Called and Chosen: Toward a Spirituality for Lay Leaders Edited By Zeni Fox and Regina Bechtle, SC Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., Lanham, Md. 2005, 96 pages, $22.95 (paper)
Zeni Fox and Regina Bechtle, SC, have gathered essays from 13 education and formation leaders, including themselves, who from their respective leadership pinnacles recognize the reality of lay leadership in the Catholic Church's institutions today and identify the necessary focus of the essence of personal and institutional spirituality.
The chapters in "Called and Chosen: Toward a Spirituality for Lay Leaders" are carefully presented around four themes that spiral more deeply as the different but related roles of the lay leader and the institution are reviewed.
The first three chapters of Part I by Zeni Fox, Michael Downey and Monsignor Richard M. Liddy are presented under the topic of The Person of the Leader. Chapters four through six by Monika K. Hellwig; Doris Gottemoeller, RSM; and Elinor Ford relate to the teaching, healing and serving ministries of the church and form Part II, The Mission of the Church and Institutional Ministries.
Spirituality is the lens through which church institutions are viewed in Part III, The Spiritual Life of Institutions. Chapters seven, eight and nine are contributions of Brian O. McDermott, SJ; Regina Bechtle, SC; and Sean Peters, CSJ. In Part IV, reflection on this same topic, spirituality, is developed in The Role of the Spiritual Leader. Within chapters 10 through 13, Dolores R. Leckey; John S. Nelson; Mary Daniel Turner, SNDdN; and Margaret Benefiel find that the opportunities for a deepening spirituality are "all in a day's work."
The kernel idea of this book blossomed in the 1970s when Zeni Fox listened to a group of lay directors of religious education who were her students claim their "sense of being called" by God to their work in the church. In a national survey that was used in Fox's dissertation, she determined that this "sense of call" by respondents was again prevalent. She gives many examples of other lay leaders who listened to their "call by God" and later recognized it as a vocation.
Michael Downey's defining of spirituality as connected to "the whole of one's life in response to the gift of God in Jesus Christ through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit" (p. 17) is developed carefully throughout his chapter. Downey also gives examples of people who have helped to satisfy the mission in "service to the reign of God" (p. 27).
Monsignor Liddy continues the focus on mission that Downey developed but emphasizes the "invisible mission of the Holy Spirit, who teaches us the meaning of Jesus' life and words" (p. 35).
Monika Hellwig notes that after Vatican II Catholics recognized the call for lay leadership at the same time that numbers for the clergy and vowed religious declined. She also gives credit to lay leadership for the current comprehensive social teaching promulgated by the church.
In a brief 11 pages, Doris Gottemoelller, RSM, gives an inspirational history and legacy of Catholic institutional ministries, beginning in the early republic of 1776-1840 with Bishop John Carroll's first boys school at Georgetown in 1791, through the Civil War, the Industrial Age, the growth of Catholic institutions into the mainstream and concluding in the post-conciliar era. Gottemoeller challenges lay leaders to carry this legacy into the future.
The focus on the structures, mission and vision of the Catholic educational system is presented by Elinor Ford, who has been inspiring Catholic school educators for many years. She notes at the conclusion of her chapter, "Those who lead Catholic educational institutions must be well versed and passionately engaged in their own specific educational endeavors" (p. 81). One only need model Elinor in being well-versed and passionate, although in her final comment she reminds us that Jesus states simply and profoundly, "I am the vine. You are the branches" (p. 81, Jn 15:5).
Brian McDermott, SJ, warns all lay leaders who serve in the church's institutions that they need to avoid comodification, which he notes can happen "when cost analysis and streamlining bring financial stability at the price of the mission of the group" (p. 93). McDermott explains that while responding to cultural patterns is important, "Catholic organizations, whether educational, health care related or social service oriented, direct their activities to the flourishing of persons and communities and efficiency and financial stability are ordered to that deeper purpose" (p. 91).
Exploring the incarnation and community of Catholic institutions, according to Regina Bechtle, leads to institutions that are spirit-filled bodies and embodied spirits and ultimately incarnate expressions of the Body of Christ. She sees that it is one of the tasks of the leader to foster the organization's "awareness of the... spirit it embodies" (p. 100).
Reflecting on embodying the Holy Spirit, Sean Peters, CSJ, notes, "The mission of any organization describes not only its purpose, but also how that organization will accomplish that purpose" (p. 113). One way to focus on the mission is to gather support from the heritage of the institution. It also is important to stress that mission integration is desirable in prayer and ritual, values and tradition and oral and written communication.
Using the life stories of three lay leaders, Dolores Leckey illustrates how, with the first promptings of the Holy Spirit, St. Catherine of Genoa, Diocesan Chancellor George Noonan and Sister Sharon Euart, RSM, responded to the call to seek God. For each of these three, who experienced disappointment and even suffering, their inner qualities of leadership enabled them to carry out their mission.
Focusing on the tensions that are part of any organization, John Nelson notes that the task of the lay leader is to live with, and even celebrate, the both/and as well as either/or. He selects five foci to look at the interrelationship between faith and education clusters. They are: church, God, Catholic schools, ministry and moving forward.
Mary Daniel Turner, SNDdeN, clarifies that "power is a spiritual energy and a sacred trust." It is, along with authority, "a gift to the community." Moral power, a gift of the Holy Spirit, helps people to discover what God is asking of them. Near the conclusion of this chapter, Turner promotes the need for the virtue of humility.
In the final chapter, Margaret Benefiel again provides stories of three lay leaders: Philip Meehan, principal of an elementary school; Jennifer Moran, principal of a secondary girls academy owned by the School Sisters of Notre Dame; and Jack Raslowsky, principal of a Jesuit secondary school for boys. Each lay leader carries the vision and the charism of the founding community. Each principal is a leader and a mentor, focusing on the mission and the spirituality in the daily events of the school. In interactions with faculty members, students and others who are part of the school community, these leaders promote missioncentered institutions.
In addition to the valuable content developed within each of the 13 chapters, Fox and Bechtle provide valuable study strategies, which add to the opportunity to integrate the important messages from each of the authors. In addition to overview pages to introduce the four parts of the book, each of the chapters includes reflection questions designed to deepen the reader's application of the important messages embedded within the chapter. A glossary of terms for reference is provided as well as pertinent information on each of the contributors to this book. With these aids, this book could easily be used as a text for a 13-week course.
Mary Ann Corr, SC
Sister Mary Ann Corr, SC, Ed.D., is director of the Office of Christian Formation in the Diocese of Steubenville. She spent 24 years teaching and leading in Catholic elementary and high schools in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Arizona and was superintendent of Catholic schools in Steubenville, Ohio, from 1987 to 1998. For the last three of these years, she also was part-time director of the Office of Christian Formation; she has been the full-time director since 1998. She holds a B.A. in art from Seton Hill University, an M.Ed. in reading from the University of Arizona, an M.Ed, in religious education from Fordham University and an Ed.D. in language communications from the University of Pittsburgh. Sister Mary Ann is a former student of Zeni Fox, having taken Fox's Leadership for Christian Ministry course at Fordham University. As a Sister of Charity of Seton Hill in Pennsylvania, she is a daughter of Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, as is co-author Sister Regina Bechtel (firstname.lastname@example.org).…