DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

“To Help Souls”

Written by: on October 26, 2016

The Jesuit principles “are rooted in the notions that we’re all leaders and that our whole lives are filled with leadership opportunities.” (Lowney, p. 5)

“The paradox is that the energizing power lies precisely in the combination of nonnegotiable core beliefs and a willing embrace of change.” (Lowney, p. 248)

Chris Lowney’s book, Heroic Leadership, is not only very engaging but also well written. He carefully wove the four pillars of success – self-awareness, ingenuity, love, and heroism throughout the book with ever-increasing depth. (See pages 9, 15, 27, 162, and so on.) Skillfully intertwining stories from the past and the present Lowney convincingly makes his case that the same principles that have guided the Jesuits for over 450 years can be used by any organization today to encourage any and all people in their companies to meet the leadership challenges they face.

Ask someone on the street what they think of corporate America and the answer is likely to reflect suspicion, greed, and maybe even envy and anger. I admit that when I opened the book I wondered why I should care that J. P. Morgan found out a way to get richer. I quickly put aside my ambivalence however when I began to read Chris’s stories. Yes, there are stereotypes in the business world. However, we can do something about that as we put the four pillars into practice in our own organizations. It happens that these pillars not only reflect better values but also lead to success and success is not a bad thing (as long as you are not Attila the Hun).

Jason encouraged us to speak on the issues that we are passionate about and I amfrancis-xavier-1 passionate about history. That was one of the things that made the book so enjoyable for me. I have studied the history of missions and I do admire Francis Xavier for his utterly unselfish love. I admire greatly Matteo Ricci and his willingness to conform to Chinese dress and customs in order to work with the people. Matteo reflects Chris Lowney’s observation quoted above – we must embrace matteo riccithe paradox. We don’t give up the “nonnegotiables” (p. 167), but we must be willing to accept change. We must learn to be indifferent to nonessentials. This leads to real ingenuity in life as we seek to love and serve others in whatever situation we may find ourselves.

We are a global community now. In our DMin program weRoberto de Nobilii are studying in a Global Perspectives environment. Like
de Nobili we should “embrace new approaches and explore new ideas or perspectives, born of a ‘whole world becomes our house’ attitude” (p. 166).

Reflection #1 – In his section on questionable leaders, Chris Lowney mentions Cesare Borgia. Cesare was the son of Rodrigo Borgia (1431-1503) of the infamous Borgia family. Rodrigo had many mistresses and Cesare was only one of his twenty plus illegitimate children. Most of us are familiar with the romantic Lucrezia Borgia, a daughter by Rodrigo’s favorite mistress. The stories of poisonings and assassinations are familiar to all of us. What many do not know is Rodrigo’s other name – Pope Alexander VI. Note that Rodrigo (Pope Alexander VI) reigned from 1492 to his death in 1503. Martin Luther (b. 1483) was a young man during this time. Is it any wonder then that Luther and others felt strongly about reforming the Church?

The popes felt that something was needed to counter the Reformers. The Jesuits with their high level of education, drive, ingenuity, and resilience met the challenge. Lowney talks about the efforts the Jesuits made during this time period, but he gives fair treatment to the Reformers admitting that the Church was filled with corrupt bureaucrats (p. 47). We now know unfortunately, that the Catholic Church would wait four centuries before addressing the issue of reform as something other than just countering the Protestants.

Reflection #2 – Far be it from me to complain about the lack of women in the Jesuit organization. The Franciscans and Dominicans have orders for women. Today the Jesuits are “16,000-plus priests, brothers, scholastics and novices worldwide, we are the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church.” ( Honestly, I don’t have a problem with men having their own organizations; women do. It’s just that I wonder how much more effective they might be if they had the perspective of the other half of the “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1).

Reflection #3 – The fact that Lowney roots for his own side did not stop me from appreciating all of his good points about leadership. Let’s just say with fine British understatement, “it rather took the edge off a bit.” The lives of the remarkable Jesuit missionaries are something for us to emulate. Their lives of service form the backbone of Chris Lowney’s four pillars of leadership.

What will I take away as I reflect on the four pillars of leadership? I looked at the mission statement of my denomination and it contains the four principles in various places. Will the organizations that I may belong to in the future promote self-awareness, ingenuity, heroism, and the greatest of these – love?




