Mentorship: sharing our Franciscan values

By Ashley Skoczynski, affiliate

Sitting in a meeting with Tom Thibodeau, professor of servant leadership at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin, I was reminded of the importance of mentors in forming future generations. Our world is in the midst of one of the largest demographic transitions, with millenials making up the largest generation of the U.S. workforce. The United States Census Bureau defines millennials as those born between 1982 and 2000. They are becoming leaders across all sectors, and some have also been elected into influential political positions. Additionally, the leaders of most technology companies, including Facebook, are millennials, and these companies are recognized for their influential roles in shaping our modern-day culture.

Millennials are a unique generation that experienced the emergence of a new world, one which is known for its emerging and industry-disrupting technology, higher education coupled with crippling debt, 9/11, The Great Recession, extreme political polarization, and a variety of political and social movements, including #MeToo. 

Millennials will be making decisions on health care, the environment, taxes, how to care for the vulnerable, and international relations; simply put, everything that shapes our country. Given the challenging times we are experiencing and the complexity of issues we face, millennials would benefit from strong mentors to help form a solid personal foundation upon which to navigate the call to construct our collective future.

Sister Jean Kasparbauer and affiliate Ashley Skoczynski take a winter walk around St. RoseMy mentor is Sister Jean Kasparbauer. The beliefs and values she practices as an FSPA live in me, too. I carry them with me in every interaction, meeting and decision. We met at her intuition workshop in 2012 and further connected when she became my companion during the FSPA affiliation process. We continue to meet to walk, talk and laugh. I have received helpful advice on topics ranging from business to personal life, and yes, even dating.

Qualities that Sister Jean and other effective mentors possess include their ability to listen, question and share.

Not everyone can listen effectively. A person can have the ability to hear what someone is saying, yet lack the skill of truly listening. It requires being non-judgemental and open. Additionally, a helpful mentor can read between the lines for the deeper meaning and has an innate ability to understand others. Sister Jean listens for the deeper meaning of my stories and understands what I am thinking or feeling with little explanation, which is a true gift.

Mentors like Sister Jean ask reflective questions. These questions assist in furthering my thought process and finding the answers within. It is less about telling me what to do or how to live, and more about asking questions that lead me to my own realizations. Sister Jean’s questions open my eyes to new possibilities and help me live to my full potential. 

The final quality of a mentor I want to highlight is shared wisdom, which is knowledge through experience. Wise individuals have a wide variety of experiences and a depth of understanding that goes beyond the surface. In their lifetimes, they have survived and even thrived in situations that demonstrate to others what can be done. When people share their experiences, it helps the rest of us learn and heal as well. When I feel like I’m the only person who has ever experienced something, Sister Jean shares a story that is incredibly similar and I realize I am not alone.

Our world is changing at epic speeds and God has called each of us to the great responsibility of shaping the future of our organizations, communities and our world. In fact, not only must they be shaped, they require deep transformation. The only way we will solve the problems of tomorrow is to create leaders today: leaders who have the values, foresight and confidence to step into roles of influence. We can change the future by teaching and guiding the next generation, and one of the most effective ways to accomplish that is through mentoring. 

What kind of world do you want? Embody that vision today and pass it on to someone in the next generation. Our future leaders are the greatest hope we have for creating a world of Franciscan values: peace, love, dignity for all, and maybe even a few moments of collective joy.

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