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Tuesday, 17 March 2015 09:07

Towards evolutionary and transformative leadership

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Sr Jean Wojcik csfnDespite events that could bring us to the brink of despair, our task as Christians and religious is to spread this hope to others, writes Sister Jean Wojcik csfn as she shares her thoughts on the recent CLRI(NSW) Conference.

I attended this year’s CLRI(NSW) Conference with Sister Grace Rocławska csfn, my Provincial Superior for our congregation, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth. The conference was a fantastic experience and the theme was “Leading with Wonder: Engaging in Evolutionary Leadership” with talks from Sister Lyn Levo cjs and Father Denis Edwards.

Father Edwards talks were based upon his book Jesus and the Natural World. He defined ecological conversion as “the radical change of mind and heart that leads to a deeper love and respect for all creatures as having their own integrity before God.” He explained that conversion involves changing to a sustainable lifestyle, to sustainable patterns of production and consumption and to sustainable economic and political choices. He encouraged each person to embrace this conversion because the survival of life on earth depended upon it and this is the way God is leading the Church and the world today. (I recalled the biblical image of the cloud by day and pillar of flame by night and Moses leading the people of God through the desert. (Exodus 13:22) All inhabitants on earth are on this evolutionary journey together.

The themes of his talk connected with the Gospels and the writings of the recent Popes. His most inspirational session for me was the connection between the creative act of the Blessed Trinity and the evolution of the world. As I sat and listened, I imagined Christ, the apex and “Attractor” drawing everything that had existence to Himself. This imagery was similar to a strong magnet drawing steel filaments. It was amazing to think that God waited billions of years to watch and create the next piece of the evolutionary progression!

Our times are sadly chaotic, proving very difficult for many people living in our world today. But like the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters of chaos to create our world (Genesis 1:1-2), God is creating something new out of this upheaval too. As God’s people we have to remember that God is the Lord of history. Despite events that could bring us to the brink of despair, we need to maintain our hope because God is in charge. As Christians and religious, our task is to spread this hope to others.

Sister Lyn Levo csj helped the participants explore different ways that religious leaders can assist their members in becoming people who generate hope and be an evolutionary and transforming presence. She also offered some concrete ways to live and lead with wonder.

As the sessions rolled on, I was encouraged that my personal quest to develop a more contemplative stance and live in what she called the “vertical time- the present” was relevant to these discussions. Leaders need to understand three types of courage, said Sr Lyn: (1) Try and take risks; (2) Trust and empower others within the community; and (3) Tell or express reality as it is.

The most relevant session to my journey was the challenge to grow in the third courage, telling reality as it is, by “being assertive, fessing up when mistakes are made and seeking forgiveness and offering forgiveness to others when that is appropriate.” Fear in its many forms prevents us from acting with courage.

At this conference, CLRI(NSW) also celebrated its silver jubilee with a special Thanksgiving Mass celebrated by Father David Austin osb at the Sisters of Mercy Chapel. Celebrating two historical events simultaneously on this jubilee during the Year of Consecrated Life made the occasion even more significant.

As we drove home on the last day, Sr Grace and I discussed ways and challenges we would meet in conveying all this information. I was inspired to lead the province to transformation and be a ‘generator’ of hope in our present world. When I tried to explain the experience of this conference to our community the next day, I felt tongue tied. Perhaps this requires a quieter and more prayerful approach. Through reading, prayer and practise, I can share what I learned of evolutionary leadership by gentle example.

Read more about the Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes in NSW (CLRI(NSW)).