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September 15, 2009

Five essential attributes of leaders - Accounting for the crowded pews in three parishes - The intersection of health care reform and immigration reform - The peacemaking power of dialogue - Why becoming a good listener matters

In this edition:

1. Leaders are listeners: Interview with an archabbot.
2. What makes a leader a leader? Five essentials.
3. Does the best of our humanity fit into the Christianity equation?
4. No time for prayer? Perennial problem has apostolic roots.
5. Current quotes to ponder: a) How to define "service." b) The peacemaking power of dialogue. c) Combating poverty: common cause for Christians and Muslims.
6. Accounting for the crowded pews in three parishes.
7. Where immigration reform and health care reform intersect.
8. Bishop calls immigration laws outmoded, urges reform for nation's good.

1. Leaders Are Listeners: Hear New JKNIRP Audio on Leadership

"It's always good to listen before you speak," Benedictine Archabbot Douglas Nowicki of St. Vincent's Archabbey in Latrobe, Pa., said in a Sept. 10 interview with this Web site on leadership. He noted that "listen" is the very first word of the Rule of St. Benedict.

The 20-minute interview with Archabbot Nowicki appears in the Web site's audio section.

"When we don't listen very well, we pay the price for it through misunderstanding and through miscommunication in a variety of different ways" the archabbot said. For example, in the absence of listening, people attribute things to others "that they don't intend." This is true not only in monasteries but in families and all sorts of organizations, he said.

Archabbot Nowicki described listening as fundamental to consultation, and several times in the interview he referred to listening as a basic building block for community.

St. Benedict recommended listening with the "ear of the heart," that is, listening with a sense of compassion, the archabbot noted. A problem, however, is that "when we say we're listening, we're oftentimes not listening -- we're listening to ourselves, wanting to be sure that we get our own message communicated," he said.

However, the archabbot stated plainly, "if you're going to be a successful leader, you need to be a good listener."

Perseverance is another quality of leadership that Archabbot Nowicki said he admires. And he suggested that good leaders are able to recognize that "man's adversity is God's opportunity." The archabbot explained that every moment offers "an opportunity for new hope and new strength," and the capacity to recall this at difficult moments is itself a strength for leaders.

2. What Makes a Leader a Leader? Five Essentials

A leader must be knowledgeable and skillful, but knowledge and skills alone will not create effective leaders, according to John Mudd, a senior vice president at Providence Health & Services in Renton, Wash.

Mudd discusses five characteristics that effective leaders tend to possess in an article titled "When Knowledge and Skill Aren't Enough" that appears in the September-October 2009 edition of Health Progress, published by the Catholic Health Association (www.chausa.org). While his article is addressed to health care professionals, its insights offer food for thought to leaders in many areas.

Mudd points out that in addition to knowledge and skill, effective leaders need a sense of purpose. "Our sense of purpose gets us through tough times. In the drudgery of routine or the ambiguity of difficult decisions, it reminds us that what we are doing counts for something," he writes.

Here, in brief form, are the five attributes of effective leaders discussed by Mudd. He points out that these attributes are not isolated from each other; they overlap. "The five dimensions flow together, influencing and reinforcing one another," he comments. These five attributes of leadership are "distinct" but "not separate."

1. Knowledge: Leaders need "general" and "specialized" knowledge of their field, Mudd notes. Growth in this area "leads to a level of mastery" and perhaps of professional "wisdom." But, Mudd explains, while essential, "our common experience of leaders, even very intelligent leaders, tells us that knowledge in itself" is not enough for effective leadership.

2. Skill: Leaders need skills, some of which are "specific and technical," while others are "more general." Specific skills might include the creation of effective budgets or strategic planning and the design of organizational structures. More general skills encompass the assessment of people's strengths or "managing one's time and effort." The development of skills is a dynamic, ongoing process, Mudd suggests. People manifest their awareness that this is an ongoing process when they "distinguish a beginner or novice from the person with solid competence and from the person" they recognize "as a seasoned master."

