Throughout my twenties, I was a lab tech at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. It paid my bills and the work was truly interesting most of the time, but it never felt like a career. I was asking myself “What do I want to be when I grow up?” more and more with each passing year. I finally grasped that yet another year in the same job was not going to provide me with an answer, so I quit, moved to Alabama, and eventually became a Missionary Servant of the Most Blessed Trinity catholic sister.
One of the reasons this path has worked so well for me is because I have never had to make a final and specific career choice along the way. Every mission is different, and with each new assignment I have had to learn new skills by jumping in and giving it my best shot. We MSBT have never specialized like other congregations. We weren’t founded as a teaching community or to run hospitals (although we’ve done both of those things). We are missionaries, looking for whatever work that needs to be done, always seeking to help “at risk” Catholics remain Catholic. We’re missionaries to Catholics.
In theory this approach to our missionary work is inspiring, energizing and exciting! In practice, however, it’s not hard to get lost in the weeds now and then. One of the most valuable lessons I have learned was at an in-service training I was forced to attend when I was serving at Catholic Social Services in Pensacola, FL. It was about corporate strategic planning, which was the opposite of inspiring or energizing to me. Why, oh why, was I stuck in this conference center, listening to these dudes who had no clue what I was dealing with at my after-school program for rough inner-city kids?
Against all odds, I learned something: the importance of a good mission statement. A mission statement is a tool. It’s a tool that helps you make good decisions and stay focused on your goal. It helps you conserve energy and resources. It forces you to think and evaluate. It’s a tool that empowers you to say “no” to worthwhile projects that are not part of your mission. A good mission statement is full of verbs and has little use for adjectives. It is short enough to easily repeat and anyone can grasp it, like a hammer or a screwdriver.
The Cenacle Spirit is a Catholic spirit,
a living, burning, operating love
of God and neighbor.
~ MSBT Rule of Life
The overall MSBT mission never changes, but each ministry is different and has its own focus. It occurred to me recently that one of the reasons my current ministry (leadership) is such a challenge for me is because it does not feel like I have one mission statement to guide my choices. It feels like I have a different mission for each program, committee, or mission that I am responsible for! That’s no way to live! Can it really be true, or is it just that I haven’t figured out my current mission statement yet?
Our sisters used to offer a workshop for young adult Catholics called “Find Your Mission.” It amuses me to ponder that I did find my mission when I professed my vows, but now maybe I have found too many missions! I am sure that I am being called by the Holy Spirit to stop and take a deep breath. Perhaps I have something to learn that I would not be able to learn if I were clinging to one clear, simple mission statement. No single tool works in every situation. Perhaps I should try a new tool called “trust.”
Blog writer Sister Deborah Wilson, MSBT is currently serving on the MSBT General Council in Philadelphia, PA.