Don’t hold onto words or gestures as if they were realities. They are hints. The way I can point my finger towards the moon. My finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger. Ancient Proverb
On Monday, May 6th at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, the Daily Record Newspaper will recognize this year’s Top 100 Women who have made a significant impact in the region through leadership, service, and mentoring. Sister Patricia McCarron, Headmistress of NDP will be among the honored recipients. Even more impressive, Sister Patricia will be received into the Circle of Excellence, awarded to women who have placed in the Top 100 three separate years, an achievement possible only through sustained leadership. It is quite an honor and well deserved. The Notre Dame community is rightfully proud of Sr. Patricia and her award of recognition.
And we all know how important recognition is to human achievement. We learned that back in high school psychology class when we studied Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Heck, recognition by others is right up there near the top of the pyramid. Right after food, water and friendship. It can’t be underestimated. But if we are to truly appreciate the significance of Sister Patricia’s accomplishments, it’s important to look beyond the award. Like the proverbial finger and the moon allegory, the award is not the accomplishment. The award is a hint about the accomplishment. A finger pointing towards it. Yes, Sr. Patricia is one of the Top 100 Women and is a member of the elite Circle of Excellence. But what is the real meaning behind it? What is her real accomplishment?
There’s been a lot of criticism of those in leadership positions these days. Criticism of elected officials in Congress, CEO’s in corporate America…the Magisterium in the Church. Many disappointed followers think there is no leadership demonstrated at all, much less leadership by example. How promising it is then to find a true leader and an excellent role model so close to home. Sr. Patricia, who has a PhD in Educational Administration & Policy, was appointed Headmistress of Notre Dame Prep in 2005 after 20 years of service at various other schools and universities in Maryland. Upon arrival at Notre Dame, she hit the ground running. Just ask any of her 136 member staff who try and keep up with her… and can’t. They feel tardy when they answer by 7AM one of her e-mails launched at 3AM. Sparking the question: Just exactly when does this woman sleep? Sister Patricia is truly excited to be at NDP and her enthusiasm is catching. In her short 8-year tenure, Sister Patricia has moved NDP – an already outstanding school – forward in even more positive, progressive, and inspiring ways and in the process has garnered for the school some well-deserved attention. Just this past year, NDP was recognized nationally as a Blue Ribbon School, an honor that only excellence can deliver.
Sister Patricia executes her office through the bifocal lens of 2 imperatives. For every decision to be made she asks 2 key questions: 1) Is this the best thing for the girls? 2) Is this the best we can do? She strives for excellence not merely for the sake of excellence, but for the good of each individual student whose welfare she has been entrusted and whose future NDP helps to shape. By keeping these priorities in the forefront, Sr. Patricia not only helps young women become the best they can be, but she also “mentors the mentors” – the teachers, staff and coaches who will guide the girls on a daily basis. Sister Patricia takes her job seriously and carries it out with enthusiasm, energy, and hard work; undaunted by challenge and motivated by excellence in the service of love, justice, and wisdom. All signs of a true leader. But here’s the thing:
I’m not in the least bit surprised.
Because Sister Patricia is a School Sister of Notre Dame (SSND). She lives in a community of women who share these characteristics. I have never met a single SSND who didn’t take on a new challenge with enthusiasm and passion and a ‘can do’ spirit. I have never met an SSND who ever said “No” when asked to serve. Who ever said, “It’s not for me” or “Not my thing” or “I really don’t feel called to that.” Regardless of where the call might take her. Whether it is the rolling hills of Dulaney Valley or the broken streets of Baltimore City. Wherever there is a need – and there is a need everywhere – there you will find an SSND. It is the nuns who are the authentic leaders and true role models of today. They are the “real deal.” And Sister Patricia is among the best of the best.
In an era where we crave good leaders and role models, we are truly lucky to have Sr. Patricia in our very midst. She is leader, mentor, and humble servant rolled into one. Congratulations on recognition long overdue.
PS: Kudos also to Karen Smith Deeley, class of 1971 ( a very good year) on her recognition as one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women. No surprise there, either!