Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

The approximate total amount of time you will spend on this unit is 300 hours. This total includes intensive, retreat-like experiences in which you are invited to examine and re-examine your relevant professional and personal experience in the context of unit content as presented in lectures, group conversations, workshop presentations and activities, guest presentations, and videos. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment. 

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit prepares you for the exercise of authority through leadership across a variety of ecclesial ministries, such as diaconate, priesthood, pastoral associate, and leadership roles in the Catholic Health and Education Sectors.

It explores the central issues associated with the exercise of pastoral authority in ecclesial communion and for the purposes of engaging in responsible, creative and ethical leadership. Emphasising ecclesiological perspectives on the church as ordered communion, this unit appropriates theological enquiry and insights from the social sciences to engage with those frameworks traditionally associated with the phenomenon of interpersonal and structure power. Specific reference will be made to the potential abuses of power in the exercise of pastoral leadership in ministry. As such, this unit will require you to wrestle with the dynamics of power and authority as personal, relational and ecclesial realities and as you prepare for your specific pastoral ministries and associated responsibilities.

This unit orients you to the theological foundations of pastoral ministry. It enables you to develop a critical understanding of that ministry's overarching concern to provide authentic care for persons and in recognition of the fullness of their humanity.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Articulate the key psychological and spiritual themes and issues in a theological understanding of power, leadership and authority in the Catholic Church and Catholic organisations (GA1, GA7)

LO2 - Critically analyse and evaluate the psychological and spiritual effects of current ecclesial practices in the exercise of power, leadership and authority in the Church using evidence based best practice in the understanding of mental health (GA3, GA4, GA8). 

LO3 - Demonstrate the integration of key pastoral skills to exercise structural and personal power, leadership and authority with theological and ecclesial norms identified as best practice. (GA5, GA8, GA9).

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA7 - work both autonomously and collaboratively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • Power, Leadership, Authority
  • Models of leadership
  • General skills in leadership
  • Good and bad leaders
  • Accompaniment and spirituality
  • Transparency, accountability
  • Listening skills and models of listening
  • Spiritual conversation
  • Supervision
  • Narrative; motivational interviewing; helping skills
  • Leadership
  • Conflict resolution
  • Mediation
  • Systems thinking and ethics
  • Theories of culture and organisational change
  • Theological reflection skills

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit seeks to address important community and Church concerns, particularly in the wake of the Royal Commission into Historical Institutional Child Sexual Abuse in Australia, that ecclesial personnel possess the reflective and practical skills necessary to perform your roles in such a way as to clearly embody the values of Christian narrative and do so in a way that does no psychological harm to those in your care. In order to address these grave concerns the learning and teaching strategy utilized in this unit draws extensively upon nearly 500 years of Jesuit educational philosophy and practice found in the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm (IPP).

The IPP understands learning and teaching as sequenced in exploration of context, experience, reflection, action, and evaluation. This process enables your readiness, as a student, to engage in a learning process that is transformative of the whole person, mind and heart. The learning process that it facilitates draws on the Christian view of the human person in its structure and content, for example, by emphasising the your dignity and creative contribution to the experience of learning. The vision of the IPP presupposes that learner and teacher enter into a mutual and reciprocal relationship whereby each searches for the insight of the other and in the service of shared learning.

The unit utilizes this strategy because it specifically offers a model of adult-learning that recognizes, supports, respects, and develops the wealth of experience and knowledge that you, as a participant, bring to this unit. This strategy aims at facilitating your appropriation of unit content in relation to your own learning needs and personal growth. As a result, this strategy generates readiness for personal transformation and meaningful professional impact.

The approximate total amount of time you will spend on this unit is 300 hours. This total includes intensive, retreat-like experiences in which you are invited to examine and re-examine your relevant professional and personal experience in the context of unit content as presented in lectures, group conversations, workshop presentations and activities, guest presentations, and videos. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment. As such, this unit focuses on providing you with opportunities for critically reflexive reflection and engagement with the fundamental concepts of power, leadership and authority, requiring you to draw you’re your specific contexts, personal backgrounds and experience. The unit uses active learning principles, based on the constructivist paradigm, which recognises that knowledge is something learners need to actively create and reflect on for themselves. Because of this, one of the key teaching and learning strategies of this unit is the ongoing use of a Reflective Journal and journal summary report.

