Called and Missioned to be Gospel Leaders

Sr. Mary Sujita SND, former Superior General addressing the Major Superiors on Women Leadership in the Church, said at the outset that she was addressing both men and women since “Women” included “men”; thus she prefers to speak about Gospel Leadership and the consequent prophetic challenge of leading with the heart and mind of Jesus.

Sr. Sujita was involved in the ministry of advocacy during the years when she lived with the Musahars, one of the most despised groups of people in Bihar, and, thus her expertise is born of experience.

She, herself, firmly believes that it is her passion for religious life with its tremendous potential for transformation of our world that really qualifies her for addressing this important subject.

Quoting Sandra Schneiders, in her new book, Buying the Field, Sr. Sujita reminded us that religious life cannot and should not be what it always was, but, rather, has to be different and specific to its socio-historical context. We are not asked to repeat what our founders did, but rather to repeat their fire.

Since “Good Governance” has already been much discussed by the CRI, Sr. Sujita decided to speak about “Leadership for Change”, using the terms “Gospel leadership”, “transformational leadership”, “servant leadership and “spiritual leadership” interchangeably, since we experience all these aspects of leadership in Jesus, our Guru and Leader.

Transformational, spiritual leadership in the style of Jesus is first and foremost based on His conscious intimate relationship with the one He called Abba, Sr. Sujita said. Without such a deep, dynamic, mystical and apostolic spirituality it is impossible to understand why and how Jesus did the things he did.

Sr. Sujita highlighted several characteristics of Jesus leadership style, with appropriate examples – prophetic and counter-cultural (washing the feet of his disciples); highly relational and generative (You know how those who exercise authority among the gentiles lord it over them; their great ones make their importance felt; It shall not be so among you” Mt. 20:26); shared power and authority (sending them out two and two); human person at the centre (treating Peter, John, differently).

Being human and vulnerable, Jesus wanted to hear from Peter whom he was forming for leadership that Peter truly loved him because the core of servant leadership is love and forgiveness.

Sr. Sujita presented the group with challenges, suggesting questions which require prophetic answers and action. Some of these related to sharing ministries across congregational lines, becoming pioneers (and not settlers) by moving to where life is endangered e.g., violated and trafficked women and children; addressing issues related to global warming and climate change and reflecting on our part in creating this destructive situation.

Each day we can pray: “Lord what is the new thing you are asking of me today?”, suggested Sr. Sujita. She quoted Pope Francis’ on the Feast of Pentecost: “Newness always makes us a bit fearful” … “Are we open to God’s surprises? Or are we closed and fearful before the newness of the spirit?”

Sr. Sujita called for a change from a “multinational leadership” style, to a “transformational, spiritual” one described by Timothy Raicliffe, when he speaks about leadership for change: “It is the primary role of leadership to articulate the call to transformation and facilitate response. This call is from the Holy Spirit and not from the leader or the Church. Its articulation is part of the prophetic dimersion of the ministry of leadership. Only a spiritual leader can listen and follow the Spirit”

By Daphne Viveka, rscj

Published: November 15, 2013



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