May 2016

May 2016

Updated by
Matt Ehlman

What stands out to you/has surprised you about your leadership development through the Fellowship to date? 

A few months ago Sister Lorane Coffin, a Benedictine Sister for over 50 years and resident of South Dakota, was our guest at the Morning Fill Up Series we host at the Garage Community Co-working space in Rapid City, South Dakota. (The Morning Fill Up Series is a monthly 24- blitz we host in Rapid City, where we invite local, regional and national figures to join us in Rapid City for an evening dinner with a small group of individuals, followed the next morning by a public conversation at the Garage at 7:00 a.m., and concluding with a small group coffee conversation and usually an interview with South Dakota Public Broadcasting.) Sister Lorane, a lifelong educator and former Prioress of her order lives in the Monastery just fifteen minutes outside of Rapid City in the Black Hills.

We asked Sister Lorane to be our guest because she represents an order that, over one hundred years ago, opened the first hospital, orphanage, and school system in the Black Hills. Most recently, Sister Lorane led her order to divest (although she would not explain it in this way) the nearly 400 of the 600 acres of land the Sisters held and to build a new Monastery. Today there are about thirty Sisters in the Monastery, far from the height of their community in the region. Sister Lorane’s Morning Fill Up conversation on January 27, 2016 was full and more questions came in online for her than for any other guest. A few weeks after our public conversation I received a letter from a nonprofit, a standard fundraising letter asking for support, but what stood out to me was the letter talked about the Morning Fill Up conversation with Sister Lorane and the community space of the Garage. In addition to this letter, people came into the Garage or stopped us in Rapid City in the days and weeks after the conversation and talked about how Sister Lorane inspired them.  

Kelley Lindquist, President of ArtSpace, was our April Morning Fill Up guest. He has been president of this organization for about thirty years. Originally he was the only employee and the nonprofit was an advocacy organization. Today ArtSpace is recognized as a leading nonprofit development organization with over 90 employees, $800 million in assets, and over 40 properties supporting artist and creative spaces/residential space around the country. Kelley, graciously made the flight from Minneapolis to Rapid City and joined us to tour Rapid City, lead a lively dinner discussion, engage in the public conversation at 7 a.m. and then have coffee and a chat with community members. Again, in the days and weeks after Kelley’s visit to Rapid City, people continued to talk about Kelley and how positive he was, his ability to complement whoever was speaking or asking a question, and such genuine responses as when he stated that, “I always try to be as honest and transparent even when it is not easy to hear. . .”.  After each of these visits, Kelley’s and Sister Lorane's, our team debriefed and the word we kept coming back to was inspired.  

These are only two examples of leaders with whom I have had the opportunity to visit during this first year of the Bush Fellowship. I am grateful for the chance to visit with these two, as well as many others that have joined us for Morning Fill Up, such as Fr. Bud Grant, an environmentalist, author and professor at St. Ambrose University; Jennifer Ford Reedy, the president of the Bush Foundation; Bernie Hunhoff, the founder and publisher of South Dakota Magazine; and President John Yellow Bird Steele, president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. It has also been wonderful to meet a number of folks who have reached out directly because of the Bush Fellowship and to listen and learn about who they are and what they are doing. These interactions have been enriched in significant ways or even enabled because of the Fellowship. 

In the car, driving Sister Lorane back to the Monastery, I made a comment about how much people think of her and the other Benedictines. Her response was something like, “why do you suppose that is?” There was a bit of a pause and I tried to explain my thoughts and she said, “we were doing the work that was needed, a lot of people do that.” And then she went on to share about the average day - teaching, after school support, and many other ways that that the Sisters offered care. . . Similarly, Kelley Lindquist stated repeatedly, that ‘we started without any employees 30 years ago and did not set out to build this into this organization, but it happened with a lot of good talented people.’ The first person Kelley hired is still with him today. Over dinner a community member that joined us when Fr. Bud was our guest asked about the difficulties in living a life that may run counter to society. Alluding to St. Francis, Fr. Bud compassionately explained his belief that if we act authentically, decisions that may seem to be difficult may not be so hard and that, in fact, are genuine to oneself. 

“It is in the work [that] we live out our beliefs”, another comment from Sister Lorane as we pulled into the Monastery, “it doesn’t matter what it is we are doing” . . . like doing the community’s dishes when it was her turn or, as Prioress, leading a community of Sisters to consensus in order to sell 200 acres of land to the Good Samaritan Society and another 200 acres to the Catholic Diocese. With the sale of this property the Benedictine Sisters’ work in education and caring for the sick will continue through Good Samaritan new retirement facilities and the Diocese opening a school on the property. It is not a divesting of assets after all, but an investing in the community. 

The opportunity to spend time with these people and many others in the first year of my fellowship stands out because these individuals possess characteristics of leadership that resonate with me: intentionality, purpose, humility, a belief in a greater community, and action.