True servant leaders

Service is at the heart of Catholic education. Without servant leaders in the classrooms and hallways of our schools, we would fail in our quest to develop saints and scholars.Recently we celebrated National Catholic Sisters Week and our Catholic schools and Catholic Schools Office took time to honor and thank some of the sisters in the archdiocese. The stories of these prayerful leaders remind us of how much sisters have done for the Church and how they continue to evangelize.

Sister Ann Dominic Roach is one such servant leader. She was superintendent of schools in the archdiocese many years ago, and she has shown me kindness since I arrived in Boston. More than once, I have opened an envelope addressed in perfect handwriting and it has been from Sister Ann Dominic. In it she always encourages me, reminds me that she is praying for me and promises her continued support. She always writes, "You have a tough job, but you can do it!" Her notes inspire me to work harder and they remind me of the power of prayer. Knowing that she is praying for our schools and me is such a powerful gift and I am grateful for Sister Ann Dominic and her servant leadership. She doesn't have to send me notes, yet she does. Taking the time to write those notes is an act of kindness I will never forget.

On my birthday each year, Sister James Michael Kesterson, a Sister of Providence who lives in Indiana, calls me. Sister has celebrated more than 85 of her own birthdays, but she never forgets me. She was my mentor when I first became a principal and we could not have been more different in our approaches to leadership. It was such a good match, because I learned so much from her! She will say she learned from me, too, but truly, she was patient with me, explained things to me and most importantly, she did what the founder of the Sisters of Providence asked all sisters to do: She loved me first, then she taught me. As we urge teachers and principals to love their students first and then teach them, Sister James Michael showed me respect and gently guided me. Calling me every year is just one more way that she reminds me that in education and evangelization, the most important thing is to develop a relationship that is modeled after the relationship Jesus wants with all of us.

In the Pastoral Center, there are many sisters who work diligently to further the mission of the archdiocese. Sister Marta Soza works with others in her office to assist Cardinal Seán. Sister Lucille van Hoogmoed does a variety of tasks to help priests throughout the archdiocese, while Sister Anne D'Arcy approaches all with a smile and a kind word as the associate director of the Office for Spiritual Life. Sister Marian Batho assists other religious, working hard to meet their needs, while Sister Pat Boyle has dedicated herself to the complicated work of pastoral planning. Sister Nieves Salinas and Sister Nympha Crasta run the chapel and the Pastoral Center giftshop, and Sister Agnes Wan assists the Propagation of the Faith. Sister Elsa Narvaez Rodriguez works with Hispanic families as a member of the Office of Outreach and Cultural Diversity. Each of these dedicated women exemplifies what it means to be a servant leader, someone who serves the Lord by serving others. They do it with prayers and with a happy heart. They are models for all of us!

Servant leadership is a rewarding way to live one's life. Part of what we teach children is that when we help others, we are serving God. We teach them that when we are kind to others, we are showing them what Jesus looks like, that they can be the face of God for others. These are life lessons and I am lucky to have so many role models from sisters who live their lives in this way. We can all be servant leaders. We just need to reflect on what we can do for others and then do those things, with a smile and a prayer for those we serve.

The religious who serve the Church play an important role in our evangelization work. Even though the celebration of National Catholic Sisters Week is past, please take time to thank a sister who serves us now or who has served us. Our Church is blessed by their work and I am very grateful for their love of Christ.

- Kathy Mears is Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Boston.