Leading in Times of Crisis – Webinar by Sr. Miriam Altenhofen SSpS
This is a handout accompanying the webinar. It is meant to help you in organizing community or group (youth, teachers, collaborators etc.) meetings with meaningful conversations. Feel free to use and adapt it according to your situation.
1. Orientation and frame of reference
Purpose: What is the purpose of your being an SSpS? (teacher in this school, nurse in this hospital, youth in this parish etc.) Take a few minutes to get in touch with your deepest motivation, then please write down your answer.
For Reflection and Sharing: Share your insights in the community/group. What can you learn from each other? How can you help each other to stay faithful to your purpose?
COVID 19 as a disruption of our normal life
For Reflection and Sharing: How has COVID 19 disrupted your personal life? Your community life? Your teaching, nursing, etc.?
What consequences does COVID 19 have for you? For your community? For your institution? What has changed? Talk about how it has affected you and your life in your community or group. Has it brought out any positive effects? Every disruption and crisis can also be a golden opportunity and a new beginning – what new opportunities have opened up for you personally, for your community, for our congregation?
COVID 19 makes us aware of underlying issues and can teach us some lessons. Watch together the following video: https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/a-letter-from-the-virus-listen/
What touched/surprised you in the video? What message can you apply to your own life?
2. Stress, Fear and Anxiety
The whole situation of COVID 19 causes a lot of stress. We emotionally evaluate the situation as fearful and stressful.
For Reflection and Sharing:
Right now, what is most stressful for you?
How was your mood during the different lockdowns or national/regional regulations?
Did you notice any physical reactions?
What was the effect on your community?
What has helped you to deal with stress or anxiety?
How can you help others to deal with stress and anxiety?
Something which can help us is understanding what grief is and what are its stages. Grieving has different stages which can be nicely delineated, but in reality, often they are not so clear cut and they may not always happen in this order. Therefore, the stages are not a map but more like a scaffolding for our often-unknown emotional world:
Denial: This cannot be happening to me/to us!
Anger: Why is this happening to me/to us? Why me? Why us?
Bargaining: Dear God, let this virus disappear, then I will….
Depression: I am too sad, too down. I feel so helpless, so powerless.
Acceptance: I am making peace with the situation.
These stages normally are not linear, but messy – going back and forth.
For Reflection and Sharing:
When and how have I experienced grief? How does it feel? Describe.
What is it that you have lost? What is it that you cannot control?
What is it that you can control? Could there be a chance of growing or maturing in and through this situation of COVID 19? What helps you in dealing with this situation?
What can you do to support others who are grieving?
Watch together Brené Brown: How to cope with grief, fear and anxiety during Corona. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pHIsPlhU7o
Have a conversation about how this speaks to you. What helps to cope with grief in the present situation?
Some more helpful resources:
- Lost and Found: https://youtu.be/35i4zTky9pI
- Living with Grief – website: https://www.aliveinmemory.org/living-with-grief/#.YCP1I49KhPY
- Good Grief website with resources: https://good-grief.org/covid-19/#webinars
- Grief and COVID-19: Mourning What We’re Missing, https://youtu.be/fcBTBSrAg-8
- Praying so as to not lose heart:
Watch together: Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_the_power_of_vulnerability?language=en
What does vulnerability mean to you? Where do you experience your own vulnerability? Describe.
Where do you experience the vulnerability of your community, group, church right now?
Share what you feel comfortable sharing with the group.
- Resilience and hope for the future
From a psychological point of view the following are helpful behaviours which lay the groundwork for our wellbeing in difficult times:
- Get enough sleep
- Get regular physical exercise, aerobic like brisk walking reduces anxiety, depression, insomnia and enhances well-being
- Eat healthy, fruits and vegetables
- Let go of tobacco
- No or little alcohol
- Control obesity
- Practice a hobby: music (playing an instrument, singing…), art, gardening, etc.
- Be social: Take time for good relationships, friendships
- Recreation (personal and communal, e.g. playing cards)
- Create community schedules that encourage exchange and meaningful conversations
- Strengthen spiritual reading and your prayer life
- Meaningful liturgies, rituals
- Give yourself a daily structure
- Practice mindfulness
- Express gratitude
- Be positive, challenge your negative thinking
- Help others, go out of yourself
- Celebrate life in all its forms
- Practice humour
For Reflection and Sharing: Which of these behaviours am I already practicing? Which could I practice more? In which of these behaviours are we strong as a community? Where can we still grow?