3. Values: A lens through which to "examine whether we should or should not take a particular action" is provided by our values, Mudd says. Values in philosophical and spiritual traditions "are associated with concepts such as respect, compassion, honesty, integrity and justice," he explains. He adds that values, when practiced regularly, "become part of the character of a person - an essential part of the makeup of "any professional" -- particularly of "someone who seeks to lead others."

4. Perspective/Vision: "An accurate perspective, leading to a clear vision, spoken with conviction, moves people to action and helps shape a new reality," Mudd says of this dimension of leadership. Perspective, he explains, is characterized both by "self-understanding" and "situational understanding." Mudd considers "accurate self-knowledge" essential for "effective interaction with others," particularly in a leadership role. Situational understanding implies, in addition to self-understanding, that leaders need to know "what is happening 'out there'" - what is happening that they need to respond to. These two forms of understanding are needed if leaders hope "to shape a vision for themselves and their organizations."

5. Purpose/Mission: It is in this attribute that leaders find the strength they need to sustain an effort, "to make difficult decisions" and to inspire others as well. "Purpose and mission are at the heart of who we are both personally and organizationally," Mudd writes. A sense of mission brings people together "around a common goal" to which they are able to give their assent, along with their time and energy.

3. How "the Best of My Humanity" Fits Into the Christianity Equation

British Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster said in a recent interview that, on the eve of his ordination as a priest, his brother asked him, "What are you getting ordained a priest for?" The soon-to-be priest responded: "Because I think it's what makes sense of who I am." And how did his brother respond to that? The archbishop recalled that his brother said:

"I'm glad you've given me that answer, because if you'd said, 'Because the world needs priests' or 'Because I've got to give up all these things to do this,' I would have been troubled for you, because there might not be all that much thankfulness out there."

The interview with Archbishop Nichols appeared in the July 24 edition of the Catholic Herald newspaper, published in London. His interviewer was Luke Coppen, the newspaper's editor.

"A very important conversion moment" in his life came with his realization that Jesus is "the manifesto of humanity," Archbishop Nichols said. It was a moment when he realized "deep down that who Christ is and what Christ wants of me is for the best of my humanity."

For him, the archbishop continued, that realization "resolved a very profound tension -- that somehow following the Lord was going to be a denial of my humanity. Maybe that had to do with celibacy. Maybe it had to do with not choosing careers." But what happened was that he "moved from the position of seemingly giving everything up for the Lord to realizing what [he] was going to do was to go down a path of fulfillment."

Archbishop Nichols indicated that over time he understood more profoundly "that if we want to be fully alive, fully human, then the best path is to follow the call of the Lord, who is the fullness of humanity, who is our manifesto of what it means to be a human being."

In the 5,000-word Catholic Herald interview, Archbishop Nichols discussed a broad range of questions related to his faith and his role as Westminster's new archbishop. Here are just a few of his noteworthy, thought-provoking comments:

-- The parish needs to be a place of welcome for people who find it difficult to enter through its doors: "The threshold of a church is a very holy place. Some people never get beyond the threshold. One of my hopes would be that parishes become places of real welcome and great sensitivity to how difficult it is for people to make that journey into church or back into the community of the church."

-- How God gets through to people: "God has all sorts of ways of getting through to us. I suppose it just requires a basic openness, which is a kind of humility, a readiness to be surprised. A person who's searching for God has to be prepared to look both within themselves and outside of themselves. Within a person's life there will be prompts and nudges, and little movements and moments when something of God breaks through. The classic things are that it might be an experience of great beauty, or of love, or of pain and sorrow and loneliness. It'll be all of that which makes up our spiritual self. A person's got to be prepared to look within. But then, too, they can look around them."

