Nuns have always been on the front line. However, what is new today is that they are stepping forward as leaders to bring about change in this world in crisis. In addition, they are pledging to take on a central role as spokespersons for the most marginalised communities, and reclaiming their vast experience that they are making available.
In this issue of Women Church World we report on the #NewLeaders campaign, which was launched recently by the International Union of Superior Generals. This is a large-scale initiative, the aim of which is clearly evident in the title of the first video, Leadership for change.
We talk about the campaign with Patricia Murray, the UISG secretary; to Abby Avelino, who has been new coordinator of Talitha Kum, the network of 6,000 anti-trafficking nuns, since September last year; and Zelia Andrighetti, the superior general of the Daughters of St. Camillus, the religious devoted to assisting and caring for the sick, even at the cost of their own lives.
These women combine vision and resourcefulness with a new style of leadership.
According to Patricia Murray, leadership is the ability to see what needs to be changed and to involve others in the effort to bring about that change.
Abby Avelino, whose university degree is in mechanical and systems engineering, claims; it is something that can be felt in what one does. We are religious from different congregations, and in our choices, we want not only the voice of the sisters to be present but also those of the people we accompany.
Zelia Andrighetti, whose degree in economics comes in handy too -especially when making painful choices-, claims it would be easier to just make a decision. However, a commanding approach is not appropriate, for it is necessary that everyone expresses their point of view and then arrive at a common point.
Authority by role and service, authority by competence and ability; but never authoritarianism.
Autocracy, however, is still a problem -and in no small measure-, within congregations, and in convents. On this aspect, here is the Combonian missionary, Mariolina Cattaneo’s analysis and reflection: the younger generations of consecrated women confront authority in a critical manner, but also within personal, cultural and community models that are still significantly shaped by the idea of authority as “absolute power”.