The Community is founded under a modified Augustinian rule, and for most of our existence our leadership structure has been traditional, guided by a single individual.
Our first superior was our founder, Mother Ruth, who was essentially in office for life. In the mid seventies, however, she became too frail to continue in this position and Sr. Mary Christabel was elected as our next superior in 1977. Following her tenure, Sr. Madeleine Mary was elected and installed as our third superior in 1989. At that time our constitution stipulated a term of six years, with the possibility of re-election for a second six-year term. Both of these sisters served for twelve years, and each moved the Community forward in much-needed ways.
In the late 1990s Sr. Heléna Marie, who was working with Women in Ministry at the Episcopal Church Center, raised the possibility of moving from a hierarchical structure to a circular model of governance. The Community had several conversations about this possibility, but mostly felt we were not ready to make the sweeping change such a shift reflected.
After spending several years considering our leadership structure, we decided to give the less hierarchical model a try. In 2001 three Sisters—Heléna Marie, Faith Margaret and Catherine Grace—were elected to serve as our Community Council. Over the next few years we explored consensus decision-making and implemented individual areas of responsibility. While the Council is charged with oversight of the Community, all major decisions are made by the Community as a whole. House decisions are made by the members of each house, and departmental decisions are made by the Sister(s) responsible for that particular work.
Having lived under this model for nearly ten years, we are comfortable with the change. As our Community grows and transforms, and as the needs of the world undergo dramatic changes, we will continue to listen to each other and to God. Our leadership council structure may extend far into the future—or it may itself be transformed into something entirely different.
For now, however, our shared leadership model gives each Sister a true voice and a real responsibility in the life of the Community. We thank God for this opportunity, holding it with gentle hands and willing hearts.