-- Three rules for prayer: "Traditionally there are some very straightforward rules about prayer. One is, Pray as you find it easy to pray. So don't necessarily be too preoccupied with different theories about prayer. The second rule is, Pray where you can. And that can be anywhere. I remember my mother teaching me that she prayed when she was washing the dishes. And the third general rule is, Be faithful to what you find works for you. Make a little resolution. Have a pattern of prayer, and stick to it."

4. No Time for Prayer? Perennial Challenge Has Apostolic Roots

Finding it difficult to block-out the time you need for prayer? Join the crowd!

Even the apostles in the church's earliest days had difficulty finding time for prayer. The apostles "had to arrange things differently so that prayer and the service of the word were not neglected," New Zealand's Catholic bishops said in a late-May pastoral letter on prayer.

"In every age there is similar concern over time for prayer" - and "our fast-paced 21st century is no exception," the bishops said. "Pastoral affairs, and the demands of family and commercial life can make it difficult for prayer to have any place at all," they commented.

But prayer "is our life-blood," said the bishops, who confessed at the same time that they, like everyone, "know from personal experience it is not always easy to find the time and the energy to nurture a habit of prayer."

Surprises await those who pray, according to the bishops. They said: "Whether praying alone or as part of a community, you should always expect your prayer to take you out of yourself and lead you to where the love of Jesus is most experienced. Prayer opens your heart to the Holy Spirit, who will surprise you not only with the direction suggested for your traveling, but -- and especially -- with the gifts you need to make the journey."

People's lives "are bounded" by their horizons as they see them, the bishops suggested. What happens with prayer, they explained, is that "God's initiative in loving and accepting us stretches those horizons far beyond our ability to imagine or dream" - and within these broadened boundaries "our prayer takes flight."

Prayer begins with "God's initiative in loving us and being there for us. Prayer begins as we respond to God's invitation," said the bishops. They added, "As this dialogue opens, life is nourished and friendship is born." There is nothing strange about this process, the bishops pointed out. For, "family bonds are developed in the same way, through open, honest communication."

The bishops discussed various ways of praying, among them "praying with and through" the Bible, which "should not be underestimated as a means of developing personal faith and growing in holiness." What happens in listening to the word of God is that it is brought "into the situations and circumstances that affect our lives," and its "life-giving power [is] able to affirm or renew the way we are going," the bishops explained.

The bishops strongly encouraged meditation. They said: "The Benedictine John Main (1926-1982) adapted the prayer of the desert monks to provide a means of building prayer into daily life, recommending two 20-minute to 30-minute periods of meditation each day. A similar practice derived from the same tradition is that of the centering prayer promoted by [Trappist] Father Thomas Keating."

These forms of meditation "require discipline," the bishops noted, adding that "support groups are almost essential here, and this is something that parishes might consider setting up." The bishops said the simplicity of this type of contemplative prayer "masks the effort required." Yet, this type of prayer "is one of the best responses to the spiritual vacuum in our modern society."

5. Current Quotes to Ponder

On What It Means to Serve Others: "The church is not our church but his church, the church of God. We do not seek power, prestige or esteem for ourselves. We lead men and women toward Christ and thus toward the living God. In this way we introduce them into truth and into the freedom that derives from truth. Affairs in civil society and not infrequently in the church, too, suffer from the fact that many of those charged with responsibility work for themselves and not for the community." (From the Sept. 12 homily of Pope Benedict XVI for the ordinations of five new bishops at the Vatican)

The Peacemaking Power of Dialogue: "A world without dialogue will be enslaved by hatred and fear of the other. Religions do not want war and do not want to be used for war. To speak of war in the name of God is blasphemous. No war is ever holy. Humanity is always defeated by violence and terror. Spirit and dialogue show the way to live together in peace. We have discovered, even more clearly, that dialogue delivers us from fear and distrust. It is an alternative to war. It does not weaken anyone's identity, but enables us to rediscover the best of ourselves and of the others. Nothing is lost with dialogue! Dialogue writes a better history, while conflict opens up abysses. Dialogue is the art of living together. Dialogue is the gift we want to make to this 21st century." (From the Sept. 8 "Appeal for Peace" by some 300 religious leaders representing Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and other religions around the world who participated in an interreligious congress in Krakow, Poland, organized by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow and the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio)