How can I, as a leader, assist my sisters, our communities?
Mindfulness is learning how to live with ambiguity, uncertainty, even with fear and learning to balance knowing with unknowing. It is the entrance door to faith. It requires prayer methods and meditation and a great deal of patience to practice them.
What is my meditation practice and experience?
How can I be present? What daily practices help me to be mindful of the present moment, of myself, of others and of creation?
How can I invest my energy and myself in a good future which I might not yet fully see?
Some more materials:
- A happy brain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZZ0zpUQhBQ&t=214s
- 5 ways to bring play back into your life: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/resilience-training/in-depth/5-ways-to-bring-play-back-into-your-life/art-20342117
6. Leadership in Times of Crisis
Today, according to Otto Scharmer, a leader is a:
Person that allows the group she is leading to reach the objectives of the group with the least amount of anxiety and the highest amount of happiness. She needs to handle speed and shift, has flexibility and can manage the suspended time, that means also she can manage anxieties. She has the capacity of „Futuration” – allowing the group to have a better vision of the future, she is able to see the deeper meaning in events and can handle technology.
For Reflection and Sharing: What can help me become such a leader? How can we help each other?
a. Specific Challenges for the SSpS
In order to approach these present challenges, for us as SSpS leaders, we need to keep in mind the original purpose of our congregation – like background music. Some of the challenges are:
- Ecology and restoring balance to our planet. How can we intensify our commitment to working to save our common home?
- The divide between rich and poor. How can we live in solidarity with the poor and marginalized?
- Our life as an intercultural missionary congregation. How can we remain in communion with each other, despite COVID 19, travel restrictions and other consequences? How can we be local and global?
- Equality, ethnocentricity, prejudice and discrimination. How much of these do we have in our own ranks?
- Our Understanding of Mission. What is our mission in the post- COVID 19 time?
- For Reflection and Sharing: What do I see as the biggest challenge for us as a congregation right now? How can I, how can we respond to it?
b. Creating a culture of encounter
“The continued global health crisis has painfully highlighted the urgent need to promote a culture of encounter for the whole human family, and for all men and women to be passionate about meeting others, seeking points of contact, building bridges, planning a project that includes everyone.” 
As leaders, we have the important task of bringing people together for meaningful conversations about the burning issues of today and focusing our energies on how to best respond from a faith viewpoint. This means building bridges, looking for ways of reconciliation, easing suffering as much as possible and fostering a holistic human development.
For Reflection and Sharing: How can I, how can we concretely do this? What are my steps? What are our steps?
Frederik Buechner, an American writer and poet, once said, “Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”
Watch together the following video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F7PL0cNE7U
“It takes more than medication”.
For Reflection and Sharing: What feelings does this video evoke in me?
Where can I, where can we give a human touch and a loving gentle look to others?
Share an experience of either receiving or giving compassion to others. What effect did this have?
Some more videos on compassion:
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4a66aFaIME, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJEtyAiAQik,
- Kindness: https://youtu.be/d0QXif2Ojeo
- We are built to be kind https://youtu.be/SsWs6bf7tvI
d. Leadership of Service
This all leads us to a leadership of service. Leadership is not a rank to be obtained, a career or power and control. It is an opportunity to serve others, especially in difficult times, listen to them, search and discern together with them. For this it needs compassion, flexibility, service and a vision for the future. It is inspiring and igniting connection and action.
Leadership is the capacity of a community to co-sense and co-create its emerging future. This shifts our framing of leadership development from the single-person-centric concept to a concept of leadership that is more about “igniting fields of inspired connection and action.” (Otto Scharmer).
For Reflection and Sharing: Who or what helps me to move in this direction? Who can help me/us make progress on my/our journey?
It also requires faith and trust in God. Let´s not forget that we are not alone on this journey. But that our God is with us and we can rely on his/her promise: For I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future
Some more materials on leadership
- The blind spot of leadership: http://cultureofempathy.com/References/Experts/Otto-Scharmer.htm
- Servant Leadership: : https://www.greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/ and https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/servant-leadership.htm
 https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/126649-compassion-is-the-sometimes-fatal-capacity-for-feeling-what-it#:~:text=%E2%80%9CCompassion%20is%20the%20sometimes%20fatal%20capacity%20for%20feeling%20what%20it,joy%20finally%20for%20you%20too.%20%E2%80%9D, accessed 27 March 2021
 Scharmer on leadership | theology – anthroposophy – world (wordpress.com), accessed 27 March 2021