re pulling people from different types of Catholic schools—so there’s a richness in the learning because of the diversity in rural, urban, Cristo Rey, and other unique models of Catholic education.”

"I believe in the mission and how it formed me to be the person I am."

Thinking about her time at Notre Dame, she adds, “There’s such an intentionality about Catholic identity at the school. From the Grotto, to the fact that every dorm has a chapel, to the religious symbols and statues. There’s something about the place, the spirit, the charism that is just so alive there.

Pierre-Antoine brings all her experiences to bear for her diocese and for the future of the Church. As her diocese crafted its theme this year, Rooted in Mission, it used an image of a tree along with its roots and married that with this inspirational scripture passage:

“Let your roots grow down deep into Him, and let your lives be built on Him, then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
- Colossians 2:7

From teacher to principal to associate superintendent, Pierre-Antoine looks forward optimistically. “The most fulfilling aspect of my new role is the emphasis on mission and ministry. I believe in the mission of Catholic education, and I embrace my ministry with much joy and excitement,” says Pierre-Antoine. “Today is a new day!”

Learn more about the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program at ace.nd.edu/leadership

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