Ethical decision making: what does a Franciscan tradition have to offer?

“Without you, we can’t do this.” 

Sister Jean Moore opened the 26th annual sponsorship conference with these words. She welcomed leaders from FSPA-sponsored ministries, Assisi pilgrims, sisters, affiliates and guests saying “You are helping us carry on the legacy of our foundresses.” In the traditional roll call, at least two attendees were applauded for their participation at all 26 conferences: Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare CEO Joe Kruse and Sister Rita Heires. 

Rick KyteThe conference, themed Franciscan Ethics: Valuing Goodness and Truth in a Technological World, was presented by keynote speaker Richard Kyte, Ph.D., director and endowed professor of the D. B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership at Viterbo University. Rick posed several questions to leaders today: how do we continue to bring fun into our work? Are machines—and the pace at which they run—causing a dehumanization effect? Are employees disengaged? And, how do we bring people back into the deep story, the collective purpose?

Rick acknowledged the Franciscan Sisters’ Assisi Pilgrimage program. “Pilgrims get to hear the stories and take time to reflect and determine if this is the right place for them.” But, he asked, “How do we make sure we’re not the type of organization that disappoints pilgrims and conference attendees? How can we continue to shape the kind of place where everyone is satisfied?” 

The deep story, he says, is the answer. Bring employees in. Change the culture from “I” to “we.” Engage in productive conversation. And, to help lead productive conversations, Rick offered the Four-Way Method for Ethical Decision Making: truth (fact finding), consequences (who’s affected), fairness (respect and dignity of all involved) and character (compassionate implementation). He suggested that everyone has a favorite way of reasoning and we often skip step one: seeking the truth. 

“When we really discuss with others, we generate wisdom,” offered Rick. 

FSC staff - Christian Mission Award winnersFollowing Rick’s presentation, Sister Jean presented the annual Christian Mission Award. “This award exemplifies the Franciscan mission of service and recognizes a group that is creatively meeting the needs of others,” she announced. And creatively meeting the needs of others today is this year’s award winner, La Crosse’s Franciscan Spirituality Center’s Spiritual Direction Preparation Program, which has trained more than 400 spiritual directors since 1985. 

In a prepared video, Associate Director and Spiritual Director Steve Spilde described spiritual direction as “an ancient practice, helping people hear the voice of God in their lives.” Participant Kristy Walz offered this about her three-year journey through spiritual direction preparation: “I have never felt more a part of a community so fast; this group knows me better than people I’ve known for 20 years.”

And to future candidates of the program, Steve offered this: “Be prepared to grow. Be prepared to be blessed. Be prepared to make new friends for life.”

Barb Kruse, program co-director, accepted the award on behalf of the Franciscan Spirituality Center. Barb paid homage to the women, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, on whose shoulders they stand, noting Sisters Kathleen Kenkel and Mary Kathryn Fogarty as instrumental in the development of the spirituality center and spiritual direction program.  


About the Spiritual Direction Preparation Program

The Spiritual Direction Preparation Program extends over three years, giving participants an opportunity to integrate theory and practice. While the program prepares the participant to direct others—regardless of their faith or religious affiliation—the Franciscan Spirituality Center teaches from the Judeo-Christian tradition. This program is designed to form and train candidates through prayer, teachings, practical workshops, quarterly meetings and one-on-one supervision.
A new program begins September 2016. For more information, visit 


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