Fr. John Unni Selected as 2019 Barr Fellow

Father John Unni, Pastor at St. Cecilia Parish oe Belvidere Street, has been chosen as a 2019 Barr  Fellow. “The Barr Foundation selects 12 exemplary civic leaders based on their personal qualities, organizational impact, and track record of collaboration to advance Greater Boston’s community and civic agendas,” according to a press release.

“The Barr Fellowship experience begins with a ten-day group learning journey outside the United States. Each journey is carefully designed to immerse Fellows in a collective growth experience; build deep relationships among Fellows; and offer a disruption from their day-to-day work,” according to the Barr Foundation website. “Fellows then embark on a three-month personal sabbatical during which they are asked to disengage completely from their organizations. At the same time, organizations name an interim leader (or leadership team) who takes on increased responsibility during the Fellow’s absence. The Fellowship offers coaching and collaborative learning retreats for these interim leaders in order to strengthen the overall leadership within.

“At the end of the two-year Fellowship period, each class is integrated into the Barr Fellowship Network, a forum through which participating leaders continue to learn from each other, deepen relationships, and potentially create collaborations that benefit the city as well as their organizations. There are 68 alumni of the Barr Fellowship program since its inception in 2005. Investing in leadership is a core value of the Foundation that permeates all of our activities. We are thrilled to bring this value to life through the Barr Fellowship program. Please join us in congratulating and celebrating this group of 12 leaders for their significant contributions to the Greater Boston community.”

There is no application for the Barr Fellowship; Barr Fellows are nominated for the experience, and Unni told the Sun that when he got the call that he was chosen, it took him by surprise and he “quickly looked up everything about the foundation,” he said. “It feels like it’s quite the honor and also very humbling.” Aside from his work at the church, Unni is on the Board of Directors of Pine Street Inn, Nativity Preparatory School in Jamaica Plain, St. Cecilia’s House, and St. Boniface Haiti Foundation, as well as serves on the Board of Advisors for Build Health International.

“I just have a tremendous sense of gratitude toward the foundation and the vision of its founders and to those who are in the nomination process and those who are making the whole thing go,” he said.

Unni said he’s looking forward to the 10-day learning journey, which will take place in the spring of next year. He’s also excited for the sabbatical. “I feel really good about it,” Unni said. “It’s supposed to be something that’s transformative, reflective, maybe even restorative.”

Additionally, each Barr Fellow’s organization receives a monetary award “to invest in leadership, organization development, and in exploratory projects.” Unni said that at this point in time, he’s not sure what the money will be used for, but it will be for the benefit of St. Cecilia Parish.

“I can’t believe I’d be nominated regarding leadership [and] future; that feels exciting,” Unni said. “It’s really an opportunity to grow.” Aside from establishing relationships with parishioners, Unni said he’s been in the city a long time and has established connections with people all over the city, so he’s excited to use what he learns from this experience to strengthen those relationships.

“I’m hoping this helps me in my own leadership to grow, to listen to others, to interact with others on the journey to see how they’re doing in their organizations,” he said. “I’m very excited about meeting with and interacting with all the other Barr Fellows; it looks like it’s quite a group of accomplished people. I’m very psyched about that.”

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