Combating Poverty: A Common Cause for Christians and Muslims: "We all know that poverty has the power to humiliate and to engender intolerable sufferings; it is often a source of isolation, anger, even hatred and the desire for revenge. It can provoke hostile actions using any available means, even seeking to justify them on religious grounds, or seizing another man's wealth, together with his peace and security, in the name of an alleged 'divine justice.' This is why confronting the phenomena of extremism and violence necessarily implies tackling poverty through the promotion of integral human development that Pope Paul VI defined as the 'new name for peace.' As believers, the desire to work together for a just and durable solution to the scourge of poverty certainly also implies reflecting on the grave problems of our time and, when possible, sharing a common commitment to eradicate them." (From the Sept. 11 message of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, to the world's Muslims marking the end of Ramadan)

6. Accounting for the Crowded Pews in Three Parishes

"Stress on well-prepared liturgies, with short, well-crafted homilies and Mass schedules that meet the needs of the people" are factors in the high rates of Mass attendance at three parishes of the Philadelphia Archdiocese, according to an August article in The Catholic Standard and Times, the archdiocese's newspaper.

St. Cornelius Parish in Chadds Ford, Pa., has seen growth in parish registration, but the pastor, Msgr. Gregory Parlante, said most of the parish's increased Mass attendance results from people who attended less often now coming to Mass regularly.

The parish recently added a Mass on Sundays at 7 p.m. "I had one man who works weekends tell me this was the first time in years he was able to go to Mass with his family," Msgr. Parlante told The Catholic Standard and Times.

He said: "It's not rocket science; we have a fantastic liturgy team and an excellent music ministry with music at every Mass, even on weekdays. We stress preaching with homilies [running] about seven minutes. The vast majority of effort should be in seeing that the liturgy is well done and everything else flows from that."

Father Michael Picard, pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Newtown, Pa., spoke about Mass attendance there. "We work hard on our preaching, and our homilies are eight to 10 minutes," he said. Periodically, the homilies urge people to bring someone back to the church, and that is becoming more and more effective, Father Picard told the newspaper.

The Catholic Standard and Times reported that "by last year's count, 8,530 people, or 47 percent, of the [parish's] registered population was at Mass on a typical Sunday."

Also, said Father Picard: "Our music ministry is very fine. We have a Life Teen Mass where the musicians and lectors are all teens, and it is a full house."

The town of Eddystone, Pa., where St. Rose of Lima Parish is located, has shown a "slight drop in population" since 1997, when Father Gerald Canavan arrived there. Nonetheless, the newspaper said, during that time Mass attendance at the parish grew from 700 to 1,800, or 53 percent of the registered Catholics; the pastor had to add more than 100 seats to his little church.

St. Rose of Lima schedules two Saturday vigil Masses, four Sunday morning Masses and a Sunday evening Mass. Father Canavan's homilies are about eight minutes long, the newspaper noted. And they apparently are well received. The newspaper said the pastor "gives out a couple hundred weekly on CD or DVD."

These homilies, while relatively brief, are "hardly spur of the moment," the newspaper said. It reported that Father Canavan works on a homily over the course of an entire week.

7. Where Immigration Reform and Health Care Reform Intersect

With President Obama's Sept. 9 speech on health care reform to the U.S. Congress -- and after the remark shouted during the speech by South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson - it seems the question has come to a head about what U.S. health care reform will mean for undocumented immigrants. So it might prove valuable to take a look at what Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said about some of this in his committee's 2009 Labor Day statement.

It should be noted that when the U.S. bishops speak about immigrants and health care, they distinguish legal from illegal immigrants, and immigrant citizens from new immigrants who are not naturalized citizens. It gets complicated to know exactly which immigrants the bishops are talking about at a given moment, though it seems very clear that the bishops do not consider it just to deny health care services to people who require them.