About the Author

Mary Walker

11 responses to ““To Help Souls””

  1. Beautiful post Mary! I especially liked the part about needing women’s representation and how much they are missing without their perspective. I love your history knowledge too. I wish I had you following me around telling me all those fascinating historical facts. Agreed! The Jesuit missionaries were something to emulate. Their self-sacrifice and love as their primary fuel was inspiring. How do you, in love, exact justice or create change when both are desperately needed in an organization?

  2. Geoff Lee says:

    I also appreciate your love of history, Mary, and, of course, your writing about women in history. Your point about the absence of women in this story is very valid – and not one that I even thought about when I read the book. We are already on our second female British Prime Minister, and it looks like you may well be heading towards the first female American president! So things have moved on a little since the Jesuits!

    • Mary Walker says:

      Thanks, Geoff. Of the three women leaders you mention, I think perhaps only Margaret Thatcher is one whom I would care to emulate.
      Do you think there is a difference between the “everyday” leaders that we all are according to Lowney, and those really big shots? Even though we are all leaders, are there different classes of leaders?

      • Geoff Lee says:

        Definitely! For me, the whole “everyone’s a leader” mantra does not wash. There is a gift of leadership, and many different levels of capability and skills.

  3. Mary,
    I am learning so much history in your post. I appreciate the way you have interwoven your research topic within this writing.
    You and Stu I believe both addressed the works of Ricci in your post. I going to have to read up on him.

  4. Mary you passion for learning history shines through in this post. I appreciate how you provided context and connected themes from Lowney’s book with historical information and other writers.

    I , like you, often wonder if organizations that are male dominated like the Jesuits will ever shift their views on women’s vocational calling in their ministerial context.

    In regards to your last point. I hope all denominations and organizations will choose to embody and promote self-awareness, ingenuity, heroism, and LOVE!

  5. mm Katy Lines says:

    Ricci and de Nobili both experimented with early forms of contextualization; we personally gleaned from stories about them, and Kip continues to teach about them in this intercultural studies classes. I appreciate Lowney identifying challenges that remain relevant to us: “No matter how remarkable de Nobili’s cultural sensitivity was in its seventeenth-century context, his work spotlights a question that vexes even twenty-first-century missionary experts: where does one draw the line between interfaith dialogue and aggressive proselytization?” (157) Contextualization has its limits and is the tension maintained in a pendulum swing between syncretism and ethnocentric extractionism (per Timothy Tennent).
    As you suggest, studying history such as these stories, helps us understand ourselves and our own contexts better as well.

  6. Mary Walker says:

    Katy, I so appreciate your thoughtful response. One thing I have noticed about modern missions that I really like – they are going in and digging wells, and building homes, and doctoring, and just generally taking care of needs and by the way, we do it because we love Jesus!

    • mm Katy Lines says:

      I guess I’m much more cautious about the digging of wells, building of homes, etc. done by missionaries today, because I’ve often seen a form of neo-colonialism played out in those models, the sense that we are perpetuating paternalism when “we” decide what “they” need, and do it “for them” (even if our motives of serving in Jesus’ name are good).

  7. Jim Sabella says:

    Thanks Mary! You sure have a good grasp of history. It’s impressive. When you say: “we can do something about that as we put the four pillars into practice in our own organizations.”
    Those words are very encouraging. Change is possible if we are will to work at it and apply it, first to ourselves and then to our situations and organizations. Enjoyed your post Mary.

  8. “Far be it from me to complain about the lack of women in the Jesuit organization.”
    I grew up in a community heavily influenced by the Jesuits (Spokane) and this has always been one of my major gripes with the Jesuits. Matteo Ricci is one of my heroes because of his willingness to look past “that’s not the way we do it” toward a way to incarnate Christ in a community. Honestly, though, how can a celibate white guy truly incarnate Christ for women in a community? I get that one of the arguments is that Jesus was a man but I don’t think I’ve met another man since that can step inside the hearts and lives of women. The local youth rector and I had this discussion a lot when I was in high school. 🙂
    What I did take away from your post (and from the book) is that the four pillars are crucial aspects to look for and encourage in our lives and in our organizations, and that love must be first or it all falls apart.

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