November 11, 2021

In this issue

Exploratory Commission: Phase II

  By Faith Offman
Just the other day, I was talking about wisdom with one of my spiritual directees.  She shared with me an understanding of wisdom she had gleaned from a novel she had read -
Wisdom is the fruit of patient reflection on the experiences of life.
That understanding resonated deeply within me.  Wisdom arises not simply from experience, but from the patient reflection about the experience.  Wisdom relies on the grace that is hewn from patient reflection.  Maybe that is why wisdom so often is found in our elders – those who are able to live in tandem with patience.
On behalf of our Commission (which includes Lissa Romell, David Colhour, CP, Bob Hotz, Tim O'Brien, Phil Paxton, CP, Sandra Arnould, Mary Lou Butler, Elizabeth Velarde and myself), Lissa and I share this short reflection on the current work of the Exploratory Commission. In a nutshell, we as a Commission are trying to patiently reflect on the experience of life and leadership in Holy Cross Province. 

We recognize that co-responsibility and mutual dependence open the way to freedom and fulfillment for each one of us.
#22, Rule and Constitution
  • What has been the lived experience of leadership these past many years and what is it today? 
  • What is the current make-up of the Passionist Family and what are the different ways leadership is already being exercised among vowed and laity? 
  • Whose voices are being heard?  Whose voices need to be heard? 
  • What structures would acknowledge and support current and emerging leadership and be appropriate to our Canonical structures?
  • What is the Holy Spirit calling us to?
  • How does the charism bind us together?  
  • Where is the charism inviting us?
  • How can leadership reflect the reality of who we are as a Passionist Family, yet respect and honor the various vocations within the Family, particularly vowed community life? 
Our conversations have been animated, lively and sobering.  As a result of our conversations with a canon lawyer;  other religious institutions that are wrestling with the same issues, and with our own Provincial and Council, we are putting together a ‘draft’ proposal for a leadership model  to be implemented at the Assembly for an experimental phase prior to the Chapter. 
Once this ‘draft’ is complete, part of the process prior to the Assembly will be to share it with everyone in Holy Cross Province's Passionist Family and gather ‘listening groups’ to hear your thoughts, comments and insights.  Together, we will patiently reflect on our experience, listening deeply to the call of the Spirit as we journey together.
[Wisdom] is one, she can do all things, and she renews everything while herself perduring;
Passing into holy souls from age to age, she produces friends of God…
For God loves nothing so much as the one who dwells in Wisdom.  
Wisdom 7:27-28 (NABRE)


We invite you to join us in a live-streamed celebration of Mass for Passionist Vocations on Monday, November 15, 2021, and available on YouTube at 1:00 p.m., EST. This Mass will be celebrated in our St. Vincent Strambi Community Chapel in Chicago, Illinois.

Click here for the YouTube broadcast.

The Transformative Community rooted in the intersection of Shared Leadership and the Learning Community (Part 4 of 4)
By Mark Clarke, Community Works, Inc.


A Transformative Community cultivates a thriving organic culture by creating a space that allows its members to grow. Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder speak to this cultivation: “Cultivation is an apt analogy.  A plant does its own growing, whether its seed was carefully planted or blown into place by the wind. You cannot pull the stem, leaves, or petals to make a plant grow faster or taller. However, you can do much to encourage healthy plants; till the soil, ensure they have enough nutrients, supply water, secure the right amount of sun exposure, and protect them from pests and weeds” (13).  The organization's role is to create shared leadership by establishing an environment that encourages and motivates people to grow and blossom.
The importance of continual organizational improvement and personal growth is not an option, but a core principle. Groups must foster a learning culture to successfully traverse the whitewater rafting of today’s world with its sudden twists and turns.

When people feel they can take the initiative, innovate, and make a difference they create a healthy and passionate organization. This energy fashions a quality environment for being possibility thinkers and explorers of options.

