We Are Called to this Work
Women religious are called to dedicate their lives to the church, and through a process of learning and experience and commitment, take sacred vows. That calling and the corresponding commitment is a singular, incomparable experience. However, many of the lay staff working with these sisters have experienced their own calling. We don’t commit in the same way, but we share the passion and dedication and hopes and worries that accompany the uncertain and changing future for women religious.
As I interact with many lay staff, I find that each person has a story behind their journey to their role with a religious institute or a deep, caring passion for helping their sisters find ways to manage forward so they can continue with their various ministries. From the lawyer who committed to law school only after discovering she could make a difference for religious institutes, to the finance manager who saw how he could put his many years of corporate experience to use in improving efficiencies and business management so the congregation could continue with their ministry that otherwise would have been discontinued, to the congregation director who comes back day after day with a deep breath and big smile to nudge forward practical and efficient management practices to a hesitating community, these lay staff are inspired and inspiring.
Some years ago, I redirected my career to work with professional associations and nonprofits. In 2017, I earned my Certified Association Executive certification granted through the American Society of Association Executives. I dedicated the rest of my career to working with these mission-driven, volunteer-led, staff-run organizations. Knowing that what I did every day was contributing to the organization’s mission and having the privilege and honor to work with volunteers passionate about that mission made me work harder, try more, and do better.
There came a time when I wasn’t feeling that same enthusiasm and wasn’t feeling particularly inspired by mission. Having moved on and searching for a more inspiring organization, I responded to a posting for a role within a congregation. As I met with the hiring committee of sisters, I felt myself finding a home. These women were so smart, the work they were doing was so important, and I wanted to help!
After the second interview I got a phone call letting me know they were declining to offer me the position because they felt I was overqualified. However, the sister who called me said she might know of something else on the horizon. I thanked her for the opportunity convinced nothing would come of it. Soon after, though, she called back and told me about this new entity called the Wisconsin Religious Collaborative and asked if I might be interested in applying as the executive director. She sent me material to review. With each additional paragraph I grew more and more excited. I just couldn’t believe I could be a part of something like this!
Of course, I applied for the job and met more amazing sisters through the hiring process. I jumped at the offer and dived in immediately, reading everything I could get my hands on and I’ve been loving the work every single day. I truly believe I was called to this role. Too many things had to line up for this to happen to believe it was anything but meant to be. I get to apply all my previous experiences and training to expand on what nine trailblazing sisters started. I am invited into the broader conversation of what will be an evolution of women religious. And I get the honor and privilege to work with these women and many more people, both vowed and laity, who are called to face the future together.