Today is the feast day of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. There is a deep connection between her and my chosen home of Baltimore because of the school and religious order she started here.
A few leadership lessons we can learn from St. Elizabeth.
- Be a lifelong learner. St. Elizabeth was an avid reader from the Bible to contemporary novels. Reading is a major life skill that feeds curiosity and the desire to learn.
- When in doubt, let the Gospels be your guide. This does indeed harken back to the “What Would Jesus Do” rage, but the underlying truth is the same.
- Despite the ups and downs of our work, ministry, and lives, God is constant and God’s calling to us is ever-present. Don’t lose hope and always listen for God’s voice.
- Family–of origin or by selection–is second only to God as a priority. Make sure your schedule and actions reflect that.
In the last year, there has been a veritable procession of departures at the top leadership levels among my member publishers. Based on the beautiful “good-bye” emails that I’ve received, I compiled a list of issues that were considered in answer to the question, “Should I stay or should I go now?”
- Age: For those who have retired, age is an obvious marker. When we reach our 60s and even 70s, retirement is definitely on the radar screen, and hopefully has been part of the plan for a while. But I’m seeing more and more people leave a job in their late 40s and 50s. There are personal and family reasons, and then there is the issue of . . .
- Tenure: And I’m not talking like in the academic world. Many companies and organizations have a “Rule of XX” for retirement which is usually a combination of age and years of service. I’ve met a number of people who started with the organization out of high school or in their early 20s, and are now in their mid- to late 50s and they meet that rule. For some, they may see a change in leadership or direction that is more than just a gentle bend in the road. For others, they may see that they have dedicated a significant portion of their professional career to one thing, and it’s time to find a new “thing.”
- Balance: We’ve been bombarded with work-life balance articles and how-to’s, but balance is a key criteria. Whether you want to spend more time with your grandchildren, children, spouse, or community, balance is a good lifetime practice. No minute of any day can ever be replayed, so making choices that make each moment rich and fulfilling is key.
- Goals: When you made your current choice, what did you set out to accomplish? Have you met those goals? Now, what else do you want to accomplish? And where? What other opportunities are there out there that interest me?
- Call: Have you been faithful to God’s call to you and generous in using the gifts He has bestowed on you? Is there something you have been unable to respond to for whatever reason? How and where can you respond, or is there a new call that is leading you in a different direction?
Catholic News Agency reported today on a response Pope Francis made during a Q&A session at a pastoral Congress in Rome.
“We live in a culture of the provisional,” which causes many couples getting married to say “yes, for the rest of my life!” without knowing what they’re committing to, and for that reason “the great majority of sacramental marriages are null”.
If we can’t look to Catholic sacramental marriages today for models of grace-filled permanent vocational choices, where can we?
The board in the hallway in the Catholic high school where my husband teaches with photos of all of the veteran teachers and coaches who have been there 10, 15, 25, 35, and even 40 years.
The plaque outside our worship space, dedicating the building to the original pastor of St. John the Evangelist, Columbia, MD, who was there for over 35 years. Or the plaque in the bookcase across the hallway to our pastor emeritus who served and ministered there for 32 years.
In the faces of our children’s teachers, catechists, coaches who have committed so many years to nurturing the faith of our communities. And the parish and diocesan leaders who have quietly, in many cases, brought the faith alive to generations of children and adults.
It seems like we are actually pretty good at this permanent, life-long commitment thing–just not in marriage??
So, what needs to change? What do we need to say or do differently to translate to this generation and the next so that they can live vocation-driven and married lives of grace, and not nullity?