Every meeting, gathering, and time together is an opportunity to learn,
build capacity, and define the path forward. 
Each session is a sacred space for each individual to be still,
listen to the group's movement, and discern the next steps. 

These times will have moments of ecstasy and “wow” and other moments of stagnation and disagreement.  All of these realities are normative.  Accepting these realities is crucial because the ultimate goal is to focus on the next steps, learn from one another, and remain adaptable and agile.
A Learning Community at its core fosters growth by engaging these deliberative activities: inquiry, curiosity, imagination and by exploring alternatives such as:

  • Nurturing Resilience
  • Cultivating Group Adaptability
  • System Thinking
  • Becoming Lifelong Learners

The pandemic is a prime example of the importance of a Learning Community. Overnight, groups developed such new technological capacities such as Zoom, working at home and meeting constituents’ needs. For instance, restaurants strengthened their online and pick-up service. Every organization supported its online ability to provide the services so often previously based on an in-person model. This rapid transition happened through new learning, resilience, and adaptability. The pandemic became a great teacher about the ability to be agile and flexible. Those who found ways to adapt both during and post-pandemic remain vital with a zealous focus on their North Star.
These are reflective questions critical to forming and growing a Learning Community:

  • Does every employee or member of the group have a learning plan?
  • What new insights, questions, or musings are surfacing within individuals and group members?
  • As we continue to move forward, what capacity is vital to achieving our direction? What capacities do we need to develop?
  • What are the decisive steps to move the vision forward through the various dimensions/ committees/vendors/staff?

One morning, while eating at my favorite diner and talking with the General Manager, a 40-year-old woman, I realized that each individual within an organization is experiencing a transition in their personal and professional lives.   We talked about the number of unforeseen incidents like the 2008 financial crisis and the pandemic. She stated that she and her husband had lived their lives learning and adapting; they had left college with student loans; then impacted by the 2008 financial crisis and now the pandemic. She stated that she assumed they would constantly learn and change in their personal and work lives. This couple is adapting and creating their transformative community.
They are following the advice of Kevin Hancock, who, in his book, 48 Whispers, discusses the role of the follower: “As modern leaders learn to disseminate power, those accustomed to following must learn new skills.  This will take courage. Reinventing followership requires us to trust in our abilities, speak our truth, and embrace our shared responsibility for creating the future” (76). 
Hancock highlights the importance of Shared Leadership and becoming a Learning Community. The by-product of being a Learning Community is the consistent development of new competencies and action-oriented approaches. This development leads to the establishment of a flexible and adaptive organization for these precarious times. Transformative Communities live by the Talmudic precept of “grow, grow, grow.”  They foster a pioneer spirit through establishing an internal culture of learning and ongoing transformation.
Shared Leadership is the container that holds and fosters the commitment to learn, transform and create a future that is often not seen, yet over time becomes a reality. The dedication and zeal needed for a community to foster these traits are crucial in a period of rapid and often disconcerting change.  Is your community a Transformative Community? Are you rooted at the intersection of Shared Leadership and being a Learning Community?

Read the entirety of Mark Clarke's article here.
Works Cited
Brinkley, Douglas.  American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race.           
       NY: Harper, Collins, 2019.
Hancock, Kevin. 48 Whispers: from Pine Ridge and the Northern Plains. Post Hill Press, 2021.
Joly, Hubert. The Heart of Business. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2021.
Kouzes, James M. and Barry Z. Posner. Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership.
      John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ, 2021.
Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. Barrows, Anita, and Joanna Macy, trans.          
        Boulder, CO: Shambala, 2021.
Wagner, Etienne, Richard McDermott, and William M. Snyder. Cultivating Communities of        
       Practice. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2002.

“The pains you have in your bones and nerves are precious drops from the loving chalice of Jesus.  Humble yourself in your pains and make little of them without thinking too much about them and without looking at them (so to speak) in the face.  Do this with the higher part of your spirit.  On the feeling level, you won’t be able to do it, but remain on the Cross as a victim of love with Jesus.”
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