"As a nation we have to be concerned about the integrity and safety of our borders. But that cannot overwhelm issues of respect for the dignity of immigrants who come to our country for so many varying political and economic reasons," Bishop Murphy's Labor Day statement said.

Whether immigrants are citizens or "good people desirous of becoming citizens," they must respect the laws of the land, said Bishop Murphy. He commented, "Most immigrants work hard, pay taxes, contribute to Social Security and are valuable members of our society. Yet too often these same immigrants, including legal immigrants, are denied access to health care services."

This "should not happen in a society that respects the rights and dignity of every person," the bishop said.

Bishop Murphy wrote that "immigration law and related laws must guarantee fair treatment to the millions of immigrants in our country who contribute to our economy and the common good." He said: "This is not an issue of us and them. They, the new peoples among us, are an integral part of the us that constitutes the great diversity that is our nation."

The U.S. bishops "are convinced that it is imperative that legal immigrants be included in any fair and just health care legislation that seeks to offer adequate care that is universal and advances the common good of all in our country," Bishop Murphy said. He added, "An adequate safety net should remain in place for those who still remain without health care coverage."

A July 17 letter that Bishop Murphy sent on behalf of the U.S. bishops to Congress also discussed the intersection of health care reform with the health care needs of immigrants. Coverage of that letter appeared in the Aug. 15 edition of this newsletter.

In the earlier letter, Bishop Murphy called attention to certain needs that will remain after health care reform legislation is implemented. "Some individuals and families, including immigrants, will still lack health insurance coverage," he observed. Nonetheless, he said, "we have a responsibility to ensure that no one is left without the ability to see a doctor when he or she is sick or get emergency care when his or her health is at risk."

In light of this, Bishop Murphy said the U.S. bishops want Congress "to ensure sufficient funding for safety-net clinics, hospitals and other providers serving those who will continue to fall through the cracks of a reformed system."

Bishop Murphy's earlier letter renewed the U.S. bishops' "appeal to provide equity for legal immigrants in access to health care." This, he wrote, "can be accomplished in part by repealing the five-year ban for legal immigrants to access Medicaid; repealing the applicability of 'sponsor-deeming' for Medicaid and CHIP [Children's Health Insurance Program]; and ensuring that pregnant women in the United States, who will be giving birth to children who are U.S. citizens, are eligible along with their unborn children for health care regardless of their immigration status."

Bishop Murphy said in his earlier letter that immigrants "pay the same taxes as citizens, and their health needs cannot be ignored. Leaving them outside a reformed system is both unfair and unwise."

8. Bishop Calls Immigration Reform Good for the Nation

Current U.S. immigration laws are "outdated and unjust," as well as "impractical," and "they are polarizing the people of our nation," Bishop John Steinbock of Fresno, Calif., said in a late-July statement. Enforcing "a broken immigration system through workplace raids" has proven inhumane both to workers and employers, he said. Furthermore, this type of enforcement often separates parents from their children, he lamented.

Bishop Steinbock urged President Obama and the U.S. Congress "to begin formulating appropriate [immigration] legislation and to educate the American public about the importance of its enactment." Immigration law needs "to be changed for the good of our country," the bishop said. He encouraged people to write to their representatives in Washington urging immigration reform.

"We can no longer accept that people live as a hidden underclass in our country, and we should bring them out of the shadows to participate fully in our society," Bishop Steinbock stated. He added that the vast majority of those undocumented persons "are hard-working persons seeking only to support their families" - people who contribute to the "nation's economic, social and spiritual well-being."

The U.S. bishops advocate immigration policies "that respect the human dignity of immigrants and refugees, as well as the need to protect our borders," Bishop Steinbock noted. Immigration reform, he said, "should recognize the positive effects of immigration on our society, the rights and needs of all workers and all employers, the obligation of the government to protect and provide security for its peoples, the rights of families to live together and the need for orderly travel between countries."