Catholic Sisters are Redefining Leadership

TurkeyCartoonBy Rose Marie Berger

A new model of leadership that’s been refined in the fires of change and conflict is emerging from U.S. religious women.

In June, the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies, along with Solidarity with Sisters, invited 150 people to Catholic University for an opportunity to discuss the model of leadership that has developed in Catholic women’s communities around the world over the last 50 years since Vatican II. The event coincided with the release of Spiritual Leadership for Challenging Times, an anthology of 10 addresses given by Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) presidents.

Catholic sisters are emerging as leaders ahead of their times. From Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, and Nuns on the Bus to Catholic Health Association CEO Sister Carol Keehan, DC, who helped pass the Affordable Care Act, to former LCWR president Sister Pat Farrell, OSF, who practiced authentic spiritual leadership in the face of the Vatican’s ongoing investigation of that organization (an investigation that Pope Francis should have laid quietly to rest, but has not), religious women are getting notice for their thoughtful, faithful leadership in the face of withering criticism and their own communities’ dramatic changes. ….(Sojourners, Sept-Oct 2014)

Read the rest here or subscribe.

Susan Cain: Shhhhh. The Power of Introverts

Granddaughter of Rabbi Israel Schorr, Susan Cain has published a new book QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking that opens up a brave new claim for how “the quiet of the land” are key to the future.

Great 19-minute video, especially for those introverted radicals among us who were forced to go to summer camp!

One of my favorite quotes: “No wilderness, no revelation.”

The transcript is here.

Video: The Seven Sisters – Pleiades Dance and LCWR’s New Leadership


Japanese dance troupe Enra combines light, music, and technology in this 4-minute performance art video entitled “Pleiades.”

The dancers are Saya Watatani and Maki Yokoyama. It was directed by Japanese artist Nobuyuki Hanabusa, who also provided the music. This video is the newest in a series that uses the same visual technique.

Now, here’s the important question:

1. Why did the Leadership Conference of Women Religious show this video at their national gathering last week?

2.How does this performance invite us to be followers of Jesus and “children of the light” (John 12:36) today, especially those of us who live in the American Empire?

3. What does this video teach us about the dynamics of leadership and how energy moves to transform?

Send me your responses. See here for more about leadership practices in LCWR communities.

CITI’s David Deal: This is What Leadership Looks Like

David Deal is the founder and CEO of Community IT Innovators. CITI started in the basement of a house across the alley from me. They’ve been partners and collaborators with Sojourners for many years as Sojourners’ technological needs grew and expanded. As a Mennonite and young tech entrepreneur, David provides a wonderful example of innovative ethical small business leadership. Recently he gave a 14-minute presentation at a D.C.-based TEDx Talk event on servant leadership. Take a few minutes to watch it:

Where do you see servant leadership practiced in organizational structures around you?
What qualities are key to its success?
What elements make a person a servant leader?
Can a business or community organization model servant leadership for the larger community of clients or constituencies?

CITI serves people and organizations working for social justice by enabling them to use technology effectively. David has designed CITI as a mission-driven organization that is also a great place to work and a model for sustainable business practices. He also serves on the boards of the Sustainable Business Network of Washington (SBNOW), UrbanEd, Eastern Mennonite University’s Washington Community Scholars Center, Carlos Rosario Public Charter School, and Byte Back. These organizations share the goal of building stronger communities by providing opportunities for service and learning.

Check out these books:
Journey to the East by Herman Hesse
Servant Leadership by Robert K. Greenleaf
Servant Leadership Models for Your Parish by Dan Ebener

Abbot Philip: ‘We Rise Early, We Pray A Lot’

Occasional excerpts from the extraordinary letters of Abbot Phillip from Christ in the Desert Monastery, Abiquiu, New Mexico.

… At home in Christ in the Desert, everything continues to function well, even in my absence. This is one of the most important aspects of monastic life: the monastery continues to live a normal and regular life even when the abbot is away. Far too often people think that the whole monastery depends on the abbot. There is no doubt that any abbot gives a particular identity to a community. That is simply part of the job. One day there will be another abbot and all of us will have to adjust to his way of doing things. On the other hand, if an abbot can keep delegating as much as possible, the community takes on its own fairly clear identity, more leaders are formed and when it is time to change abbots, the change is not so difficult. …

Our life is supposed to be a life that is not easy to live. It is not supposed to be so difficult that no one can live it. The challenge comes from the necessary focus on the inner life and the disciplines that support that inner life. We rise early, we pray a lot, we work hard and we read the Scriptures and commentaries on them. The life is pretty much the same, day after day, week after week and month after month. The monotony is to free our inner energies so that they focus on prayer and contemplation. For me, it is an enormous blessing of God that we have so many men try our life. It is another great blessing that so many actually stay and persevere….–Abbot Philip, OSB

Read his whole letter.

Sheena Iyengar: Health-care Debate and ‘Different Views About Freedom’

artofchoosingI was listening this afternoon to social psychologist Sheena Iyengar interviewed on the Diane Rehm show. Iyengar, who has a new book out called The Art of Choosing, made a very insightful comment on President Obama’s role as mediator and consensus-builder between Republicans and Democrats in reforming the American health-care system. She said:

The job of the mediator or the leader becomes how do I make sure that I surface all these ideas and take them in a constructive direction and don’t allow this group to disintegrate into a dysfunctional conflict. …

“[The leader’s role is] is to create a truly phenomenal choice that will work. And that’s actually Barack Obama’s challenge right now. If you think about the Republicans and the Democrats in terms of the health care debate. What they are really arguing about at its essence is the different views they have about freedom.

On the one hand, the Democrats are saying the only freedom that’s fair, the only freedom that I value, is one that gives everybody the same outcomes, the same health care. The Republicans are saying the only freedom that’s fair, the only freedom I value, is one that ensures equal opportunity, not equal outcome. So that means that anybody who’s worthy or who has more money or who has better health, whatever the criteria is for greater merit, the people who are more meritorious should get better health care and the people who are less should get less.

Neither position is particularly right or wrong but they are so fundamental to the two parties different views that Barrack Obama has this major challenge on his hands as to how is he going to come up with a health care option that will speak to both models such that people believing in either one of those models will believe in the choice he’s providing.”–Sheena Iyengar

Sheena Iyengar, researcher and S.T. Lee Professor of Business at Columbia University, is the author of The Art of Choosing.