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment procedures will be used to meet the unit learning outcomes and develop graduate attributes consistent with University assessment requirements. Such procedures may include, but are not limited to: a reflective journal, reports, essay and a recorded practical skills demonstration. 

The assessment strategy of this unit has been chosen to constructively align with the Learning Outcomes and the teaching and learning strategy. All assessment tasks require in some way that you analyse, extrapolate and perform what has been written in your on-going Reflective Journal. The Reflective Journal is a key component of this unit as it supports you to both critically reflect on your engagement with the content of the unit as well as to further develop your practical engagement skills with those in your care and your organisation. This is key to integrating theory and practice. Your entries in the reflective journal will thus form a platform from which you can develop both assessment tasks. Further, practical skills training and practice in seminars, also reflected on journals, will form another the basis from which to meet assessment criteria.

 Task 1 aligns with LO1 and LO2, and requires you to demonstrate and analyse the concept of power in ecclesial settings so as to identify theologically preferred descriptions of its exercise. This will also require you to demonstrate a personal understanding of the multi-faceted dimensions of Christian mission in ecclesial organisations. The essay format has been selected to maximise learning integration with regard to concepts and personal reflection. 

Assessment task 2 aligns with LO1, LO2 and LO3 and will require you to select and analyse the key pastoral skills necessary to respond to the theological imperatives of a just and equitable exercise of power through the authority of leadership in ecclesial settings. The journal summary format has been selected to further extend learning from Assessment 1 whilst providing you with a more personal form of reflection in which to evaluate your practical pastoral performance preferences.

Assessment Task 3 aligns with LO2 and LO3 and will require you to demonstrate, through a recorded interview with a ‘client’, the pastoral skills necessary to forward your theologically grounded vision of care in ecclesial settings. As such, this practical task represents an visible embodied response to reflections and conclusions in assessment tasks 1 and 2.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes


For example, an essay comparing and contrasting an actual problematic ecclesial experience of power, leadership and authority with best/or preferred practice for the use of power, leadership and authority. Theological justification for both determinations of what constitutes problematic and what best practice, in the exercise of power, leadership and authority in ecclesial settings. 


LO1, LO2

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA7, GA8

Journal Report

For example, students are required to produce an integrated summary of their key insights and learning from the unit. The report must therefore provide descriptions key terms and meanings and why these are important to them in relation to the theological concept of the unit..


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA1, GA3, GA4, GA7, GA8

Recorded Practical Skills Performance

For example, students are required to demonstrate the practical skills of this unit as a performance of preferred methods of engaging with those in their care. (20mins).


LO2, LO3

GA3, GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Brett, M. Decolonizing God Sheffield: Phoenic Press, 2008.

Boff, Leonardo. Church, Charism and Power: Liberation Theology and the Institutional Church. Edited by John W. Diercksmeier. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2011.

Doohan, Leonard, Spiritual Leadership: The Quest for Integrity. New York, NY: Paulist. 2007 

Foucault, M. “The Eye of Power” in Power/Knowledge, ed. Colin Gordon. New York: Harvester Press, 1972.

Gaillardetz, Richard R. By What Authority? A Primer on Scripture, the Magisterium, and the Sense of the Faithful. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003.

Hackman, M. and C. Johnson. Leadership: A Communication Perspective. Long Grove: Waveland Press, 2009.

Lowney, Chris. Pope Francis : Why He Leads the Way He Leads : Lessons from the First Jesuit Pope. Chicago: Chicago Loyola Press, 2013.

Janeway, E. Powers of the Weak. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1980.

Nouwen, Henri J. M. In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1989

Pickard, S. In-Between God Hindmarsh: Australian Theological Press, 2011.

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