Mary Waskowiak on leadership and the future

Sr Mary Waskowiak

Mercy Sister Mary Waskowiak, former president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) was recently in Australia for the Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes. Here she shares her thoughts on leadership development and mentoring.

- By Anne Walsh, CRA

On Leadership

Leadership development is the passion of Sr Mary Waskowiak, former president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and LCWR. ‘Leadership development,’ says Mary, ‘is preparing people for the future… a clear need.’

Leadership development is for both ministry and for community. While aware that there’s an interest in leadership development in Mercy ministries around the world and recognising the importance of educating lay colleagues for their roles, Mary is quite clear - ‘I do not want our own women [Sisters of Mercy] to become invisible.

'And someday we might be a single Mercy group and who will the leaders be? And will they know each other and will they have talked to each other? And they’ll be from all parts of the globe. We need to start a Mercy world leadership programme now. How do we do that and invite our Mercy women from all around the world? I think it’s possible. And I’m there.'

Catherine McAuley was middle aged [52] when she founded the Sisters of Mercy, pointed out Sr Mary, ‘but she called on younger women and their gifts;' women such as Frances Warde who was 33 when with her six companions she established in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania the first foundation of the Sisters of Mercy in the United States. ‘Today, the median age of Sisters of Mercy throughout the world is 76. There are lots of gifts and richness in that, but younger Mercy women can become invisible as they are now so few. We need them to put themselves forward; we need to get to know them.’

For three years in a row the Sisters of Mercy in America held leadership programs for their younger members with 103 Sisters experiencing a programme that was multi-dimensional. ‘And some of it is bearing fruit. Not just with election to leadership but with women who have more confidence about who they are.’

On the Future

I asked Sr Mary about her thoughts on the future shape of Mercy. Does she have any insights?

‘I pray for our future. I don’t know what it will look like. I don’t know if it will be: vowed, associates, non-vowed people. I want to stay alert to what God’s doing and I don’t know what it is. And I know that means it’s not the time to know. And I also pray to be alert to recognising when someone is saying it. Because it might not come from me. It doesn’t have to. If I can be alert to say [to someone] “That’s it, I think that’s it. Can we begin to talk that way?”

‘What is it that is going to break open? My hunch is it will break open more quietly than wildly.'

- Sr Mary  is a former president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas and of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

FULL STORY Mary Waskowiak on leadership (Catholic Religious Australia)

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