Tom Southard joined Christian Brothers Conference (CBC) as executive director on July 1, 2022. His role is new to the office, marking a leadership model change that introduced a single leader for all staff, programs and other initiatives of CBC. The new model is intended to increase collaboration, enhance synergy between departments and prioritize employee wellness, while meeting the needs of the Region in new and more efficient ways.
Tom has a deep commitment to service and community and a passion for Catholic education. Before joining CBC, Tom became familiar with the De La Salle Christian Brothers and the Lasallian mission through his work as chief operating officer at the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM).
With the support of the Regional Conference of Christian Brothers (RCCB), the Lasallian Education Council (LEC) announced Tom’s hiring in April. As executive director, Tom’s responsibilities include maintaining the high quality of programs and events while collaborating to create and animate a bold, unifying vision for the future of formation and other initiatives at the Regional level. He is also responsible for promoting the mission, developing a strategic plan, advocating for diversity, equity and inclusion, strengthening philanthropy and focusing on long-term financial sustainability.
His priority responsibilities as he begins his service as executive director are focusing on the new organizational structure and leading the hybrid CBC staff, building relationships with key Brothers and Partners in the Region, and prioritizing his Lasallian formation. Now that he’s had a couple of months to settle in, we asked him a few questions as he begins his journey in the Lasallian mission.
You joined Christian Brothers Conference during the peak of summer formation programs, visiting the Buttimer Institute of Lasallian Studies in your first few days! What was that like as an introduction to Lasallian formation?
Getting to meet so many Lasallians at Buttimer in my first day as executive director was a really special opportunity. It gave me a first-hand understanding of our work at CBC. I left Manhattan College feeling really inspired for the work ahead. Over the next few weeks, I saw Lasallians gather for the Lasallian Social Justice Institute and the Brother John Johnston Institute of Contemporary Lasallian Practice. Formation is so important for an authentic understanding of the Lasallian mission, and joining the office during summer programs provided a chance to see how the programs inspire educators in their vocation.
You got to know some of the Brothers and learn about the Lasallian mission through your leadership at CMSM. How did that help prepare you for this role, and what have you been doing to learn more about the mission?
At CMSM, I was able to spend time with men and women religious from many different charisms. I found myself especially drawn to the Lasallian charism. Lasallians lived out shared responsibility between Brothers and Partners in such a unique, life-giving way. I have really found myself so drawn to the inspiration of “together and by association.”
There are so many wonderful resources about the Founder and the educational mission. I have been working my way through the books about De La Salle, education and spirituality. The documents published by the Institute have also given me a strong basis for this work. But most importantly, Brothers and Partners have been so open to sharing their experiences, their understanding and their ideas.
I am honored to work closely with a phenomenal staff, the RCCB and the LEC. They have all been so helpful in guiding and supporting my Lasallian formation.
What aspects of Lasallian spirituality are you most drawn to?
I appreciate that De La Salle’s meditations call us to a higher relationship with God, and yet are grounded in down-to-earth practice. Not only does he remind us regularly of the wisdom and serenity of God, he calls to be better ministers. He tells us that we are called for the work, that we work for the poor, and that we must depend on the fullness of the Holy Spirit for success. What a beautiful spirituality.
And this is a spirituality that the Founder gave us from the beginning, but that is only becoming more recognized by the Church in recent years. Lumen Gentium reminded us that we all have a vocation to holiness and that our Church is “a communion of life, charity and truth.” This understanding of how we are called to know Christ has always been part of the spirituality of the charism, and it has so much to offer the Universal Church as we enter this new understanding of synodality and hearing the voice of the People of God.
Joining an organization that is undergoing a leadership model change—especially as the new leader—has its opportunities and challenges. What have the past few months been like for you as you’ve gotten to know the organization and can start looking to the future?
Since starting in July (and in the transition that started in the months before that), I have had the opportunity to get to see the unique strengths of the Conference. The programs, leadership and conversations that come out of the Regional office are wonderful and impactful because of the staff. The team is committed to serving educators, Brothers and Partners, and advancing the Lasallian mission. I have been having as many conversations as I can with leaders from across the Region and around the world. I have also sat with our staff members, individually and collectively, as we have discussed the communities we serve.
In the coming months, we will be working to develop a strategic vision to best meet the current and emerging needs of the educational mission, in collaboration with the Districts, LEC and RCCB. I am very aware of my responsibility to grow our programs while being a good steward of our resources. With prayerful consideration, I am making decisions that I believe will continue us on the right path.
I feel so thankful to have been welcomed into an office community with strong leaders and staff members and a history of great success. I am excited to provide leadership to ensure that we continue to meet the current needs of the mission and adapt to address future needs.
When you aren’t immersing yourself in the Lasallian mission and planning for the future, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I have three young children (TJ, 7; Ellie, 5; and John, 3). My wife, Jess, and I spend much of our time cheering them on at sporting events, spending time hiking and bike riding with them, and doing all the other fun things our kids love to do. I’m also a fan of flying kites and sailing. I’m a member of the Order of Malta, and we volunteer with prison ministry programs in the Philadelphia area. Even though I live just north of Philly, I’m a fan of all things Maryland: Orioles, Ravens, crabs, Old Bay, and the best state flag in the country.